This ear lace is inspired by the bekelew that T'boli women wear. Usually a single (sometimes more) strand of beads with a beaded fringe that hangs around the chin, from one ear lobe to the other. Many other cultures in Mindanao have a version of this piece of jewelry too. The Manobo and Bagobo people's version is called bali-og, while the Blaan call it ulel. In T'boli culture in particular, the bekelew symbolizes femininity.
In the Philippines, we have a very old and deep tradition in goldsmithing, existing for centuries, long before the arrival of Spanish colonizers. In fact, the Spanish were motivated to colonize the islands exactly because the locals were dripping in gold.
The people we collaborated with ensure these pieces of wearable art are 100% handmade by artisans who are paid fair wages in Ilocos. In the past, the artisans were losing thousands of pesos without knowing it, and so the folks we work with helped them with their financials, costs, and encouraged them to see the value of their work so this is now reflected in the pricing. The artisans spend decades or even their entire lives just learning how to do it (from their elders), starting at a very young age.
Very few artisans today know how to make this form of jewelry for many reasons, thus this craft is considered a dying art.
Made by: Jong
Photo credit: Ti'boli woman from zeal4adventure.com.