Evelynda Otong Hamja
Nanay Evelynda is a fourth generation Yakan weaver currently residing at the Yakan Village in Zamboanga City. She was born and raised in Lamitan, Basilan where most of the Yakan community came from. In the 70's the military forced them out of Basilan and brought them to move to Zamoboanga where many settled in what is now called the Yakan Village.
Nanay Evelynda describes their lifestyle as Yakan people very simple. Her father was a farmer cultivating vegetables and root crops while her mother stayed home to weave. She picked up the weaving skill at the age of 7 where she first made a coaster until such time that she was able to make table runners and larger scale fabrics.
Nanay Evelynda work with a community of weavers, mostly her cousins called the Tuwas Yakan Weavers of Basilan. They use backstrap loom which consists of different sticks and tangles of thread. Originally, they used to weave pineapple, abaca and banana threads harvested to produce threads from plant fibers. Over the centuries, the scarcity of these natural threads forced these weavers to use polyester cotton threads and it takes about four to seven days to produce one meter or a little over 3 feet of fabric.
Nanay Evelynda is being realistic about how she is not very interested in commercializing her products. She believes in the integrity of her work. However, it is part of her mission to keep the weaving tradition alive by influencing her community to keep weaving for other communities who are able to appreciate their artisan crafts.