BAGUIO CITY – Local officials from the different parts of the Cordillera extended their warmest greetings and congratulations to Leonarda ‘Narda’ Olat-Capuyan after she took center stage as the Philippine representative at an exhibition that highlighted the stories and images of 16 extraordinary women entrepreneurs from the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) countries.
Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan said Capuyan’s recent achievement should serve as an inspiration for today’s yuth that Cordillerans have a chance to shine in prestigious international competitions once given the appropriate trainings and exposure, saying that her life story is worth sharing to every Cordilleran.
Abra Gov. Eustaquio Bersamin, who is also the chairman of the Regional Development Council (RDC) in the Cordillera, cited that Capuyan’s accomplishment in her field of expertise should serve as an inspiration for people in the remote villages of the region that they also have a chance to reach the ladder of success if they strive hard to improve on the quality of their unique products.
Benguet Gov. Nestor Fongwan said the numerous prestigious national and international awards reaped by Capuyan only proves that Cordilleras have a place in their chosen fields of expertise if they try to excel and work to innovate their skills for a brighter future, those, today’s youth should reflect on the success of Capuyan as they strive to climb up the success ladder.
For his part, Mountain Province Gov. Loenard G. Mayaen cited that Capuyan who traces her roots from Besao town speaks well of the patience, perseverance and passion of Cordillerans to achieve the best in their chosen fields of profession, thus, the present and future generations must emulate the same to continue bring honor and pride to the region as a whole.
Unveiled on September 16, 2015 at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), ICONOGRAPH celebrated the entrepreneurial vision and leadership that made these icons agents of empowering their fellow women and being prime movers of inclusive growth in their respective communities in the 21st century.
The singular honor of being the Philippines’ icon recognizes Capuyan’s 45 years as a remarkably innovative and creative leading light in the traditional weaving industry. With her highly original use of scrap threads, leather trimmings and natural fibers, she gave ikat, an ancient art she revived, a distinctively ‘Narda’s’ look and texture. Along the way, Capuyan shared her expertise with women and helped them launch and sustain their own businesses.
ICONOGRAPH was curated by the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM) and presented as part of the APEC Women and Economy 2015 Fora whose goals include ensuring “gender equality and create new economic opportunities for women.”
In the 1970s, Leonarda Capuyan grew wary watching Cordilleran women sire children without enough of the financial resources to see them through. Once, at a family planning clinic in La Trindidad, Benguet a client of hers said, “If you give me that thread you are knitting, I will not get pregnant.” A few days later, the woman returned with a beautifully woven blanket telling Capuyan that these could be made easily by weaving rather than knitting.
So began the life’s work of Capuyan whose name, Narda, has become synonymous with the best in Philippine traditional woven fabrics. Narda’s Handwoven Arts and Crafts has at its heart a deep understanding of Cordilleran women’s relationship to the loom and to each other. Young girls traditionally learn to weave under the tutelage of their mothers. It is a coming of age ritual that modernity would be quick to diminish were it not for Capuyan’s rootedness in community and dedication to the people she regards as Kailian (companions in the village).
In the industry, Capuyan is known for having innovatively revived the ancient art of ikat, making it a symbol of cultural conservation. Her use of eco-fibers for tapestries made from abaca, maguey, buri, jute, salago, raffia, lupis, and bacbac was a highly original and inventive strategy to increase regard for traditional Philippine weaves.
Entrepreneurial as she is and able to inspire other women to follow in her footsteps, Capuyan is respected for having returned dignity to the women of the Cordilleras, who lost everything during the Baguio earthquake of 1990. She relentlessly organized trade fairs and rallied weavers to return to their looms so as not to lose more than they already had and to gain hope for the future that was yet to be.
For Capuyan, success is not the triumph of an individual but of a community guided by the values of olnos and og-ogbo, which refer to cooperation and mutual dependence in the pursuit of shared goals.