One of the major draws for travelers and tourists in South Cotabato are how the efforts to preserve culture and traditions among its indigenous peoples are not merely visible but also celebrated. Among the Blaan tribes, an elderly weaver has elevated their ages-old ways to highly appreciable art even as she has kept it alive for decades all through the present day. The summit of her achievement would be her being named a Manlilikha ng Bayan, or National Living Treasure. Unfortunately nobody can live forever, and after Fu Yabing passed away last month at an advanced age, all that is left now is to memorialize her to community and country.

Minda News reports that a state funeral has been arranged for the recently departed Blaan weaver and National Living Treasure Fu Yabing Masalon Dulo. Her grandson Arthur Gulili revealed the details last Saturday, January 30, about how his grandmother, who will be buried on land where her community traditional weaving center stands, will be accorded full honors appropriate to all who have received her accolade. Thus when Fu Yabing is finally laid to rest next week on February 10, she will be given an honor guard and a 21-gun salute.

Fu Yabing, who was born in 1914, died in her sleep past midnight on January 26 at the ripe old age of 106 at Barangay Landan in Polomolok. Before then she had been intermittently admitted to hospital throughout 2020 and finally confined in sickbed at home for her last two months of life. Since then she has lain in state at the multipurpose hall of Landan’s Sitio Amgu-o, not far from the weaving center she had established. For receiving the Gawad ng Manlilikha ng Bayan (Gamaba), Fu Yabing’s state funeral privilege expenses will be shouldered in full by the government.

She was a master of the Blaan mabal tabih or weaving in abaca fiber by hand, as well as ikat or reserve dyeing. For her lifelong dedication to preserving these key Blaan skills, Fu Yabing was named a national living treasure back in 2017, and personally received the honor from President Rodrigo Duterte in 2018. “We will be forever grateful to her for the pride that she brought to the Blaan tribe,” says Arthur Gulili of his grandmother. “She left a legacy that our generation will continue and will pass on to the next one.”

Image courtesy of Manila Bulletin

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