Monday, December 19, 2016

The launching of ‘RARA’ Art and Tradition of Mat Weaving in the Philippines


It was on 30 November 2016 that Elmer G.I.H. Nocheseda of Pateros invited us to attend the special launching of his book, the rara art and tradition of mat weaving of the Philippines at the Villa Monica Clubhouse in Pateros, Metro Manila.

Margette is all smile as she takes the opportunity to sit freely on this beautiful multi-colored mat.  

Elmer G.I.H. Nocheseda is a local historian of Pateros who authored several books.  His latest book is the RARA. It is all about the art and tradition of mat weaving in the Philippines. Shown also in the launching is his awesome personal collection of mats that he gathered throughout the years from his many travels all over the country.

Some of the mats are installed on the wall nailed with thumb tacks serving both as exhibits and wall decoration in the book launching .

All the mats were hand-woven to which he emphasized that even if you can buy the same kind of mat from the same place and maker, the mats are still unique and different from each other. Hence, no two of them, out there, are exactly the same being that each of them are a hand-made artwork of authentic native mat weavers.

The book features the stories and meanings behind every pattern, color, and weaving materials used in every mat the author found across the country. It also tells some personal attributes to the author’s experience and the lives of indigenous mat weavers.

Some colorful mats are simply laid barely on the floor waiting for everybody to lay down, sleep, stand or walk over on them as what mats are really intended for.

Though the best way to appreciate mats is to use them for them to acquire the dimension of time that only time can make, Elmer went beyond that. He documented Philippine mat weaving so by the time the artisans mat weavers were gone and the raw materials were no longer available, the future generation will have the book as their resource and to appreciate the beauty of our local mats. 

Margette assumes the pose of becoming an instant model endorsing hand-woven indigenous  mats. She holds a mat made of sun-dried water lily stalks.  

Considering that life is short and art is long, Elmer once wrote a comment in his Facebook account that he would be donating his mat collection to institution that has the technology to keep the mats safe and well-preserved. He is asking help to find them.

RARA is Elmer’s 3rd book. His first books is the Palaspas: An Appreciation of Palm Leaf Art in the Philippines, the second book is Pateros, featuring the historical small town of Pateros situated between the cities of Makati, Pasig and Taguig. His interesting fourth book is soon to come out.

The book is not authentically signed by the author if it is not stamped with this red marking of Elmer's engraved unique characters.

The RARA book was a sold out that day and many were not able to get their copies. The books were personally signed and stamped by the author, with selfie of course, at the venue.

The author signing a copy of his RARA book.

Elmer is very lucky that the former first couple of Pateros is very kind and fully supportive to his projects. The former mayor of Pateros, Joey Medina and his wife Joyce Flores Medina attended the special launching. The author thanked them and everyone else who helped organized the activities.

The author and historian, Elmer G. Nocheseda at his Rara Book Launch in Pateros.

The launching was supported and attended also by Elmer’s family and relatives, friends, school mates, town folks, and even those from other side of Pateros local political groups

Elmer wrote this in his Facebook account: Hindi matapus-tapos ang paghanga ko sa galing ni Haja Seittie Mariam Tantong Calsido Dakula, now 79 years, old from Kumalarang, Zamboanga del sur. It took her more than a month to finish a pakalangot or dizzying pattern of binitun or swirling stars that is made more complicated by her employing not just two, but nine colors, to represent each of her 9 children, and using very fine strips of pandan balongis or pandan with thorns.

Few local media and bloggers like us covered the event. The people of Pateros must be proud to have a distinguished and dedicated author among them in town.

Elmer introduces a mat that is made of sun-dried water lily stalks, the latest indigenous weaving material that is abundantly found in Pasig River and Laguna Lake of Metro Manila.  Water lilies are also abundant in the marshes of Maguindanao, Cotabato, and Agusan.    

The activity was made lively also by the presence of rondalla ensemble from Mataas na Paaralang Pambansa ng Western Bicutan and folk dance presentation of a dance troupe from Mataas na Paaralang Pambansa ng Pateros. 

Some items that are made of hand-woven mats are bag, pillow, pad, place mats, and others. 

The launching was quite a success and Elmer was surely too grateful as he rolled the mats back in bulk and wrapped them in cotton pouch for storage and keep them leaning on the wall in his bodega. I wondered if he used the same cotton pouch from Tawitawi called pochong with a pull string on top and placed the pouches on top of the almario (closed cabinet) with moth balls to keep the mats away from the reach of rodents and destructive insects. 

Edgie points at his hometown on the map woven by the local mat weavers of Basey, Samar. The woman in the framed photograph was the late Monica de Borja, commonly known as Aling Moneng, whom Elmer G. Nocheseda described as “ang mabait na comadrona na nagpaanak sa nanay ko sa akin sa isang banig habang nagdaraan ang prusisyong pamisa de gracia ng Sta Marta, isang pankaraniwang araw ng Lunes sa tapat ng bahay naming pawid sa M. Almeda.” He mentioned Ti Moneng in his book and personally retold the story when he spoke during the launching of his book in Villa Monica Clubhouse.
However, it appears that most of mats on exhibits were just folded. Thus, the mats have those squares of visible fold marks. 

Edgie and Margette with the author, Elmer Gragera-Ibañez Hernandez-Nocheseda, at the special launching of his book - Rara: Art and Tradition of Mat Weaving in the Philippines. Edgie should have worn one of those "Anak ng P" shirts, being  an "Anak ng Polistico" other than that of Pateros. 

The launching was also a revisit to some of the traditional Paterosino merienda (snack) that were served to the delight of those who attended the special launching. 

The inutak of Pateros would easily melt in your mouth. It is highly recommended to top it with a scoop of ice cream.
The bibingkang abnoy or what Elmer would often tell me that her mother and old folks would call it as bibingkang mabantot.
A serving of lugaw (arros caldo with chicken) garnished with chopped spring onion and bits of roasted garlic.  

The merienda includes inutak with sorbetes (ice cream), lugaw (arros caldo with chicken), tokwa, lumpia, ginataan, sinukmane (biko), palitaw (dila-dila), bibingkang abnoy, and iced tea.

Balot and itlog maalat (salted eggs, a.k.a. itlog na pula) of Pateros
It was learned that the good wife of the former mayor of Pateros, Joyce Flores-Medina, among others, chose the food.  She also helped planned and organized the launching activities.

To order a copy of RARA, call or text to:

Ms.Carol Tingson
Habi Secretary
Unit 4D Carmen Court, 6080 Palma Street, Bgy. Poblacion Makati City


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About Edgie Polistico

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Author of Philippine Food, Cooking, and Dining Dictionary. A lexicographer since the age of 14.  Filipino Linguist. Blogger with 11 blog sites. Researcher of food culture, pop culture, places, structures, transportations, churches and whatever interest him about the Philippines. Visual artist. Photographer. Traveler who had been to all four corners of the Philippine archipelago, and still setting more footprints. 

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