Salika: Rising From the Ashes of Marawi

Before the 5-month urban war devastated Marawi City, a picturesque town that sits south of the province's largest lake Lanao, it was a thriving trade center for Mindanao. The months long war between the Philippine army and an ISIS-inspired group, reduced the city to a rubble not unlike the images you see of war torn Syria. It has caused the evacuation of thousands of its inhabitants to nearby cities, like Iligan. Among them was a family of weavers. (Continued Featured Blog)

In Plain Sight: Textile Arts and Culture Come To San Francisco

San Francisco was treated to a very rare sight of brightly colored tops, skirts and trousers sauntering downhill along Sutter Street toward Montgomery. Passers-by were curious. Who are they? What’s going on? Their quizzical looks darted from the colorfully beaded combs down to the leather-clad feet of these mysterious visitors. “They’re indigenous people from the Philippines here to celebrate the opening of the textile art exhibit at the Mills Building on 220 Montgomery," someone finally provided the answer to the unasked question.
Members of the indigenous peoples, IP in shorthand, thrust their smart phones in the air as they soaked in the warm afternoon sun sneaking through the high rises that loomed over the financial district. Tiny cowrie shells and brass bells dangling from waistbands shivered and tinkled against the harsh city traffic. A young couple from the T’boli, paused in front of an open space rimmed by an iron fence and a flower box teeming with well-fed fescue. Extending their arms in a playful cinematic pose, they grinned widely, taunting smart phone cameras pointed in their direction. They were, as with everyone else in the group, quite delighted to be in the city that they’ve only heard of, with its Golden Gate bridge and foggy harbor. The group is called Dayaw International. In dialect, dayaw means “to present their essential selves.” (More)

The Hinabi Project launches Piña: The Enduring Fabric at the Asian Art Museum

Members of the San Francisco diplomatic corps and special guests were treated to the opening of the The Hinabi Project, a unique and special project of Philippine American Writers & Artists Inc (PAWA) launched in conjunction with the Philippine Department of Tourism and the Philippine Consulate General in San Francisco. The Hinabi Project launched the educational display of Piña, An Enduring Philippine Fabric at the Asian Art Museum San Francisco. Spearheaded by its volunteer members: Maya Ong, Christina Lawkowski, Edwin Lozada, Michael Gonzalez, Anthony Cruz Legarda, Caroline Ocampo, Maria Beebe and Patricia Araneta Gonzalez, the display currently shown at the museum's Resource Room feature the development of 300 years of piña fabric production from its early origins in the 1500s to contemporary times. On exhibit are fibers that are used for weaving, the natural color-dyed piña samples, an antique pañuelo (short shawl), christening gown and an evening dress made during the 1930s courtesy of the Lacis Museum of Berkeley. These are juxtaposed with newly constructed piña shawl, a handkerchief with an embroidered Golden Gate design, Barong Tagalog, and evening gowns design by Anthony Cruz Legarda, the project’s design artist. Specially for this event, three large panels of piña and mixed fiber (hyacinth, or paper) were specially woven by master weavers and embroiderers from Aklan and Laguna. The panels represent popular folk motifs of the Philippines - the malakas and maganda (male/female) myth and  the sarimanok (magical rooster).

Also special to this exhibit, in a nod to technology, the Creation panel has a QR code that will take your cellphone scanner to the Hinabi Project site where more information about its members, mission and plans can be read. PAWA, a recognized leader of cultural events in the Bay Area is a 501c3 organization. It will also host a panel talk  by known piña experts Patis Tesoro and Prof. Lynne Milgram on October 4 during the FilBook Festival at the San Francisco Public Library. 

The Hinabi Project exhibit was a combined effort of several individuals and organizations. But specially, by the extraordinary weavers from Aklan and Lumban embroiderers who worked overtime to complete the piña in time for the exhibit. The exhibit is just as much a tribute to their work and dedication to their craft. 

