TREASURE. Yakan weaver Ambalang Ausalin, 75, regarded as a national living treasure, is seen here weaving through the Yakan ‘tennun’ or tapestry-weaving tradition. She is featured as one of two national living artists, with Yakan musician Uwang Adhas, at the Basilan village of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Villages Expo inside Shariff Kabunsuan Complex in Cotabato City. (Photo by BPI-ARMM)

COTABATO CITY – The Basilan village, one of the five communities represented in the ongoing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Villages Expo at Shariff Kabunsuan Complex here, is featuring two living national artists as main attraction.

Aptly depicted as ‘Weavers of Peace’, the Basilan village highlights weaver Ambalang Ausalin and musician Uwang Ahadas - who have both been recognized as National Living Treasures, or ‘Manlilikha ng Bayan” by the national government.

Showcasing the artistry and unique cultural talents of its artists, the Basilan village features the works of Yakans, who are known as the finest weavers in southern Philippines, even as they are also recognized for their rich musical tradition.

One of them is 75-year-old Apuh Ambalang, as she is called by her community of weavers, who is from Lamitan City.

She was recognized for her commitment to safeguarding and promoting the Yakan ‘tennun’ or tapestry-weaving tradition. She is also known for her ‘suwah bekkat’ (cross-stitch-like embellishment) and ‘suwah pendan’ (embroidery-like embellishment).

In her younger days, Ambalang was mentored by her mother, then the  the province’s best weaver. She practiced with strips of coconut leaves and started to weave all the designs of the Yakan cloth, including the "sinalu’an" and "seputangan", two of the most intricate styles in the Yakan weaving virtuosity.

Lawyer Laisa Alamia, ARMM executive secretary and concurrent ARMM social welfare and development secretary, noted that the “tennun” is an extraordinary demonstration of Yakan culture.

“Its categories, colors, designs, motifs, and significance will constantly remind Apuh Ambalang in her outstanding work, what it means to be Yakan – people of the earth,” she said, adding that such craft affirms the Yakan identity as a people, weaving the threads of culture, interlacing past, and future.

The Basilan village is also proud of the unique talent of Ahadas, a 73-year-old musician who uses native instruments such as the “gabbang”, “agung”, and “kwintangan kayu” for his music.

Ahadas still continues to educate the locals about the Yakan musical traditions despite being almost blind. He was proclaimed as a living treasure for his dexterity in playing Yakan musical instruments such as the kwintangan, gabbang, agung, and kwintangan kayu, among others, and for his deep knowledge of the aesthetic possibilities and social contexts of these instruments.

The “tennun” musical tradition and way of living are important in Yakan’s history and identity, representing the beautiful province of Basilan and its people.

The ARMM Villages Expo features different ethnic groups in the region to let other people understand, learn and appreciate the Bangsamoro culture and traditions.

From cultural performances, where participants wear colorful costumes, to architectural styles, images of scenic places, native delicacies, and exhibition of artifacts and livelihood, people in these villages demonstrate their authentic lifestyle.

“The other people might not know about the history of the Bangsamoro but by mingling with the activities in the villages, they are given the opportunity to possibly learn our culture,” ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman said.

The ARMM villages’ exposition will run up to Dec. 28 this year. (Sheila Mae Dela Cruz, ARMM Bureau of Public Information)