Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



From Creating Textiles: Makers, Methods, Markets. Proceedings of the Sixth Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, Inc. New York, NY, September 23–26, 1998 (Earleville, MD: Textile Society of America, Inc., 1999).


Copyright © 1998 by the author(s)


Any researcher working on vintage textiles and clothing from the Philippines collected during the early years of the American colonial period is likely to encounter the following informative catalogue entries: "From headhunters," or "From chiefs attire." Since the Bagobo people of southern Mindanao were also once famous for the practice of human sacrifice, the cloth, weaponry and ornament of these people were of high anecdotal value for collectors.

By contrast, a typical entry in the Bagobo textile collection of Laura Watson Benedict in this museum, the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), circa 1910 reads: "Woven by Antap [who specializes in making trouser cloth] which they learned in their mountain homes and worn by Antonio Madon and acquired in Sta. Cruz town [by the coast]."

Or consider an even more detailed entry for one of the pieces that will be shown to you here today: "Comparatively few [trousers] are of cotton but the Bagobo women near the coast like to buy the bright colored yam from the foreign shops and weave it into their textiles; yet they produce subdued color effects to which they are accustomed in their vegetable dyes for hemp. This [trouser] textile is uncommonly bright in coloring."

Admittedly, information from a casual museum donor is very different from a collection carefully accumulated and documented over a period of fourteen months but in the 1900s, Benedict's work was in itself exceptional, and this collection remarkable. With the two kinds of information I provided above as twin epigraphs, we can draw a line between abaca cloth collected as exotica from the mountain's "wild men," and abaca cloth collected as clothing of a particular social group.