The Tydings-McDuffie Barong Tagalog, circa 1930's

Those familiar with Philippine history will note that the grant of independence from its colonial status as a U.S. possession was enacted under the Tydings-McDuffie Act of 1934. It stipulates that Philippine independence will be granted ten years from the law's enactment. Thus, by law, Philippines will be free of U.S. control on July 4 1944 after a period of "democracy-in-training" Commonwealth self-government. Unfortunately, WWII intervened and independence would not be celebrated until 1946  after Japan was defeated and driven out of the Philippines. Lest you feel gratitude for the U.S. Congress, know that the grant of independence, though accomplished through the skillful manipulation of circumstances by Manuel L. Quezon and his fellow politicians, was not free of U.S. self-interest. The act reclassified Filipinos from U.S. national to alien and new immigration limited to a quota. In the 1930's the increasing number of competitive Filipino migrant labor in the U.S. was problematic to American labor unions and their political supporters. Tydings-McDuffie Act was followed by the Filipino Repatriation Act that provided free repatriation of Filipino farm laborers back to the Philippines. With a quota limit to return, few Filipinos took the offer. 
The Tydings-McDuffie Act nevertheless led to a heady appreciation for symbols of Filipino national identity. Quezon, a.k.a. MLQ to many, was elected the first Commonwealth President. Quezon was also a fan of piña, as were the cultural and political elite during those times. Piña dresses, called
terno (butterfly sleeves, made internationally famous later by Imelda Marcos) were the rage in U.S. Filipino and American women wore lavishly embroidered gowns for social and official occassions. To commemorate the Tydings-McDuffie Act, a piña Barong Tagalog believed to be commissioned for MLQ was embroidered with tiny Philippine and U.S. flags and embelished with tiny ribbons embroidered with lettering that spelled Tydings-McDuffie.
MLQ was known to wear the barong tagalog at political rallies and public speeches, the dress itself gaining traction as Barong Tagalog during this time. Before this appellation, it would have been a generic embroidered piña shirt called barong lalake (according to Nick Joaquin) that became popular in late 19th century, specially with the ilustrados.  It is uncertain how the label " barong tagalog" came about, but it is believed to have emerged during the 30's. I would imagine, given the linguistic regionalism of Filipinos, the Ilokanos or Cebuanos would have questioned the label, although now, it would be hard to imagine what a "barong Ilokano" or a "barong Cebuano" would be.  Several things come to mind that favored the label "barong Tagalog". One, is that the Tagalog provinces Laguna, Tayabas (pre-Quezon province name) and Batangas were known for their embroidery work which is associated with the shirt. Additionally, MLQ, was an avid piña fashionista and he also is recognized, under his presidency, as the "Father of the National Language" where Tagalog became the basis of the national language, otherwise to be known as Filipino. Literary historians have also noted that the 1930's was the golden age of Tagalog literature. Thus by association with MLQ, piña, and Tagalog embroidery and Tagalog language, it made for an easy popularization of this idiosyncretic male dress shirt as the Barong Tagalog that we know now. 

Blended Embroidery: Manila's Role in Chinoiserie

One goal of the Hinabi Project is to discover existing woven (indigenous and modern) artifacts that illustrate Philippine artisan skills, past and present, from archives, collections, or even memories. So when on Mother’s Day, on a weekend at Monterrey, we made an unlikely discovery. We celebrated the day at the  Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo. The mission was founded in 1770 and served as the headquarters for Father Junipero Serra, a soon-to-be-canonized saint and who founded missions from San Diego to San Francisco. It was a rather joyful service. The mothers each received a red rose and a special blessing for the day. After the mass, we wandered around the mission compound which housed several museums. For some reason, we gravitated towards a small cottage that was named Munras Family Heritage Museum and entered from the bright courtyard into its dimly lit sala (living room).  As our eyes adjusted to the shadows, several display cases came into focus. One quickly caught our attention - a shawl with rose and flower embroidery draped over a stand. A quick glance at the posted label said: “Early 19th century silk shawl from Manila”. The other items listed were various objects from China, Mexico, and Spain. On the wall the a sign described the collection: 
A Blended Heritage (Spain, North Africa, Mexico, Asia) 
As we peered closer into the display case, the shawl embroidery became apparent - large roses and leaves,  and sunflowers, stitched in profusion onto the silk until it ended where the strands of fringes began. It was, based on our familiarity with collection of similar shawls by our good friend, Edwin, that this was a Mantón de Manila. These shawls were embroidered either by Chinese and native Filipino workers and was in such demand in Europe. The rose and daisy motif indicated a later provenance, as embroiderers shifted from Chinese motifs of peacocks and pagodas to European designs and meanings. The rose signified secrecy and the sunflower, fidelity.  How it got here is a story worth investigating perhaps at a later date. It did seem to confirm that Mexican-California was a recipient of the rich and diverse cultural artifacts known as California Mission Art that circulated between Spain, North Africa, Mexico, Asia via the Manila-Acapulco galleon trade. One might want to say, that the wealthy residents of Monterrey subscribed to the notion of orientalism - the demand for chinoiserie in Spain and Europe and spilled over to the California elite. The California missions both as a economic (fresh water and oranges supplies to prevent scurvy during the long voyage) and religious strategy that served to support the Manila-Acapulco trade also introduced Manila to Mexican-California as a source of exquisite craft for religious worship and fashion. Spanish Monterrey at the turn of the century was an important port for foreign vessels.  Several decades later, as a U.S. colony, Americans re-discovered Philippine embroidery work introduced in the St. Louis World Exposition of 1904. Philippine crafts, specially  embroidered piña (pineapple) fabric artistry created a huge demand that reached its height before World War Two.