Friday, April 27, 2012

In Search of the Beautiful but Forgotten Isinay Art of Kinuttiyan

JUST WHEN I thought there is not much left to know about the Isinay language and culture, a humbling but happy surprise came to me last April 16.

This was when my daughter Leia introduced me to her UP Baguio co-teacher Analyn Salvador-Amores, an  Oxford-educated anthropologist, and I learned of the existence (or rather former existence) of an Isinay art of weaving a cloth called "kinuttiyan."

Photo of an Isinay kinuttiyan or "uwes pinutuwan" from

Ikin (Dr. Amores' nickname) showed me several printouts of articles that had photos of the kinuttiyan fabric. She specifically pointed out to a page that carried the phrase "quwes pinuqtuwan."

Somewhat dismayed at the author's inaccuracy, the Isinay native in me -- and a self-avowed Isinay lexicographer at that -- could not help but react. There's no such word as "quwes," I said to myself.

It was also my first time to encounter the word "pinuqtuwan."

So I quickly said to the UP professor, "Wala dapat yung Q..." and insinuated that the foreigner who wrote quwes pinuqtuwan must have, as often is the case, imposed the orthography of his country's language.

The words should instead be written as "uwes pinutuwan."

FROM THE PHOTOS of the kinuttiyan that Ma'am Ikin downloaded from the websites of museums, I recognized the similarity between the kinuttiyan and the ikat of  the Cordillerans as well as the tinalak cloth of the Manobos.
Perhaps sensing my disbelief, Ikin, speaking partly in Ilocano, said the fabric appeared to be woven only for special occasions, particularly as a blanket to wrap the remains of a dead relative.

The professor went on to say she met a weaver in Benguet who said she learned her kinuttiyan design from an Isinay. She added that she also encountered a weaver in Ilocos who said she was from Dupax.

I told the UP anthropologist that as far as I know the weavers of Dupax were all Ilocanos, including my maternal grandmother who bought her materials from the Ilocos.

I added that even as I once heard Pastor Delbert Rice (of Kalahan, Sta. Fe, Nueva Vizcaya) mention many years ago that the Isinays are good weavers, I insisted I have not seen one pagabelan (weaving loom) among the Isinays.

Anyway, I gave word to Ma'am Ikin that when I would go to Dupax for the fiesta, I would remember to ask more-senior-citizen Isinays about this intriguing Dupax del Sur weaving heritage.

My Initial Findings

I DID REMEMBER to ask around when I was in my hometown last week and was able to get good leads on the Isinay kinuttiyan from two persons, both true-blue Isinays.

The first lead came from Ms. Josefina Daggao, a retired teacher of Dupax del Sur who is currently the Head of the Office for Senior Citizens Affairs (OSCA) of Dupax del Sur.

Like me, Ma'am Pina apparently had not heard of the term "kinuttiyan" before. But when I mentioned that it was an inave (cloth) that is also called uwes pinutuwan, she did recall that many years ago an American came to Dupax and asked Ina Falipa Castillo to do some weaving for him, after which the foreigner did not only buy the resulting fabric but also the tools used to weave it.

Ina Falipa is no longer around, Uwa Pina said, but her eldest daughter Encia (now Mrs. Seupon) and youngest daughter Teresita (now Mrs. Castañeda) are still here.

Recalling that a similar indigenous fabric in Mindanao (called "tinalak") is made of abaca which is not grown in Dupax, I asked her what material did Ina Falipa possibly use for weaving.

If not abaca, Uwa Pina said in Isinay, it could have been the stems of the banana whose fruits are not eaten, the many-seeded one that Ilocanos call balayang and which Isinays call mahanilan si araw (monkey's banana). "Tojtojon da darare ot sare mot si aveyon da." (They will pound them and the result would be used for weaving.)

Again I asked: What dye could have been used to color the raw materials they used to weave the fabric?

"Appatut mu mandirito^... bu-en si abukado mu brown." (Achuete for red... avocado seed for brown.)

Other possible sources of information, she said, are Lolita and Milagring Sagario.

THE SECOND INFORMANT I was able to corner was Fr. Romulo Felix. I had a brief talk with this young priest while he was busy supervising cleaning work at the basement of the convent that he was intending to convert into the St. Vincent Ferrer church museum.

When I described to him how the kinuttiyan looked in the photos I saw in Dr. Amores' documents, Father Romrom's eyes gleamed and he exclaimed that, yes, he did have one such material.

"Dioy rat kudus na on dark blue color nar!" (It has crosses on it and is colored dark blue.) 

The item, he said in Isinay, is among those he would soon include for display in the museum.


No comments:

Post a Comment