ILOCOS Norte’s pride and master weaver of inabel Magdalena Gamayo gets a rare opportunity to create a special death shroud as pabaon (keepsake) for the burial of the President Ferdinand E. Marcos.
Inabel is a hand-woven textile done on traditional wooden looms by Ilocano artisans using weaving techniques.
Hailing from the town of Pinili, Gamayo recently turned 93 years old and despite her physical frailties, she and the other weavers in their town have given their best in making the inabel death shroud for the President.
“My heart is filled with happiness for being chosen to create the pabaon but at the same time I feel mournful as if I am making again a pabaon for the people I valued,” Gamayo said in Ilocano recounting how she had created pabaons for her loved ones including her deceased daughter and husband.
Stella Gaspar, curator of Ilocos Norte’s Taoid Museum, explained that the Ilocano tradition of “pabaon is the way of giving them [the deceased] what they need in the afterlife. You give them their important personal belongings… something that represents their occupations.”
“Pabaon is also a way of honoring the deceased,” added Gaspar.
Gamayo revealed that the pabaon which is seven and a half yards inabel is pure white with ruffles on its sides and is seen to be used for the late Marcos’ blanket and pillowcase. The color of the inabel follows the traditional Ilocano death and burial practices which only allows dark hues such as black and white.
However, Gamayo noted that what makes the inabel created for President Marcos special is its design brimming with flowers, saying that “when you truly value someone, you give the person flowers as a special gift and that translates why I have chosen the floral design which I actually dreamt for the President’s burial blanket.”
“This is the first time that we have woven an inabel blanket with floral designs as pabaon as the previous ones I have crafted for my loved ones that passed away were only pure white bereft of any designs,” added Gamayo.
Representing the textile heritage of Ilocos Norte, the inabel has an enormous part in the lifestyle and tradition of Ilocanos, traversing the different life cycles in the province especially death.
Gaspar explained that the “inabel as a death shroud is representative of the culture of Ilocanos of giving respect to the deceased, so that is actually the essence of the pabaon in the tradition of our burial practices.”
With a portrait of former First Lady Imelda Marcos and President Marcos pinned on the wall beside her pagablan (loom), Gamayo said that she and entire family had always been supportive of the Marcoses, especially the late President.
“I once saw him here in our village and I and my entire family voted for him when he first ran as President of the country in 1965,” added Gamayo.
Asked about the planned burial of the President in the Libingan ng mga Bayani, Gamayo replied: “Mostly, we feel despaired when someone passes away and when the time comes that we bury the person at his or her final resting place. But this time, I have mixed emotions but I am elated that in my lifetime I will finally see President Marcos buried at a fitting place.”
Gamayo, who had been conferred the Gawad Manlilikha ng Bayan (National Living Treasure Award) in 2012, looks forward to passing her valued skill of panag-abel to the younger generation despite the rise of technology and modernization.
At the moment, Gamayo is training her granddaughters, the youngest of whom is 12 years old, to master the skill of Ilocano loom weaving as she aims to continuously uphold and preserve the traditional Ilocano craft.