The use of cotton came later, and probably originated in India. Cotton textiles are quite widespread, although it is primarily grown and used by lowland peoples.
Some coastal peoples, especially the Aklanon, also make a fine cloth from a pineapple leaf fiber called piņa, that was introduced from America.
One of the earliest textiles used in the Philippines is still made of beaten bark, a technology which the Ta-p'en-k'eng, or proto-Austronesians, of 5,000 years ago seem to have brought with them wherever they went. While many people are under the impression that bark can only be used to make simple garments like the skirt below, in fact Austronesians and Polynesians have been weaving true textiles of it for many milllenia. Filipino tapa, as this cloth is called, is made of the soaked and hammered inner bark of Ficus and Artocarpus trees, and is generally not as fine as that of the Polynesians.
At the time the Spanish arrived, Filipinos were spinning and weaving fabrics using two materials besides tapa: cotton and abaca. Also known as "Manila hemp," the abaca plant is actually a small, inedible species of banana, Musa textilis. The strong fibers of the stalk are stripped off primarily to make rope, but many Filipinos also make cloth of it; the beautiful clothing of the Bagobo, for instance, is woven of abaca. It makes an extremely durable fabric, although it is not nearly as soft as cotton.
Bolt of decorated abaca cloth. This textile is primarily used in the south (Visayas and Mindanao), and certain people, such as the T'boli, have developed the dying and embroidery of it into a high art.
The basic item of Filipino clothing is the breechclout or g-string, originally and often still made of tapa bark cloth. Men added a kind of coat or jacket, sometimes made of palm or grass, to their formal attire long before the Spanish arrived. Finally, when the Moslems came, they persuaded many southern groups of the stylishness of cloth trousers.
Women everywhere generally wear at least a simple wrap-around skirt called a tapis over the breechclout. Many also wear jackets similar to those of the men, and in quite a few areas sarongs are worn.