Holly Calica's Apprenticeship Blog

Laga, CA Circle Website

I am very happy to announce that our weavers are off to a wonderful start.

 First set of belts by our weavers before completion.A New Beginning: First set of belts by our weavers before completion.


Many completing their first belts and a few beginning their skirts. We have shared the Kalinga traditional art of Laga throughout the San Francisco Bay Area in three community celebrations in the larger FilAm communities of the Sonoma and San Mateo counties. I was very excited to see that our favorite fans are children, who are immediately intrigued by experiencing the art of Laga firsthand. Next year we will expand our work to children so that our families and the larger community can learn this tradition.

We are very happy to announce our new website which shares photos and thoughts about our work. Enjoy as you learn more about Laga, CA Circle.


You can connect with us on Facebook too. Join us & be our friend!!!


Transitions ~ Creating a Weaving Circle

It has been a year of transitions. Before the end of our wonderful Master Apprenticeship experience, Jenny and I discussed how to teach others the art of laga. We embarked on creating a weaving circle and now it has come into fruition. Our project endeavors to train 4-6 weavers in the process of laga. We initially thought that a peer teaching method would suffice to teach our adult weavers, but in actuality, when we recruited our weavers we at first found that no one's schedule matched. Modern society has everyone scrambling around with hectic schedules around work, school, family, community responsibilities, hobbies, etc... Matching up people's schedule was very confusing and so we ended up adopting the very model that worked so well with me.

Each of our wonderful weavers is experiencing not only learning laga, but learning about the kindness, patience, warmth and strong Jenny Bawer Young, our Master Teacher. I have received fantastic verbal feedback from some of our weavers who are basking in the personal one-on-one relationship with our Teacher. The Bawer family in Kalinga is a strong one. They are leaders in their community of Mabilong, Lubuagan. I have come to know Jenny as having this same strengh of leadership, but she is one who works with a quiet heart, not loud, strong and direct, like how I express myself from the Ilocano side of my grandmother, Mary Calica. I am learning how being soft, yet strong helps in building community, much like the bamboo that bends with the wind. 

I'll announce our new website soon, which will have links to each of the weavers' blogs, but I'm honored to present a few of them right now: Terry Bautista, Caroline Cabading, Mylene Cahambing, Grace Duenas, and Porling Rabara. While they are all at different stages of the weaving process, we are all delighted to be having our Laga, CA Circle meet once a month to weave and talk together, while creating a new community of weavers in the San Francisco Bay Area, inspired by the Mabilong Weavers of Lubuagan.


More to come later...

For more information...

Read more about the I-Hotel & Manilatown History here:


Two local SF BAY ~ Baybayin Artists ~ Christian Cabuay & Christine Balza:



Laga, Language, Ancestors & Children


I have enjoyed learning Laga from my Master Teacher, Jenny Bawer Young. One of the things I've enjoyed most is our developing friendship and the passion we share for weaving. We are preparing for one last demonstration at Manilatown Heritage Foundation and I am humbled to bring laga to the former site of the I-Hotel, with its rich history and the legacy of the Manongs, like my grandparents, who immigrated to the United States in the earyl 1900s. It feels like a homecoming to me, brought to the I-Hotel by my father as a teen, Rudy Caluza Calica, to meet his friend Manong Al Robles, and to observe how my father's deep respect and admiration of "Our Father of Filipino American Poetry of San Francisco," devoted his life to the elderly Filipinos of Manilatown. I was inspired to write poetry and make art by the Kearny Street Workshop artists, muralists and photographers. I have always been more involved in community arts, rather than walk the road of a fine artist. It's really true that what we know runs in our blood, exists already in our DNA, and comes to us through dreams and visions from our ancestors and forces unseen in the Western World which attempts to erase us. After viewing my paintings, my painting teacher observed the colors I used and asked me about my heritage. She commented afterwards that she thought I was a Filipino because another Filipino student of hers used similary vivid and bright colors. Colorful paint covers our colorful heritage. Last Demo @ Manilatown Heritage Foundation's Holiday Fundraiser & Arts SaleMaligayong Pasko: Last Demo @ Manilatown Heritage Foundation's Holiday Fundraiser & Arts Sale

