Vogue may have predicted last year that hand-held fans are fast becoming the must-have accessory for summer but for me, this goes beyond merely ticking off a fashion trend.

I’m somewhat biased you see.

Icons of fashion Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld, the latter rarely seen without a fan | Pinterest

Let me explain…

My Mum is from The Philippines. Over there, hand-held fans are an everyday accessory – along with umbrellas being used as sun parasols. Needless to say, it’s HOT!

Comprising of over 7,000 islands and situated in the Western Pacific, the climate is very humid. Regular power cuts due to tropical storms and typhoons means that keeping cool via air conditioning units or an electric fan, isn’t always possible.

Which explains why the hand held fan has held its ground pretty well. It’s downright, ruddy useful!

A typical fan in the Philippines also known as a pamaypay or abaniko (from the Spanish word abanico) is a palm leaf design as seen, pictured here.

A typical fan in the Philippines is hand woven out of palm leaves | Pinterest

Useful for not only keeping cool it doubles up also as a mozzy murdering machine and it’s not uncommon to see it being twacked around to swot away annoying insects.

With lots of Spanish and baroque influences still in the Philippines (the archipelago was colonized by the Spanish for over three centuries) it’s the folding fan that has become my all time favourite.

And in particular, the embroidered fan.

It’s only until recently, when Mum bought (another) folding fan home as a present from a recent holiday that I discovered how unique this embroidery technique truly was.

Exclusive to the tiny village where my Mum is from, Taal (pronounced Ta-al) while many of the embroidered products sold there now are a hybrid of hand-made plus machine sewn – their origins and the traditions on which they are based, are simply fascinating.

The village of Taal, Batangas where a certain type of embroidery heralds from, Burdang Taal | Shutterstock

The village of Taal is situated in Batangas, about 100km from Manila, the capital. It is here that a certain type of embroidery technique was born in the early 1900’s called Burdang Taal.

Involving a long process of gathering then drying of raw materials like pineapple and abaca (banana) fibres it’s then woven using a loom. The delicate fabrics created are then stretched on a bastidor (hoop) before work begins on hand embroidering flowers or geometric designs.

Through the years, the women of Taal have made Burdang Taal a viable cottage industry.

In its height of its popularity, former presidents Diosdado Macapagal and Ferdinand Marcos were usually seen in Taal-embroidered shirts (barongs) and a number of the former First Lady Imelda Marcos’ outfits were also Taal-embroidered.

The traditional shirt of the Philippines for a man is called a barong whereas the traditional dress for women is the baro at saya. In addition the mestiza dress, pictured are both beautifully hand embroidered with burdang taal | Pinterest

As the embroidery industry boomed, so too did the range of products. Not just clothing but bed linens, tablecloths, purses and other accessories were fashioned.

However, this once flourishing craft, as with many artisan skills around the globe, is sadly becoming something of the past.

With only a few remaining burdaderas (embroiderers) left, machines and man-made fabrics have started to take over.

Plus a younger and reluctant generation not willing to learn the trade means that unless the government inject resources into reigniting a new wave of interest to keep the craft alive, the facts are, it won’t be around for much longer…

This wasn’t meant to be a post on the machine vs the artisan…but it’s kind of ended up that way.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that if you know of a small business, a crafter or a maker who’s trying to keep something beautiful alive, buy from them.

Tell your friends about it, too because it’s only in buying from small businesses that we can even possibly try and keep some of these traditional skills alive.

A hand-made folding fan from the Philippines using a hybrid-technique based on the traditions of Burdang Taal embroidery.

Thank you for reading.



  • Love this pos, supporting small is best in so many ways, it’s more sustainable, the service is usually better and you’re not going to be dressed like everyone else. By the way – that shirt …. I want that in my wardrobe now! SVP x

    • I totally agree Sarah. So many amazing crafts and trades will be no more if we don’t and as you say, it’s far more sustainable in the long run. By no means preachy, just where we can, support small, innit!

      FT xoxo

  • Currently sitting in the tropics with my folding fan!! Really interesting article Fatima, enjoyed learning a little artisan history about the Phillipines. Thank you!

    • I was amazed that this TINY village where my Mum is from is actually where this type of popular Filipino embroidery comes from. My Mum used to be able to do it, too! I need to get her to teach me but I don’t think she can remember haha!

      FT xoxo

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