Sartorial symbols in movements around the world have always been somewhat regarded as “silently loud protests”. Nowhere has this been more clear than in the fight for women’s equality. The palda or skirt has had an unabashedly long history as the centerpiece of feminism’s strategy. The rise, fall, blooming, and slimming of skirts have always been in parallel to how women are perceived, how traditional roles have transformed, and how much women are heard. The “Palda” or skirt is a symbol of liberation and women empowerment. Wearing short skirts were then a political act, an awareness of women’s inequality. In wearing short skirts, there was a cultural change in women’s rights.
On Women’s Month 2017, we wove our first Palda Revolution - a movement centered around empowering women, starting conversations on women’s issues, and celebrating the power in ALL WOMEN. Through our weave skirts , we advocate for all women who feel they are not living up to some arbitrary standard set by society. We are who we wear and we are enough. We un-skirt women’s issues unpacking topics avoided in conversation, rarely discussed, and kept low and last in the agenda.
On our fourth run this year, we weave a revolution honoring our partner women weavers at the forefront of our fight to empowerment, equality and cultural reclamation. We are joined in a heartwoven conversation by Aling Naty and Senang (Bangued, Abra), Salome and Lynlyn (Daraghuyan Tribe, Bukidnon), Aling Auring and Marecil (Argao, Cebu), Janeth , Ate Jingle and Ate Gelsy (Cebu City) . Dressed in their weaves and in between poses- we talk about the power of the skirt, today's definition of WOMAN and the inherent value of uplifting fellow women.
“ When I wear a skirt, I feel and show that I AM WOMAN. I am a woman who can stand on her own - I do not just belong at home. I am the woman of my family - I weave for their future. Many of the women in my village are in fear of something- what I want is to inspire women to discover that they already have everything they need within themselves…I want to show them that if I can do it- they can too.” Shares Salome, head weaver of the Daraghuyan Tribe.
“We have to help other women. It should not be something that is asked- but something that should always be done. We were taught to rely on the men- I don’t want that. I want to help women stand on their own, to help them rise.” - says Jingle.
“I want the women from my village to have income too, when I can- I want to pass on work, so they can have a little extra for their families or buy themselves something nice.” adds ate Lynlyn.
Vulnerable women are often resigned to housework and less likely to seek out work. Salome and Jingle’s passion to be the light of both their families and of all women in their communities is an ideal all our partner weavers share- familiar with the experience of being bound to the traditional typecast of relying on their husbands.
Our women weavers are mothers first. “ Mothers should help their fellow mothers. This is why I weave- to help my fellow Nanays (mothers) and send all our children to school” shares Aling Naty. Her purpose in weaving, grounded in the aim to collectively raise and provide education for the next generation.
“ Usually, when people (especially men) see a woman wearing a skirt - they think they can abuse or belittle her. That is not true- when I wear a skirt, I am EMPOWERED. Babae ako- I am a woman. We shouldn’t only be helping ourselves. We should also be helping others especially those who have been through difficult experiences.” shares Ate Senang. Her skirt gives her the confidence to honour her voice and empowers her to speak out and uplift other women.
The palda carries with it the grit of all the women who have come before us and paved our trails. It now enables us to reclaim this piece as a symbol of freedom. “I feel liberated! I feel so much more like a WOMAN. “ - Maricel, smiling as she speaks. Reclaiming the skirt as something that is truly feminine.
“When I wear a skirt, I feel fancy. But more than that, I feel like this was what I was always meant to wear.”- Aling Auring (Hablon ni Lauriana, Argao)
Hailing from various communities around the Philippines and speaking different languages and dialects did not deter them from developing an instant connection and sharing mirror insights and dreams. When asked what they would want for today's women to feel - Ate Janeth says quickly “To feel sexy! To wear skirts. To do anything that helps them feel their best! When women feel their best- it inspires others to feel the same”
Proud Weavers turned Proud Weave Wearers- their expression has enriched our views on what it means to be a woman for women. To rise and to inspire other women to do the same. Our woven revolution’s mission is deepened and how we (and all women) feel is perfectly summed up by Ate Gelsey - “it’s as if I can do anything!”
Together, we honor the silent superpower of the skirt- the hemlines and silhouettes that have shaped the movement. Today, the skirt is our power suit. Together, we weave a Palda Revolution. Join our uprising!