It is an honor to have this opportunity to weave at the former site of the I-Hotel, as the land there is sacred ground. It's a site where many of our community members struggled to bring the building to code, to fight for affordable housing, to embrace the beloved I-Hotel in a protective hug as they held off the SFPD before the elderly were forcibly evicted. It's a great homage to our elders that Jenny and I bring Laga and Christian Cabuay brings Baybayin (ancient script), to Manilatown Heritage Foundation, precolonial arts that reach back into our past and spring us into our future. Embracing the traditions of our people moves the generations that follow forward in a way that honors our ancestors, honors our memories as a people and honors our connection with the Earth. At an ACTA seminar we talked of how traditional art heal us and heal our community. I am so honored to be a part of this healing. I am so humbled by the company I walk with, my good friend and Master Teacher, Jenny Bawer Young.

If I am successful in uploading, I hope to upload video in my next post, which takes us back to the beginning of the ACTA Master/Apprenticeship I've had with Jenny Bawer Young. I chose this video because a part of it includes the Kalinga language lesson I am receiving from her. Being a "Fil-Am" (born in U.S.) Pin@y, one thing immigrants always commented on was my lack of knowledge of "Pilipino" (Tagalog). Being Ilocano & Pangasinan, my exposure to Tagalog was non-existent until college. I grew up hearing my grandparents speak Ilocano & Pangasinan, and Tagalog was foreign to me. I had a brief lesson in Tagalog before I first went to the Philippines, but it was funny because that particular visit was mostly to Mindanao, where people speak their tribal or Bangsamoro languages and then Visayan (the lengua franca of the Southern Philippines)...so I had to quickly pick up terms in Visaya, which helped a bit, but it ended up that I always needed translations anyways when meeting tribal or Bangsamoro people. There is one Tagalog word I love ~ Mabuhay ~ not only because the Manongs used it constantly, but because Apo Reyna, a Primary Babaylan, advised me not to use the Tagalog word for thank you, as it's root meant "to cut." In Tagalog, the root buhay means life.

When I visited Jenny's family, her father, Manong Cirilio "Sapi" Bawer and I had a long discussion about the need for the Kalinga people to have bilingual education in the schools so that the children would not lose their mother tongue of Kalinga to Tagalog & Ilocano (the lengua franca of the Northern Philippines). In my discussions today during a brunch held for Latino volunteers for AARP, we discussed the importance of knowing more than one language, how "ENGLISH ONLY" policies were hard to bear for immigrating children in the schools...we discussed the beauty of being multilingual, with one young man sharing his being trilingual. The video shows the struggle I have with language learning, but it also demonstrates the importance of the words I am learning... come to think of it, as I write I am not even sure what the ENGLISH word for sakyotan or ipitan is... I post this video because language is our identity. Language holds our past and denial of our language attempts to wipe us out as a people. Just as many of the first nations of the Americas are working to teach the young their original mother tongue, I post this video to encourage young Kalingas to be proud of their heritage and language.

Being a third generation Fil-Am, I know the pain of losing one's mother tongue. My grandparents' generation is gone and many of my parents' generation are leaving, so I do not hear the wonderful "sing-song" like melodies of Pangasinan anymore or my other grandmother's voice calling her husband lovingly, "Lakay." My knowing Tagalog is helpful, but my learning Ilocano or Pangasinan, even Kalinga because they are located closer to my homeland than Manila, brings a source of pride and inner healing. I encourage our folks back home to speak their original languages to their children and make sure that it is taught in the schools as well. Learning English is helpful in the modern world, but it takes us away from our heritage, our richness, what makes each humans uniquely different and beautiful wherever they are in this world. Words belong to places and that is the difficulty in being in a diaspora. 

Today, ENGLISH as an international language has its benefits, but the methods of acquiring it shouldn't erase the language, culture, heritage and history that we each carry. The use of ENGLISH and other "official" languages help us communicate across borders, but these languages are used to create real borders, as it does through local, state, national and international law by restricting people from crossing borders, whether over land or sea. We should be like the birds, who fly when the seasons change. Languages should be the same. If our words are free, we too are free. Our traditions continue with the words and songs needed to continue properly.

