Spreads upon spreads of Inaul for sale in different stalls in one fair. These same colorful indigenous woven textiles worn and waved around as part of the steps in a street dance. The cloth designed as formal wear worn proudly and modeled by beauty queens in a fashion show.
I’ve seen festivals before, including indigenous festivals, but this is the first time I’ve seen one dedicated to a traditional weave. Inaul literally means “weave” in Maguindanao, and the name particularly pertains to woven textiles in Maguindanao making use of either traditional or contemporary patterns. (READ: Kaamulan Festival in Bukidnon)
The earliest Inaul weavers were believed to have come to Maguindanao with Shariff Mohammed Kabungsuwan, who introduced Islam to the area. This place is now known as Sultan Kudarat municipality in the province.
The Inaul tradition was passed on across generations, with weavers learning from their mothers, who in turn learned from their own mothers. Older and master weavers now also teach young and old alike who are willing to learn.
To keep the Inaul tradition vibrant, the Inaul Festival is celebrated every year in Buluan, Maguindanao. This is the third Inaul Festival so far, lasting over a week. Throughout the festival is the colorful Inaul Expo, which has booths from some of Maguindanao’s different municipalities showcasing their Inauls and other local products. Our group lingered at Sultan Kudarat municipality’s booth, where Inaul was said to have originated. There we met master weaver Noraina Ansing and some of her family, who are also weavers.
Inaul master weaver Noraina Ansing has been weaving for over 30 years. She also hails from Sultan Kudarat, where Inaul is said to have originated in the Philippines
Master weaver Noraina Ansing with sister-in-law Baikan Ansing (middle) and her daughter Hashna Abbas Ansing (left). Bae Noraina and Baikan won the festival’s Inaul malong weaving competition, while Hashna bagged the shawl category
You can also see weavers at work at the Inaul Expo
While Inaul is the star at the Inaul Expo, other elements of Maguindanao’s culture were also placed in the limelight.
Colorful silk decorations for celebrations like the palapit (near left) brighten up many stalls at the Inaul Expo
Aside from Inaul, traditional artifacts like these bronze and brass ware are for sale
There was also Maguindanaoan delicacies. The tinadtag is a crispy snack made from threaded rice flour
It is not just Maguindanao’s municipalities at the Inaul Expo; there are exhibitors from other places, too, like Marawi here, selling traditional musical instruments and furniture
Throughout the festival, there were various competitions and events like singing, cooking, rodeo, and more. We managed to attend a few events showcasing the Inaul – one was the Palamata Nu Maguindanao, a beauty pageant among Maguindanao’s young women, and Governor’s Night, where beauty queens and models from around the Philippines modeled Inaul formal wear by well-known local and national designers in a fashion show. The beauty queens are no surprise as Miss Universe Catriona Gray herself wore Inaul.
Pageant contestants at the Palamata nu Maguindanao
I love that the pageant contestants wear traditional attire!
The contestants strutting in uniform dresses with Inaul patterns. Contestant #4, Bailanie Bansawan, won the crown
Inaul fashion show at Governor’s Night on Valentine’s. This collection was designed by Cotabato City-based designer Akmad Kari
Designer Akmad Kari with Governor Esmael Mangudadatu and the models. I had the chance to talk to Kari during the festival. Growing up around Inaul, Kari sees it is a special weave which is perfect for formal wear. He designs Inaul wear regularly, and have no plans of stopping anytime soon.
This is my favorite gown among the showcased pieces. This is designed by Jay-R Flores
Designer Jearson Demavivas with the governor and the models, one especially looking queenly in her outfit
Designs by acclaimed designer Renee Salud. His collection was the finale for the fashion show
Of course, the highlight of the Inaul Festival, like other festivals, is the street dancing and float competition. Both dancers and floats were generously covered in Inaul. It was held on Valentine’s Day.
Six groups from Maguindanao and outside competed at the street dance and ground presentation, with the winner this year also the winner from last year, Upi municipality. Aside from showcasing Inaul, they also performed the rich traditions of the Teduray indigenous people, who are part of their municipality.
The winning contingent at the street dance and ground presentation, is Upi municipality, showcasing both the Inaul and the Teduray indigenous tradition
Some Upi dancers moved with several meters of Inaul
On second place is Datu Piang, who made a point of including Inaul malong in their dance steps.
On second place is Datu Piang muncipality. While they did not bag first place, they were the one who most left an impression on me as they used the Inaul at almost every moment of their choreography. Through them the idea that this was really an Inaul street dance stuck with me.
The Inaul again at center stage for Datu Piang municipality
On third place is South Upi. Also drawing on the Teduray indigenous tradition, South Upi’s performance focused on farming.
More farming implements for South Upi
All six contingents gave a longer performance during the showdown at the ground presentation. Some acted out scenes from legends or from traditions.
Aside from dancing, there were also acting out some scenes from legends and traditions during the ground presentation
The showdown at the ground presentation had the same set of winners as the street dance. This is the Datu Piang contingent, which came in second place.
Inaul Festival had more contenders for the float competition, with 26 entries in all. The floats did not only highlight Inaul but also the rich Moro Maguindanaoan culture as well.
First place is Sigay Kabataan, whose group is part of Datu Piang municipality
Vibrant colors and music from traditional instruments make their float come alive.
On second place is Upi municipality, with its native hut topped with an Inaul bird
Upi’s float up close
Third place is the local government unit (LGU) of Datu Piang municipality.
Like its Datu Piang sibling, this float also comes alive with colors and music
Here is another float from Datu Piang. Although they did not win, theirs was one of the floats that caught my attention.
Also love the colors in this float!
Love the smiles here!
Inaul Festival no doubt overflows with the colors and the richness of Maguindanaon tradition, and I am privileged to have witnessed it.