California Mission to Showcase Filipino Textiles

Mission San Juan Capistrano will present an exhibition titled Native Peoples' Textiles from the Philippines from Jan. 27 through June 30 in the mission's Barracks Gallery, according to a release issued by the popular pilgrim and tourist stop.

The exhibition will feature Filipino religious vestments, evening attire, wedding garments, scarves and decorative book covers, each hand-woven and embroidered using traditional weaving techniques by members of 20 different native tribes of the Philippines.

Materials used include abaca (banana fiber), pina (pineapple fiber), jusi (silk and abaca or pina blends).

“The techniques used by the Filipino craftsmen and women who created these textiles date back centuries,” says museum coordinator Alana Jolley.

The exhibition was organized by Dom Martin de Jesus Gomez, formerly a prominent designer in New York who became a Benedictine monk in the Philippines a decade ago. While living the monastic life, he began to study ancient Filipino tribal techniques employed in the creation of vestments used in religious services. His study took him to remote villages in the Philippines which each used unique materials and techniques to create beautiful garments.

These weaving skills date back generations, and are secrets jealously guarded by tribal elders. Gomez was concerned, however, that younger Filipinos were leaving the tribes to take industrial jobs in the cities, and hence are abandoning their ancient tribal hand weaving skills.

“The exhibition is Gomez's attempt to revive traditional indigenous weaving arts and to create a greater demand for their goods,” explains Jolley.

Mission administrator Jerry Miller believes the San Juan Capistrano is an ideal location for the exhibition, since the native people of California built the Mission.

Additionally, just as in the case of the Philippines, it was the Spanish who first brought Christianity and opened trade routes along the California coast by way of the missions.

The textile exhibition is part of the 2001 theme of the mission museums: “Preserving Native Art and Artistic Techniques.”

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