Monom | Periscopes of Teduray Folk Weaving Traditions
Discover the indigenous lives of the Tedurays in the mountains of South Upi through its time-honoured weaving traditions called the monom.
For obvious reasons, Maguindanao is not a popular tourist destination, let alone this quiet mountain town called South Upi. But I came for the monom, the handiworks of the Tedurays worthy of the long trip and yes, a little of anxiety.
I have been around Maguindanao quite a few times in the past. But this was my first time to set foot in South Upi. And on this side of the province, the landscape is nothing quite like the rest of its vast plains.
Here, emerald ricefields crouch massive hillocks of corn. Then there’s the endless views of mountainscape silhouettes & rice paddies. Trees & old world climbing palms create a thick foliage along its ridges too.
Weaving Into the Complex World of Monom
The real allure of South Upi is their basketry called monom. In fact, no Teduray home is ever complete without it. Monom is not just a reflection of utilitarian art but also an expression of their cultural characteristics.
Pawa, uway & nito make up any Teduray basket. Pawa is a kind of light bamboo stripped to form the basket. Uway, a local variety of rattan shapes the rims & bases. On the other hand, nito vine sews the entire assemblage together.
Interestingly, to strip these vines into equal diameter, they use the “ketengon” or an improvised hole on a sardine lid. Then, a “kusu” or “tus”, similar to an ice picker guides the nito into the hole.
Monom like any form of basketry, is a collection of woven pieces used at home & for work. Among the basics are biton (square-ish storage basket) & when covered becomes a “senafeng”. Then there’s the tefaya (winnow basket), tafisan (strainer) & laba (food cover).
Also, the “sayaf” or the farm hat is one of the most common household pieces among the Tedurays. Sleeping & decorative mats are also part of their weaving culture.
The Teduray: Mosaics of Folk Living & Art
The Tedurays are the indigenous people inhabiting parts of Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat & Cotabato. It is also home to the Lambangian & the Baleg, a sub-group of the Teduray family.
Moreover, there are both Muslim & Christian Teduray. While indigenous rituals are not widely practiced anymore, some still do in higher hinterland areas. Or sometimes it softly mixes with other religious influences.
In the past, their gender was determined by the role they fill in the society & not by their biological sex. Weaving was once reserved for women. However, over time, roles became fluid & not rigidly the male-female binary anymore.
Such as, there are already male weavers today. Among them is the 66-year old, Edgardo Ampel who is popular for his woven safiyu (caps) & chic slingbags.
Monom designs carry much of their folk animistic beliefs. Dau t’beli are leaf motifs & the “sebanga igor” or bitten animal tail. Likewise, the “lomo” is a line of “ibad” squares that when put together form a snake-like ensemble. Be that as it may, human forms are considered taboo designs.
Monom in the Modern Times
Today, monom is still utilitarian in nature but embraces a wider range of functions & designs. They now make backpacks (bokog), sling bags (talufi), as well as luggage (kamfilu). They also weave placemats, decorative lamp shades, awnings & many more.
Notably, monom are traditionally 2-toned but they also weave colorful pieces. Although, this time they use synthetic dyes to meet the demand. Before, they used “buring” or soot from powdered burnt rubber mixed with camote sap as fixative.
The Future of Monom
In spite of its ageless charm, monom, like many other folk handicrafts is losing its battle to modernity. Most master weavers left are old. Yet, the young people in the community do not have the interest in it.
But not all is lost. The construction of its weaving center is in full swing along with its town’s renewed commitment to re-energize the monom tradition to new breed of weavers. They are also working hard in promoting their showroom-ready craft to encourage production.
The South Upi Monom Organization, headed by its President, Perlita Laugan could only hope for the best. To them, monom lives to tell the tales of the Tedurays & their aspirations to take it to a sustainable livelihood.
Truly, South Upi is any handicraft afficionado’s delight. Above all, monom is championing its cultural tourism efforts. And behind every piece is a story gently weaving its rich mosaic of values, heritage & personal expressions of being a Teduray.