THEY were ordinary folks eking out a living through their weaving skills using the traditional looms. They were the original weavers of the UP Sablay, the University’s official academic attire.
When the University of the Philippines decided to depart from the western-oriented toga worn by its graduates during graduation rites in the early 90s, it created a Sablay Committee to come up with an academic apparel that would reflect, among others, UP’s sense of nationalism.
From the design generated by the Sablay Committee, the weavers of Arevalo and Oton, Iloilo, submitted their own woven sample. This prompted a visit from Dr. Virginia Monje, one of the members of the Committee, to check the quality of their work and if the weavers can generate the expected numbers of Sablay needed by UP for its graduates nationwide.
The rest, as they say, was history.
First introduced in 1990 and officially adopted in 2000, the UP Sablay, is now the official academic costume of the UP. It has created a distinctive mark in our national landscape for being the most unique academic apparel, particularly during Commencement Exercises.
The Sablay allows the students and faculty members to be cool and comfort during the sweltering heat of the summer when the commencement ceremonies were still held during this time and likewise in the month of June when the temperature becomes humid.
But more than this, the Sablay is replete with symbolisms. It stands for nationalism, a character that UP is highly noted for and which UP continues to inculcate to its students.
The Sablay honors our indigenous culture by using the indigenous alphabet called baybayin or katitikan. The curving design resembles a sprouting plant that signifies life.
The geometric designs in zigzag and diamond patterns are designs that are normally found in the garments and other objects of the indigenous people of our country from Batanes to Taw-tawi.
Because the patterns are designed in such a way that they flow continuously and rhythmically, they speak for and represent the diverse cultural communities in the Philippines. The same patterns also stand for UP’s continuous pursuit of knowledge, cultural enrichment and scientific advancement.
On Jan. 26, 2017, UP honored the 10 original weavers of the UP Sablay during a simple recognition and awarding ceremony held at the lobby of the Library inside the Main Building of the UP Visayas Iloilo City campus.
The honourees are Lourdes Balajediong, Myla Ballesteros, Roberto Ballesteros, Evelina Gonzaga, Merlinda Gonzaga, Nimfa Larida, Avelina Masculino, Hortensia Napawit, Beatriz Pulmo, and Lory Tomulto.
Also feted was Ms. Evelyn Jiz who was responsible of putting together this group of Sablay weavers to work on and produced the UP Sablay.
The honorees were each given a Certificate of Appreciation signed by UP President Alfredo Pascual and a blown up picture of each of them weaving with their looms.
Taken by Lyncen Fernandez in 2008 as a documentation effort of the UP Sablay Committee, the photographs were blown-up and mounted on a canvass.
Vice-Chancellor for Research and Extension, Dr. Ricardo Babaran gave the welcome remarks on behalf of Chancellor Espinosa.
He said that the ceremony was “indeed rightfully conducted to honour the original weavers of the UP Sablay” and that UP Visayas was privileged to host this event in their honour.
(With sources from http://www.ovcrd.upd.edu.ph/blog/2010/03/09/up-sablay/)