Another pride of Ilocandia is a 90 year old master inabel weaver who was awarded the Gawad Manlilikha ng Bayan or National Living Treasure by no less than President Benigno Aquino III at the Malacanang Palace on November of 2012.She is Ms Magdalena Gamayo who hails from the town of Pinili, Ilocos Norte. Manlilikha ng Bayan is the highest honor given to artisan, craftsman or folk artist. It is a title in the same order with National Artist and National Scientist.
I initially met Mrs Gamayo months before she was conferred with the title of National Living Treasure, at Plaza Del Norte during ASEAN Weaver’s Forum organized by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA). She took part in the said activity. She was so approachable and soft spoken old woman. I gave her a tribute together with another member of the Ilocano community and her co-awardee Teofilo Garcia by organizing and holding the Kannawidan Exchange program. The event was held at the Robinson’s Mall in San Nicolas Ilocos Norte a month after she was awarded in Malacanang. However, she was not able to come because she was covered by a policy that they should be invited a month in advance. However, she was represented by Mayor Samuel Pagdilao.
I visited her several times also at her place in Lumbaan Bicbica which is already close to the borders of the towns of Banna and Nueva Era. It was really a far-flung area and distant from the townproper. One have to rent a tricycle to get there.
Magdalena Gamayo or Nana Daleng as I usually call her, recalls that she started to weave at the age of 16. She learned the art of weaving from her aunt. Most Ilocanos because of difficult life, one has to do weaving even the male would engage on it while not tending the farms. Usually the looms are placed under the basement of the traditional nipa or bamboo house. She was able to have her first loom at the age of 19 and that lasted for 30 years. Then later bought a second loom to replace her original loom. It is a study wooden frame with three foot pedals with wide horizontal beams to support the warp and even longer lengthwise frame to keep the threads in place.
Nana Daleng has that innate skills and expertise to come up with various designs. Initially she has been copying patterns such as binakol, inuritan, and kusikos to name a few. But later she learned to recreate or devise new set of designs. One design that she created is called inubon a sabong or string of flowers. It is a design that employs a difficult weaving technique called pinilian. This design also propelled her to be nominated and get the Gawad Manlilikha ng Bayan.