Zamboanga City is proud of its diverse culture with several Muslim tribes and its Spanish heritage making it a unique city in the country. For the traveler and tourist, there are two interesting places to observe as well as buy traditional woven products without the hassle of going out of the city.
Do check these out for textiles, mats and other handicrafts. These are just along the highway and easily reached. You can also arrange with the regional office of the Department of Tourism, +63 62 9552477 for assistance or appointment.
Ayuda Badjao Project
Caragasan, Brgy. Maasin
Established by the late Maria Clara Lobregat in 2000, the Ayuda Badjao Project aims to empower and provide income to Badjao families settled in this barangay. It capitalizes on the inherent mat weaving skills of the tribe’s women, known for their mats called tepo. There are several Badjao weaving communities from Zamboanga City to as far as Tawi-tawi like in Bongao and Sitangkai.
A tepo mat typically consists of an intricately woven, multicolored piece with beautiful geometric patterns sewn atop a plain but larger mat. The strips are made from cut pandan leaves colored with dyes with the patterns derived from memory.
GETTING THERE: From the Pueblo or city center of Zamboanga City, ride a jeep going to Maasin and tell the driver to drop you off at the Ayuda Badjao Project center just along the highway.
Yakan Weaving Center
The Yakan Weaving Center is one of the most popular Zamboanga City tourist spots and was established after Martial Law. I remember visiting it the first time I was in this city about a decade ago. What you see here are beautiful Yakan tribe (from Basilan) handicrafts, known especially for their exceptional woven textiles with bold and colorful geometric patterns.
These local fabrics are made in the center and are also used as base for other everyday but functional items like wallets, convertible bags, table runners and many other products. The series of shops may also sell other Muslim tribe woven fabrics like those from the Maranaos and Tausugs. There are also handicrafts and decorative kris, the traditional Muslim blade.
As a side attraction, some Yakan members are wearing their traditional outfits, doing back-loom weaving demonstrations and even perform in a musical ensemble complete with a dancer.
GETTING THERE: The Yakan Weaving Cente is quite accessible and closer to the city center compared to the Ayuda Badjao Project. You can take a tricycle (do haggle or ask how much first before taking a ride as it’s one of the placees in the Philippines that have high tricycle fare rates) or a jeepney (from Pueblo).