HomeThe Journal of Historyvol. 61 no. 1 (2015)

Tracing Local History through Object Biography: The Case of the Isinay Uwes Pinutuan (Ikat Blanket)

Analyn Salvador Amores



The Isinay is an ethnolinguistic group found in central Cordillera, north Luzon, specifically in Aritao, Bambang, and Dupax del Sur in Nueva Vizcaya. There is scarce literature on the subject of the Isinay – its history, people, and culture. Efforts to revitalize Isinay as an endangered language are very recent. Information on the Isinay’s local history and cultural practices had not been well documented, and had been passed down only through oral tradition. However, the Isinay have the uwes pinutuan blanket (otherwise known as kinuttiyan or aladdang in the Cordillera), one of the few remaining pieces of material culture left as evidence of the Isinay’s ethnic identity. No longer used nowadays, my current research shows that the ikat blanket is a renowned funerary blanket used by the affluent class in the Cordillera region north of Luzon. The uwes pinutuan was produced in an intricate process of ikat technique, indigo dyeing, and backstrap loom weaving. Originally woven by the Isinay of Nueva Vizcaya, the blanket had translocal connections through trade and ritual use among the different ethnolinguistic groups (Igorots) in the Cordillera region, both in the past and in the contemporary period.The resultant interpretations and representations have led to the re-signification of the blanket in reclaiming Isinay collective identity and history. I argue in this paper that while the Isinay have scant written and oral documentation of its history and culture, one can invoke a significant material culture to trace the local history of its place and people. Using Appadurai and Kopytoff’s “social biography of objects,” the resultant narratives elicited by the blanket as it moves to different locales accumulates a biography of its own, and hence a local history of the Isinay.