Malingkat — Maganda, Marikit
I started having huge interests in my parents’ heritage and roots whenever they converse with each other. I know I can’t speak the dialect but I don’t get why I can understand them. Then for some reason, I suddenly knew how to converse with them in Tausug.
My love for Tausug grew bigger which started from simply understanding how they speak and converse. A beautiful dialect not heard by many here in the northern part of the Philippines. Some were able to feel and taste the roots of Tausug through food and fashion, while others are still clueless about who, what, and where the Tausug tribes came from.
As much as I want to delve into our family’s roots, there’s one woman and her enterprise that struck me the most when I first knew about their advocacy. She’s Faw Maridul, the woman behind Malingkat Weaves! Let her story bring you to a meaningful adventure in Sulu and our culture.
- Tell us something about yourself.
I’m Faw Maridul, Faw is short for Fawziyyah. I was born and raised in Iligan City in Mindanao. My father (+) was Tausug from Jolo and my mom is a Bisaya Christian. They met while in university and I always say that I have the best of both worlds growing up – my father’s Muslim heritage and my mother’s Christian faith. I’m an accidental entrepreneur if you can call it such. I only started my entrepreneurial journey in my mid-30s, proof that it’s never too late to start or try something new.
- What’s the story behind Malingkat Weaves?
I consider Malingkat as the result of a series of fortunate events and incidents. It was totally unplanned although I’ve always been fascinated and in love with local products and culture for as long as I can remember. Growing up in the province, and in a multicultural household at that, probably contributed to this. I grew up seeing baskets (there was a shop of woven rattan goods in front of our old home when I was a young girl), banigs, malongs, beautiful Tausug clothing on my aunt, etc although I didn’t really pay much attention to them or realized their real value at such a young age.
When I went to UP for university, the passion and fervor for everything Filipino just intensified I guess. I used to frequent tiangges, local bazaars and exhibitions and the like in college and when I was already working. Whenever I would make a “local find or discovery” I’ll rave about this to friends. This was before the age of social media. One of the things I noticed though was many of our local products are quite pricey, I couldn’t afford most of them.
Fast forward to my 30s, I took a break from the corporate world to explore other options. Around this time also, I was more into home stuff already and even though I was already working, there were still a lot of pretty things I couldn’t afford in some local fairs and events. But I already knew this time that just because something is locally made, it does not mean that it will be priced low. Still, I hoped that our locally made pieces will be more accessible to many Filipinos, regular income earner Filipinos. Whenever I go to these events also or when traveling around the country, I’d always strike up a conversation with the shop or stall owner, the weaver, or the artisan. I was truly interested in the item, the process, the story behind their product, or their craft. In one event, I connected with a Yakan weaver and I saw her a few more times after. I bought a nice Yakan fabric from her and totally fell in love with it. I told her I’ll look her up whenever I’m in her city, which is Zamboanga.
A year after, in the summer of 2017, we had a family reunion on my father’s side in Zamboanga City. Perfect timing. I went to the Yakan Weaving Center with my family, cousins, nephews, nieces, and it was a really wonderful experience because even my cousins who live in the city haven’t been and the nephews and nieces were so fascinated with the weaves, the loom, the process. It became an educational visit of some sort. Anyway, the weaver introduced me to her niece who is now our lead Yakan partner – Norita. I was in textile heaven seeing all those beautiful weaves and the first thing that came to mind was they’d make for such lovely table runners. Why table runners? I’ve been looking for a really nice one for our house and I lamented at some point that there was such a limited selection in mall shops. So I promised to return and told Ate Norita that maybe we can do something together, I can help them promote their products, their story, and essentially help them earn more.
I went back a few months later, spent a day at the center, watched them weave, asked a lot of questions, got to know Ate Norita better, and went home with so many fabrics. I guess it really started with the quest for the perfect table runner.
- Who’s your inspiration in building your social enterprise?
It would be my late father. He was a well-respected man and he instilled in me love for the country at such a young age. And I owe my beautiful Tausug heritage to him.
- What are the common resources in your community? How are they managed?
We work mostly with individual weavers or families (and extended families). Most of our Mindanao partners use backstrap looms and they weave at home. Except for those at the Yakan weaving center, they have their individual areas/space there aside from the common weaving area. Another exception would be our T’boli partners. We partner with a coop, COWHED, so there’s a lot of resource sharing there headed by their manager, Jennah Ipil. We were co-finalists at the 2019 BPI Sinag program.
- Did you have any challenges that made you strive to strengthen your business foundation?
I went into business, and not a regular one at that because at the heart of our enterprise is our cause to promote our local weaving traditions and textiles and at the same time, provide sustainable livelihood to our partners, with practically zero knowledge in entrepreneurship. The financial aspect of it was a major challenge, I think I miscalculated or lost some money in some of our first few sales and bazaars. I was learning as I was going along and obviously made a lot of missteps and miscalculations so I really made it a point to study/learn about how to manage a business by reading books, researching online, looking for and joining free seminars and workshops, and looking at the best practices of other businesses/brands I admire. It’s a continuous process and up to now, I am still learning.
- What drives you into showcasing the Tausug culture?
Because it’s a very big part of who I am, it’s my heritage, and really I would love for people to know how beautiful Sulu is, how good Tausug cuisine is (especially the bang-bang), that the coffee there is really good and so many other things. I want others to see that there’s more to Sulu and even the other parts of Mindanao, especially Muslim Mindanao, beyond the news they see/read, which is not all good sometimes.
- Where do you see your social enterprise in the next 5 years?
Tough question. I really pray and hope we’re still around, that we’ve scaled and grown and financially stable as a business, with more community partners and products, with solid, sustainable programs that address the needs of our community partners, a wider reach globally and essentially still doing what we are doing now.
- What’s your message to anyone who’s interested to delve into our Tausug culture?
I invite everyone to know more about our local weaves, not just the Tausugs and especially the ones from Mindanao, because more than just being tangible products or an item in your home or closet, these fabrics tell the story of a people and their hopes, their aspirations, their traditions, inspirations, their way of life. Hopefully, these insights will help each of us gain a better appreciation of our fellow Filipinos, of our history and culture, and instill a renewed sense of pride in each and every one of us on what it truly means to be Filipino.