It is said that the Filipino is born in piña, married in piña, and buried in piña. Piña, of course, is the quintessential fabric derived from the leaves of the otherwise common pineapple plant. But for making textile, only the long leaf red pineapple variety is suitable for extracting the silky, sinewy fiber. Ms. Patis Tesoro, who graced the launching of The Hinabi Project at the Philippine Consul General’s San Francisco residence on June 19, described the arduous process of piña fiber production the next day at the Philippine Center's Sangdiwa celebration.
The veritable doyenne of piña design, Beatriz “Patis” Tesoro undoubtedly and fittingly in this context, emerges as the ambassador of Philippine piña artistry. Her work with the textile both as fashion designer and advocate for reviving the languishing piña weaving tradition that once brought renown to the Philippines internationally has awakened interest among contemporary designers from Manila to Paris.
The Hinabi Project (also known as THP) interrupted Patis flight home to Manila from a U.S. -Philippines Society Independence Day celebration and fashion event in Washington D.C., to reintroduce her to San Francisco's Filipino community and headline THP's piña initiative. THP's aim is to increase global awareness of the artists and craft of Philippine piña and other indigenous textiles. This would mean better support for textile artisanal communities to continue their traditional living arts for the next generation of weavers, most of whom are women. The attractive prices that piña now commands because of high interest among European and U.S. designers promises to provide a sustainable livelihood for these artisan communities. Ms. Tesoro described through slides and her work on display, the laborious evolution of piña from plant to textile: planting, fiber processing, weaving, and embellishing. Well-executed, the product which can take two to three years to complete, becomes a work of art - light as air to the touch, diaphanous without being flimsy, and intricately embellished with embroidery or paint - that the human form on which it hangs seems more like an intrusion to the admiring gaze. The piña is indeed the fabric in which to celebrate one's life cycle from birth to marriage and regrettably, in death. If Patis had her druthers, she would rather that piña be handed down to the living especially if the article was of impeccable quality.
Patis' quick visit to the Lacis Museum in Berkeley became the highlight of her Bay Area stay. Jules Kliot, the museum proprietor, brought out rarely seen piña work for her to see. Patis was astonished by the size and quality of the collection. Never before had she encountered numerous examples of piña embroidery in a single location. Her comments impressed upon Mr. Kliot the significance of his collection as representative of a Philippine national treasure. Lacis Museum in partnership with The Hinabi Project will display some of its finer piña works at the Asian Art Museum's piña educational exhibit in October. The Lacis Museum is planning a more substantial exhibit of its piña collection in 2016.