Over 150,000 people have been killed and millions more displaced in the region of Mindanao during the armed rebellion that has shaken up southern Philippines for over four decades.
But there is more to Mindanao than war. Weaving, a centuries-old tradition, has become a refuge for some women in the conflict-ridden community. Weaving has helped these women to heal their wounds as they say that the stories of their land are revealed in their patterns.
But challenges are making it more difficult for these women to continue their work. The skills are not being passed on to the younger generation, and women often lack the financial capacity to continue.
A three-metre long mat takes at least two months to make. The patterns are created individually, no pattern is the same. Made from pineapple and abaca fabrics, they are dyed using tree bark and herbal extracts.
Eugene Strong, from the department of Agriculture, told Al Jazeera that “materials are expensive, there are only a few weavers left, and there are only a few buyers as well”.
“For example, here in Basilan, the fabrics are expensive, so not a lot of people buy. We are now looking at where to market it and luckily we have people who help us in the industry.”
Asdinan Baladji is a weaver who, despite the economic challenges, is teaching her daughter Myazare how to weave. “Life is not great but between household chores and a small income I am happy. We do the best we can.”