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The Yakans are the traditional settlers ofBasilan Islandin the Southern Philippines, situated to the west of Zamboanga in Mindanao. It is said that their typical physical characteristics are strikingly different when compared to the other ethnic Filipino groups. Traditionally they wear colorful, handwoven clothes. The women wear tight fitting short blouses and both sexes wear narrowcut pants resembling breeches. The women cover it partly with a wrap-around material while the man wraps a sash-like cloth around the waist where he places his weapon - usually a long knife.

The Yakans settled originally in Basilan Island and in the early seventies, due to political unrest which led the armed conflicts between the militant Muslims and government soldiers, some of them settled in the region ofZamboanga City. The Yakan Village inUpper Calarianis famous among local and foreign tourists because of their art of weaving. Traditionally, they have used plants like pineapple and abaca converted into fibers as basic material for weaving. Using herbal extracts from leaves, roots and barks, the Yakans dyed the fibers and produced colorful combinations and intricate designs.

Theseputanganis the most intricate design worn by the women around their waist or as a head cloth. Thepalipattangis patterned after the color of the rainbow whiles thebunga-sama, after the python. Almost every Yakan fabric can be described as unique since the finished materials are not exactly identical. Differences may be seen in the pattern or in the design or in the distribution of colors.

The basic garment for men and women consist of a tight-fitting upper garment with tight fitting upper garment with tight fitting trousers called sawal. The shirt is open in front from the lapel down to the waist, using up to 40 sequined or golden buttons. To close the shirt, a long string is crisscrossed from one button to the other so that when tightly drawn, the shirt closes from top to bottom. Usually the shirt remains open since the string is often lost. Over the shirt male and female wear a tight-fitting jacket which is exquisitely embroidered in front and back cuffs decorated with multicolored sequins. 

The difference in male and female apparel lies in accessories. Men wear a hand woven pis ( head cloth ) and a 15m-long kandit (belt or sash) made of red cloth called gilim. The pis serve as “protection” from spears and knives during combat and maybe fastened around the trousers.

The women wear a short skirt over the trousers, around which a rectangular, hand woven cloth is tied. This cloth is the most expensive part of their costume because it is woven in a tedious process.

Men and women wear the saruk, the yakan hat worn to make one look m,ore attractive and elegant. Some wear the hat over the turban and use it as a purse for betel nuts, tobacco, and money.

The yakan also wear functional gadgets. The pegupaan is a bamboo container for all the paraphernalia for chewing betel nut. The lutuan, a small bronze box with engravings carried at the waist, has a similar function.

In a Yakan society, the traditional costume is integral in defining their identity and social class

The yakan attire basically consists of “badju” (top) and “sawal” (trousers). These blouses and trousers are tight at the sleeves and leggings. This may be worn by both men and women but with restrictions as to why and how one should wear a particular clothing.

The “sawal” is the general term referring to any traditional Yakan trousers. This has tight-fitting legs from knee-down and the section from the thigh going up hanging loose; with a band of cloth sewn at the waist which firmly holds the pants in place when folded.

It has a knee-joinery line called “bakiyaq”, an embroidery of tiny chain stitches of four to six bands. A “sapid”, plait or braid, made of inter-twined threads is stitched at the section where the woven cloth is sewn  together and around the part of the leggings that reaches the ankle.

A “sawal” is incomplete without leg tassles made of silk thread called “jambu”, which is symbolic of the horsemanship is integral in their culture. Slipping one’s foot through a plastic bag or banana leaf make it easy to wear the tight-fitting “sawal”

The woven cloth used for the trousers  is called “sinelu’an”. This is the most intricate among all the woven designs of the yakans. It has tiny diamond designs arranged in columns in between stripes resembling the sections of the bamboo.

The “sawal” is classified according to the materials and the wearer’s status in society. “Sawal peyat”, “Sawal bunga-sama”, “Sawal binuldahan” are for the rich and upper class.

On the other hand, “sawal ilaupan” is the most commonly seen worn by Yakans. It is made from purchased black or shite material with only the cloth below the knees made of woven cloth. At times, the joints and edges of the black part are embroidered with multicolored threads called “kinaukulan”, or also called “binakiyaan”.

The “badju” is tight-fitting top made of woven material or purchased black material “naynay”. It has tight-fitting sleeves and decorated with gold buttons called “batawi”. The bigger in size and the number of buttons decorating the “badju” dictate who the wearer is.

“Badju” for men are usually open at the front with a pair of “jambu” (tassels of silk threads)” sewn at the collar.

“Badju” for women are usually worn with a white short sleeved blouse with huge collar called “lambung”.

Yakan women also weave other articles that form part of the entire costume. For the men, they have the “pis”, a head cloth measuring one meter or more on each side, forming a square, commonly with red background symbolizing a Yakan man’s bravery and stenght coupled with green, yellow, and black plaits.

They also wear the “kandit” traditional belt for men reaching fifteen meters or longer and made of red cotton cloth called “gilim”. This is tediously coiled around the waist with tassels of unwoven sine’luan cloth sewn at one end to cover the genital area. The belt is worn for protection during combat and at times used as hammock for resting or a pillow at night.

The women wear a tubularskirt called “olos”.  This is woven using silk threads intertwined with a cotton background and wrapped around their waist to cover the area.

Over the “olos” the women wear the “seputangan”. It is square meter woven cloth of geometric designs and the most expensive part of the female costume due to the intricacy of it’s design. This is folded and tied over the “olos” to tighten the hold of the pants on the waist. This may also be worn as a head covering, or donned on the shoulders of brides and grooms on weddings     

To complement the costume, the Yakans wear the following: the “sappa” or “lutuan” (betel nut container tied around the waist), barung dende (female bolo with the scabbard inlaid with the mother of pearl and silver coins) barung lella (male bolo with the scabbard wound with nito vine), saruk (nito hat), dublun (coin brooches), gallang (bracelets), pammang (earings) and sugley(comb of gold and bedecked with stones) for the women.