Holly’s First Weaving Demo: Demonstration of Kalinga Laga of tapis (skirt) by Holly Calica
With my belt completed, I began the weaving of my tapis (skirt) in the summer. We encountered a problem with the thread Jenny Bawer Young, my Master Teacher, brought back from the Philippines. The threads were very sticky with the flour preparation making it close to impossible to weave properly. Jenny made the decision to use other threads she found and so we used those instead for my tapis.
The demonstration I did at the Bayanihan Community Center for KulArts’ 2 Blocks of Art on October 19th was quite an experience.
There is a huge dilemma with traditional arts when one doesn’t have the proper materials. I had to figure out how to do a demonstration on a traditional art form in public, not necessarily what one would do in a traditional setting. When I visited weavers in Lubuagen, I visited them in their home or the home of their teacher. Often, children and others would observe the weavers and the weavers seemed content to do their work.
I wish I could say I was totally at ease with weaving in public, but that wouldn’t be true. Weaving at my own home or at Jenny’s house has been very comfortable and I have been at ease with my experience of laga in an informal setting, but doing so in public was more of a mixed bag set of emotions. First of all, I was using my pilates machine as the support for the loom. Artists cannot nail things into community centers and so the bar attached to the end of the machine was suitable to hold the backstrap loom. I think only one man asked me if it indeed was a pilates machine, to which I replied yes and then we laughed about it as I explained my dilemma to him.
I enjoyed talking with people, answering questions and then referring them to Jenny, who would be able to explain more about laga to them. What made me feel somewhat uncomfortable was one point when many people were standing around and then I felt a barage of photo flashes going off. I think my nerves got the best of me, so I just hunkered down and concentrated on weaving. I didn’t realize I would feel this way, but now that I’ve had time to think about it, it might’ve been like STAGE FRIGHT, although the wave of nerves didn’t come at the beginning of the performance. Rather, it came in the middle, when a crowd gathered and I became the center of their attention.
I much prefer weaving in the privacy of my home or Jenny’s, but being in the diaspora, there’s a ton of benefits to weaving in public. During the whole session there were quite a few people asking for information on how to learn to weave. There was lots of interest on the different traditions of weaving in the Philippines across the islands. I even met two great men from the South Pacific, one from Tonga and one from Fiji. We spent quite a bit of time discussing textile traditions, such as tapa cloth, and how the Austronesian peoples had so much in common, especially linguistically. I learned that there were many Visayan words, based on one man’s travels to Cebu, that were very similar to the words from his islands. I think my time spent talking with them, first sharing the Kalinga Laga tradition, and then moving on to the cultural similarities between Pilipinos and South Pacific Islanders was delightful and informative.
Another delightful thing was that three of my children and two of my grandchildren took time out from the SF Giants’ game to come see me weave. If you knew my family real well you’d know this was a huge sacrifice for my kids…of course, their nerves would’ve been fine if they were to have read into the future to know that we’d end up as World Champions. Our lives criss-cross between the traditional things I’ve brought in to their lives and the modern things they live with every day. I remember encouraging my children to walk around and check out all the art in the two block are of SOMA on 6th Street between Market and Howard, but like the children who watched the weavers in Lubuagen, my own children would sit down right next to me and hang out as I wove. Only now do I fully appreciate the wonder of this moment in time. I don’t see my grandchildren every day, but their expose to laga will last into their adulthood and perhaps their hands too will love the feel of threads on a laga loom one day.
With only a month to go the tapis is almost completed. Despite the nervousness I have with weaving in public, Jenny and I have decided to continue with a weaving demonstation at the Manilatown Heritage Foundation, site of the former International Hotel (I-Hotel) on December 9, 2012 for their holiday sales.
I am totally honored to do this demonstration because as a teenager, my now deceased father, Rudy Calica, brought me to the I-Hotel to see the “Manongs” who lived there. I met Manong Al Robles, our own Father of Pilipino American Poetry, and many other Asian American Artists, many who inspired me to follow in their footsteps as a community artist. The I-Hotel was more that a symbol of the need for low-income housing for the bachelor Pilipinos who came as migrant workers in the 1920s and 1930s. It is a place my father loved enough to teach us about it and share with us memories of a time long past, and where my niece continues the tradition of helping the community be a better place. Doing a weaving demo at the former site of the I-Hotel is such an honor. I willingly will get over my STAGE FRIGHT to share this wonderful Kalinga tradition of laga, taught to me by my humble and generous friend and Master Teacher, Jenny Bawer Young.