Friday, August 26, 2011

Mananalastas Tungkol sa Pamamalaspas

The author Elmer Nocheseda
We went to the Ateneo Art Gallery today to see my plant friend Elmer Nocheseda talk about his baby, his book 'Palaspas - An Appreciation of Palm Leaf Art in the Philippines". Elmer devoted almost all his lifetime in making this book, nurturing a passion since he was 4 years old and compiling all the weaving techniques he had learned and collected. Elmer recounted how his dad made a simple palm leaf ball from 2 coconut palm fronds to amuse him and this ignited an interest and later on a devotion to record the dying art of weaving palaspas and other palm leaf crafts from all over the country.
Elmer holding up an 'oten' palaspas

Pineapple-like palaspas
The palm leaf ball
In his talk, Elmer cited how important the coconut and other palms are in Philippine culture.  He said he wondered why we Filipinos have not come up with great historical landmarks  like Borobudur in Indonesia, the great Indian Temples and the Pyramids of Egypt. The answer may have been because of the coconut and other palms. We may have discovered how useful the coconut that it rendered impractical to carve out stone, which is obviously much harder to do.  I remember watching a documentary once citing why there were no paleolithic and neolithic tools discovered in Southeast Asia.  The reason for this was said to be the abundance of bamboo in the region.  Bamboo proved to be an easier and better material to carve out tools. Which strengthens the theory that most Southeast Asian cultures, including the Philippines, rely heavily on plants found in their environment for use in their everyday lives.

Bird in close-up
Palaspas birds
Elmer made a vivid recollection how painstking it was for him to research on palapas and palm leaf weaving all over and beyond the Philippines. It took him up north in Batanes to really down the Southern islands just to learn about a new weaving technique.  He braved climbing mountains and being caught in insurgence crossfires just to retrieve samples of palm leaf craft. He professes that what he learned enriched his understanding of local weaving.  He enumerated the weaving terms like 'habi', 'lala' (pertaining to mat weaving) and 'higit' (term used to make fishing nets).  He painted a clear image of how rich the culture of palm weaving is.

Felice Sta Maria
Renowned writer Felice Sta Maria was in attendance as special guest. It was the first time for her to meet the author and she described Elmer as 'crazy'.  She said it puts him in the league of herself and other scholars present who were 'crazy' enough to devote their time in documenting some important parts of our culture that are in danger of being lost in years to come. It made me think how 'crazy' I have become in researching about native trees and blogging them here. Hmnnn...!  

Simple palaspas weave
Elmer Nocheseda's 'Palaspas' book is available at the Ateneo University Press. It gives a good background on palaspas as well as step by step instructions on how to do different palm weave art.  Palaspas samples were used to adorn the lobby of the Ateneo Art Gallery showing the variety of shapes one can do with just a few pieces of palm fronds.  To Elmer, congratulations for a well attended talk and reaping the fruits of your efforts on your book 'Palaspas'.  May the valuable information contained in it reach more people who will value its importance.  May it inspire more students and scholars to learn more about this dying art of palm weaving.  
The siko-siko


1784 said...

You and Elmer are doing a GREAT service to our nation and our identity. Maybe not many people write you back but the "seeds" you plant will eventually have lives all their own.

I will look up his book, thanks!

metscaper said...

Wow. Kind and generous comment. Thanks.

But i do wish to get feedback in terms of shared info i have not heard of. I encourage more people to give out the stories they heard from old folks about these plants.

homebuddy said...

Sorry, I wasn't able to attend. Where can I get the book?

metscaper said...

You can buy the book at Ateneo Press.

lovecrafts said...

So beautiful! i love it.