Author: Pia

From the loom with love

As a legislator, my job requires that I travel around the country a lot to see what’s happening in different communities and provinces. One of the highlights of my travels is I get to experience first-hand our beautiful culture and diverse traditions. I always come home learning something new and appreciating our country even more.

I’m especially attracted to indigenous woven fabrics, and the Philippines has some of the most exquisite ones this side of the globe. The unique motifs and intricate patterns are a testament to the artistry and creativity of our talented weavers. More importantly, these handwoven textiles tell the story of a tribe and its people – their identity, way of life, beliefs, customs, and practices.

seputangan from the Yakans, bangles made of langkit from the Maranaos, and a pis from the Tausugs. (Photo from Malingkat Weaves)

I met Evelyn Hamja at the Yakan Weaving Center during my trip to Zamboanga City. She’s a fourth generation Yakan weaver, who started weaving when she was only seven years old. 

Mesmerized by the movement of hands and threads on the loom.

The Yakans are one of the Muslim ethnolinguistic groups in Mindanao mostly residing on the island of Basilan and Zamboanga City. They are also one of Mindanao’s famed weaving communities, and are known for using vibrant colors and geometric patterns inspired by their natural surroundings. Traditionally, weaving is the work of women in the tribe and is passed on from one generation to the next. Mothers usually teach their daughters the art of weaving as soon as they are able to use a loom, like how Evelyn learned.

In recent years, interest in indigenous fabrics and the art of handloom weaving has been greatly increasing. A growing number of entrepreneurs and designers are incorporating local weaves for contemporary use and design. This is a welcome development as it showcases our rich weaving traditions and gives sustainable livelihood to weavers, who are mostly mothers.

Wearing a part of home wherever I go – my favorite Yapak Pinay sandals with Yakan fabric, handwoven scarf from Anthill Fabric Gallery, and pants from Nina Inabel.
Fashioned a beautiful Maranao fabric into this lovely ensemble designed by OJ Hofer.
My work bag’s all handmade and handwoven – basket weave bag with Tausug pis.

Indigenous weaving is an important and beautiful part of our culture, and something we should all be proud of. A piece of handwoven textile not only tells a story, but also comes with a lot of love from the weaver who spent hours on the loom to share a part of their heritage with us.



It starts from Km Zero

Road to Senate 2019

A couple of days a week, I hop on a bike to work out before I start my day. Today was no different, except I had a specific destination. I was going to ride to the Commission on Election’s (COMELEC) office in Intramuros, Manila to file my certificate of candidacy (COC) for senator for next year’s elections. That ride was symbolic in many ways.

On my way to the COMELEC with friends and supporters

First, it marks the beginning of my journey to return to the Senate, fourteen years after I first stepped on its hallowed halls as the country’s youngest elected female senator (2004-2010). I would later serve a second term (2010-2016).

It’s official! With my supportive younger brother Lino

The battles I fought throughout the twelve years in the Senate and two more in the House of Representatives were not easy. Most of the landmark measures I passed and continue to be involved in – reproductive health, sin tax, cheaper medicine law, anti-age discrimination, expanded maternity leave, and divorce, have been met with so much resistance from different fronts. But I’ve learned to use my training as an endurance athlete to persevere and fight to the very end, until I reach my goal.


Second, I purposely biked to represent my advocacy for sustainable transportation, something that is urgently needed in our society today. It includes the building of efficient mass transportation systems, bike lanes, sidewalks, and pedestrian walkways. A well-designed transport system will ease the traffic situation in Metro Manila and other urban centers, which has been greatly affecting businesses and individual productivity. Sustainable transportation is kinder to our environment, better for our personal health and fitness, and good for the economy.


Third, I wore a skirt. Yes, I did. I took a few spins on my foldable bike around the Rizal Monument in Luneta first to make sure I can comfortably bike in a skirt. And I’m happy to say, I can and I did! It is a nod to women everywhere who are playing multiple roles in society today, and doing a great job at it. On this note, I’m so proud to include an update on my package of laws to support women – the recently ratified Expanded Maternity Leave Bill that gives 105 days of paid maternity leave to working mothers. As a working mom myself, I’ve seen the balancing act women perform to be mothers while working at the same time. But women in the work force are here to stay and it is society’s job to make this environment supportive to working mothers.


Lastly, I started from the Rizal Monument because that’s where Kilometer Zero is. “KM 0” markers are normally located in a country’s capital from which road distances are measured. I see those kilometer posts all the time when biking, and those numbers indicate how far the place is from Kilometer Zero. As a senator, it’s a reminder to me that I represent the entire country, from kilometer zero to the farthest towns north and south of the Philippines.

At Km Zero where I will begin my campaign

And now, I am back on this road to the Senate starting from KM Zero, willing to take on more challenges in the humble service of the Filipino people.

God makes all things beautiful

Seventeen years ago, I held my son Gabriel in my arms for the very last time. My heart was ripped apart when he died, and it will never be the same.

But I am grateful for the time we had. Each extra day he lived was time for my daughters, Maxine and Nadine, to get to know their brother and for him to feel her Ates’ love – through the games they played, the books Max read to him, and the songs her Ates sang for him.

When I went out for a run today, I looked at the sky and gave thanks. It is true, in His time, God makes all things beautiful.

I can smile and laugh now knowing he lives on in our hearts through the work I do, and through the foundation we named after him, Gabriel’s Symphony.

Visit Gabriel’s Symphony on Facebook: