Threads of tradition: Uncovering the timeless craftsmanship of Badian’s banig weavers

As the sun sets on the small town of Badian, Cebu, the mountains come alive with the sound of handlooms weaving intricate patterns of pandan leaves, while skilled fingers dance to the rhythm of a beautiful tradition that produces one of the treasured pieces of Filipino heritage: the banig.

At the forefront of this time-honored tradition is Shirley Sangcay, a 54-year-old banig weaver who has honed her craft for nearly five decades. Residing in Barangay Kalayong, nestled in the high mountains of Badian, Sangcay graciously welcomed SunStar Lifestyle to her humble home, allowing us to witness the meticulous process of creating the iconic banig of Badian. She explained that she is just one of many farmers in Badian who weave banig while awaiting the harvest season. They collect pandan plants from the mountains, carefully extract the fibers, and create a sturdy and durable material, dependent on the temperature, for weaving.

“In my mother’s time, we wove banig out of necessity,” shared Sangcay in the vernacular. “The mats served as our flooring and bedding, making our home more comfortable. Over time, banig weaving became our way of life and eventually a means of livelihood. It is a skill passed down to me, and one that I will pass on to my daughters.”

Banig-making in Badian is a resourceful and sustainable craft that utilizes locally available materials. Abundantly growing in the mountains, pandan leaves are harvested and dried before being intricately woven into patterns. Crafting a single banig mat can take one to two days, highlighting the weaver’s skill and patience.

The process of weaving the banig is intricate, as demonstrated by Sangcay. First, the thorns are carefully removed from the pandan leaves. Next, the leaves undergo a process called “Lilas,” where they are cut into thin strips and dried before undergoing a conditioning process known as “Hagod.”

Once prepared, the strips are dyed in vibrant colors and left to dry again, ready to be woven into the stunning banig, which is the pride of Badian. However, it is crucial to note that controlling the temperature plays a significant role in the entire process. Exposure to high temperatures causes the strips to become brittle and unsuitable for weaving. The recent temperature increase in Cebu presents a challenge for Sangcay and other banig makers in Badian.

With practiced hands, Sangcay deftly weaves the pandan strips together, showcasing the skill and artistry involved in the process. The resulting banig is not merely a work of art but also serves as a practical item for daily use, such as a sleeping mat, picnic mat, or floor mat.

The banig holds immense significance in Filipino culture and tradition, and the banig makers of Badian have dedicated themselves to preserving this heritage. Priced between P25 to P100, depending on size, a banig offers an affordable way to bring home a piece of Filipino history. Despite its humble origins, the banig has captured the attention of both Filipinos and international audiences. It has become a popular souvenir item among tourists and a staple in many Filipino households. In recent years, designers have also begun incorporating banig into their creations, infusing a modern twist into this traditional art form. Today, banig makers in Badian are not limited to crafting mats alone; they have expanded their repertoire to include bags and purses.

Sangcay takes immense pride in her work, recognizing its power to connect people with their roots and preserve a vital part of Filipino culture. She views her craft not only as a means of livelihood but also as a way to honor her ancestors and pass on their legacy to the next generation.

The ingenuity and resourcefulness of Badian’s banig weavers are truly inspiring. Their ability to transform a simple plant into a work of art stands as a testament to the beauty of Filipino culture and the boundless power of creativity. In a world dominated by mass production, the banig serves as a poignant reminder of the importance of valuing and preserving traditional crafts that have been handed down through generations.