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The Artisans

The Mangyan Weavers

Ditta Sandico Channel


In a small island off the coast of Mindoro, there lived a very old woman who loved to weave. It was her life's work and her ancestor's heritage. They call her Baye Yaniw. She comes from the local Mangyan tribe on the island. And how sustainable fashion champion, Dita Sandico-Ong (DSO), chanced upon this woman seems like a magical tale. Dita and her friend, Ciay Misa, were visiting Anton Postma, a Dutch anthropologist and former priest who married a Mangyan tribeswoman on the the island. They saw all the beautiful bags that the Mangyan women have woven, but one certain bag caught her eye. It was exceptionally-made and finely done, the weaving of the nito and the pakudos (the cross symbol of the Mangyan) were impeccable. Unfortunately though, her friend had beat her to it. Dita secretly hoped that Ciay would let it go; the gods must have heard her wish for she went home with the bag and the eager longing to meet the hands behind the masterpiece.

Inspired and impatient, she asked for one of the locals to find the weaver who does such wonders.

After what seemed like the slipper-matching search for Cinderella, they found the woman who handcrafted Dita's most recent favorite accessory. Upon meeting the woman, Dita was enchanted. At around 75 years old, this thin frail-looking woman transforms herself into an incredible weaving machine with great vision and firm control of her hands that can go on for hours. Dita found out that Baye Yaniw was the last living tribeswoman who really understood the weaving craft of the Mangyan. The other locals were neither as educated nor as interested in this cultural heritage.

She made it her goal to make sure that this legacy lives on, through Baye Yaniw as a teacher to the Mangyan mothers and youth, and as the pattern-creator of her next collection. She wanted to raise consciousness about the beauty and artistry of the Mangyan culture by sharing it to the next generations and to the global market. "She is such a treasure. No one can do it as good and as fine as she does," says Dita.