Ruins of indigo vats for making añil or azul during the Spanish times. San Vicente Ilocos Sur.
By Abe V Rotor
When we were kids studying in a catholic high school in Vigan, our rector was very particular with the whiteness of our uniform. Our old folks did not find it a problem at all, even without today’s detergents and whitening agents. All they did was to add a little añil or azul to the final rinse, and presto, our uniforms would be gleaming white in the sun.
Añil or azul is a natural dye derived from Indigofera hirsuta or I. tinctoria, which farmers plant as green manure. It is from the plant that the dye is also called indigo. During the Spanish period, añil was commercially produced in the Ilocos and exported to Mexico and Europe via the Galleon Trade. Today, the ruins of giant fermenting vats are still found.
There is a revival of natural dye which include indigo, tumeric or yellow ginger Curcuma longa), and pomegranate (Punica granatum). A relatively unknown group – Handloom Weavers Development in Kerala, India, has discovered natural dyes as a solution to sufferers of allergies such as skin disorders, and asthma. Natural dyes even have direct medicinal value. A common practice in Ilocos to relieve mumps is to paint añil on the swollen area. ~
Reference: Living with Folk Wisdom, AVRotor. UST Press 2008