LOCANO is the happy convergence of things borne out of love and its enduring nature — the love for things beautifully made, love for discovery and grounding, and love in relationships, especially that of mothers and daughters.
Discovery of handmade: Handmade is well made
“My mom is from Vigan, Ilocos Sur, but I grew up in Manila,” begins founder Chem Torrente. “When we were kids, we would only visit Vigan during holidays of obligation, like Holy Week, family reunions, and funerals. As I grew older, I visited Vigan less and less. I became a stranger to the city.”
In 2015, in the middle of a rough life phase, Chem decided to visit her mother’s hometown again. And what she thought would be a trip she needed for distraction became a journey to re-discovery. She chanced upon a weaving house in town, which was run by one of her mother’s friends. They made all kinds of abel (the Ilocano word for ‘weave’): rugs, kitchen towels, table runners, and blankets. Curious, Chem sat down and tried out the loom, running her hands through every piece of fabric in that place. “It felt magical. I found myself lost in the stacks of abel,” she recalls. “And I wondered why I never noticed this before. It was right under my nose!”
She left for Manila with some blankets and a couple of rugs in tow. “At first, I didn’t know what to do with them, but I felt an excitement to start something—to tell others about it.” In a conversation with a friend, she shared newfound discoveries, stories, and ideas, and the name LOCANO presented itself. “I am Ilocano and also a bit of a loca-loca.”
In August of 2015, LOCANO was launched.
It takes a community to cultivate culture
Five years and counting, LOCANO continues to work directly with the weavers from Ilocos, in Vigan, in Santa, and now mainly in Bangar, La Union, a choice that’s both fulfilling and challenging. “The work allows the weavers to earn extra income, and the improvement in their lives are evident,” says Chem. “But in the harvest season, a lot of them would prefer to farm than weave.”
Instead of seeing this as a hindrance, she understood that this was their way of life, and supporting them meant finding ways to work around it. It’s their stories, after all, and the tradition and culture of years and years, woven unto the products they make, that she wishes to carry and convey to others.
“You can tell a lot about the origin and story of a weave by looking at the patterns,” shares Chem, urging a second, closer look at the intricate woven designs that LOCANO has selected for its collection of blankets, towels, and table runners. One can see the intimacy in the texture of the weaves, of secret messages, fondness and love, appreciation of what’s around. “These are patterns of routine, places, and activities.”
The greatest form of love is paying attention
At the core of it all is a joint venture of mother and daughter, and it’s one of discovery, of each other and oneself, and of grounding and going back to their roots. “It’s because of my mom that I realized that I needed to learn the basics—the simplified and practical life skills,” reveals Chem, who, on the other hand, is more acquainted with the fast-paced, modern city life. “My mom is very maalam sa buhay, domesticated.”
From sewing to cooking, tying loose ends in the business to tending to the family's needs, Chem quietly admires how her mother traverses through life on the daily. Household skills aren't her forte, but Chem is learning how to sew, among other things, from her mother.
Ultimately, LOCANO is like walking back home. “Blankets have a way of making you feel the comfort of being cared for,” says Chem. When one looks back at the story, the craft, and the work that goes behind the making of each inabel ('woven') blanket, one realizes the love and meaning that's woven in. Each one conveys a special message that’s borne and shared from a special love in relationships, especially reminiscent of mothers and daughters.
“It's like a sign and symbol of showing that you care," Chem adds. "It's like the kind of love you see and receive from loved ones, that you also want to give back.”