Yakan Tribe Weaving
The southernmost major island group of the Philippines, Mindanao, is home to several tribes. One of these is the Yakan tribe, which lives on the hillsides of the island of Basilan. The Yakan is a horse-riding hill tribe and is one of the major indigenous tribes in Mindanao. The Yakan is considered one of the 13 Moro groups in the Philippines.
The Yakans traditionally wear colorful, hand-woven clothes. Yakan weaving has become very popular in the Philippines. The Yakans turn the pineapple and abaca into fibers, which they use as their basic weaving material. Herbal extracts from leaves, roots and barks are used to dye the fibers which they weave into tapestries filled with intricate designs.
Yakan women are excellent weavers, and are famous for their beautifully woven traditional costumes of cotton and pineapple cloth. The basic garment for men and women consists of a tight-fitting upper garment with tight-fitting trousers called sawal. The shirt is open in front from lapel down to the waist, using up to 40 sequined or golden buttons. To close the shirt, a long string is crisscrossed from one button to the other so that when tightly drawn, the shirt closes from top to bottom. Usually the shirt remains open since the string is often lost. Over the shirt, male and female wear a tight-fitting jacket, which is exquisitely embroidered in the front and back, with cuffs decorated with multicolored sequins.
The difference in male and female apparel lies in accessories. Men wear hand woven pis (head cloth) and a 15m-long kandit (belt or sash) made of red cloth called gilim. The pis serves as "protection" from spears and knives during combat, and may be fastened around the trousers. The women wear a short skirt over the trousers, around which a rectangular, hand woven cloth is tied. This cloth is the most expensive part of their costume because it is woven in a tedious manner. Men and women wear the saruk, the Yakan hat worn to make one look more attractive and elegant. Some wear the hat over the turban and use it as a purse for betel nuts, tobacco, and money. Yakan warriors wear a bulletproof shirt prepared by hadjis and imams who write Arabic script all over the shirt (Sherfan 1976:160, 205-207).
Ornaments such as necklaces may be worn as charms. A crocodile tooth polished with a hole at the base is believed to bring good luck when worn as a necklace. The Yakan also wear amulets against bullets. These contain unreadable symbols, are wrapped in black cloth, sewn in triangular form, and tied around the neck. Belts made of snake bones are strung together to protect them against bodily pain. One charm that protects them from sicknesses due to evil spirits is the manik tegiyas - a necklace or bracelet made of the fruits of a flower beaded together. The manik sembulan is made of a bamboo stem cut into short pieces, strung together either as a necklace or bracelet, and serving as added protection against sickness inflicted by evil spirits. To gain more strength against evil spirits, men and women wear the anting-anting. This consists of a string with a piece of cloth containing beads as pendant (Sherfan 1976:143-147).