bangar weavers

i still find it so funny that i saw these blankets (ules in ilokano) growing up as a kid in my parents' closet. i knew they were gifts from my lola susana but my papa never thought to mention, until 4 years ago, that his maternal side of the family comes from bangar, one of the major weaving towns in the philippines. they were weavers. a few days ago i asked him if he knew specifically who wove the blankets we had including this one in these photos. he said my lola's sister lola maring (maria) wove it. no one in our family weaves anymore. at the moment, it's just me. figuring it out far far away from where it all started.

this weaving journey is so special to me, serendipitous even. like all the pieces are falling into place. it's beautiful to connect with my ancestors in this way.

i don't know much about my padilla side of the family. before i knew my lola was a weaver, all i knew about her was that she was a geography teacher in mountain province.

but through weaving i am understanding a bit more about not just my family but how the spanish and americans changed/affected/influenced philippine culture through colonization and imperialism. for years i've been angry and bitter as i learned about the erasure of culture, the brutality, loss and disconnect from the land and water, and first-hand experience of the ancestral trauma that comes with all of that. nowadays, i'm looking at history from an "it is what it is" standpoint. how can we as a species do better? what can we learn and take away from this? is it possible to integrate all of it with grace, respect and with as little harm as possible? can we learn to live in harmony? it's ok to sit with that anger, sadness, grief but for how long? for however long it takes but then what? what's next? how do we transmute that? what are we doing today that perpetuates a seemingly endless cycle of trauma? again, how can we do better and what actions are we making to really change things?

anyway, those thoughts come to mind when i look at and feel this heirloom blanket. they also come up because in the western/european weaving books that are of course much more accessible and available than books about weaving practices in the philippines, the weaving patterns in lola maring's blanket are commonly seen in handwoven american coverlets. many questions and thoughts come to mind - but a lot of the thoughts i have have been expressed perfectly and concisely by tita @rachel_inabelle when discussing origins of patterns. she reminded me:

"It's such a Western thing to prove and disprove. Why can’t we accept that such artistic work could develop and evolve in a few different places at different periods of time. And of course 'less developed' pre-colonial cultures have less acceptable means and resources to engage in proving origin. And much less interest in proving their 'superiority.' Instead we can focus on learning as much about these artistic traditions, it’s history within the culture, etc."

and with that said, this blanket lola maring wove is simply a story of a particular time in history in the philippines - american assimilation as well as spanish colonization. i can feel a ways when i look at this blanket and i can also feel deep connection and appreciation for it at the same time. having a handwoven piece woven by ancestors in this lifetime? how special is that? yeah, our history is complicated and in need of much ancestral healing and remembering but it is what it is and there's a peace in that too.

*the title of this post is the same name of the basketball team in bangar back when my papa was a young boy

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