As Jenny & I weave, I am able to learn new things about the Kalinga people and their language. With this post, she is able to show her pride in being Kalinga and teaching not only weaving, but sharing vocabulary from her language that is bound in the weavings we do. Now that my tapis is almost completed, I have only one thing I can say about my Master/Apprenticeship experience with the Alliance for California Traditional Arts ~ napintas = marakep = maganda = linda = beautiful ~ & continue my language lesson ~ ok Jenny, how do you say that in Kalinga?


Two Blocks of Art for KulArts at Bayanihan Center

Holly's First Weaving Demo: Demonstration of Kalinga Laga of tapis (skirt) by Holly CalicaHolly'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.

 Apprentice's children and grandchildren hang out with the Weaving ApprenticeArt Time is Family Time: Apprentice's children and grandchildren hang out with the Weaving Apprentice

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.


 Laga Demo by ApprenticeFocused on Weaving: Laga Demo by Apprentice

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.


 Celebrating our first demonstration at KulArts' 2 Blocks of Art @ the Bayanihan Community CenterMaster Teacher and Apprentice: Celebrating our first demonstration at KulArts' 2 Blocks of Art @ the Bayanihan Community Center


Blog #3: Preparing for Demonstrations

I've since complete my first belt and have worn it with my regalia already. Last weekend I joined Ron Quesada, Porling Rabara, Manong Napoleon Batalao, Jenny Bawer Young and Titania Buchholdt in providing music for a moving dance ceremony by "Las Companeras" for Cece Carpio's Altar Installation at the "Laughing Bones, Weeping Hearts" Dia De Los Muertos exhibition at the Oakland Museum.  We weren't in full regalia, but I was asked by my Master Weaver to wear my belt over my clothing.  I delighted in playing music with my friends, and was happy to see Ron, who flew in from Hawaii to inspire such dancers as Erin Wadell, Lisa Juachon and others.  Choreographed by Patricia Ong, the modern movements were inspired by our ancestors who boarded ships, and worked as laborers in California, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, and Alaska.  That night our tongatong and gangsa rhythms wove in and out between the threads of present, past, and into the future.  Check out Cece's installation of carved canoes hanging in space reminding us of the carved canoe images atop the ancient burial jars back home, like the images from Egypt with the ancestors going home in their canoes... I'm digressing, but it's amazing how one thing connects to another.  Several friends in the FilAm community dream of carving traditional canoes, like back home, and last Friday I learned Cece has carved several small models... we've been looking for carvers & one amongst has been there all the time!

Dreams can be woven together and as each day passes I see how dreams come alive and manifest into the future.  This LAGA (backstrap weaving) project is one such dream.  I am in the midst of the dream and until now, didn't realize that it was difficult to write about while trying to complete it.  Sometimes writing and living just don't quite match up.  On living the LAGA DREAM:

1.  Completing the LAGA belt went fairly smoothly.

2. Completing the LAGA tapis has had its complications. (Not to be discussed in this blog, but let it be known that I am half way completed...)

3. Figuring out how to bring the LAGA DEMOS on the road is a mind boggler!

Normally, the LAGA weaver has the weaving attached to the wall, with a strap behind her back to provide the tension, and with her feet braced against wood on the floor (see photo.)  Jenny & I have had to use closet dowels attached to furniture and between doors to simulate what is done in Lubuagan.  I've had to place a chair against the wall (yes, I'm SHORT!) to push my feet against for the proper tension & YES! it works!  But figuring out how to have a contraption that will support the weaving during a demonstration has occupied my mind the last several weeks.  I've talked to Patrick Tamayo, an excellent Sagayan Dancer and carpenter, who has made kulintang stands for FilAms for advice and I'm hoping he'll help me figure out a good, sturdy, light, and portable solution to my dilemma for future live demonstrations.  In fact, maybe some of you can suggest designs for me by replying to this blog... in the meantime, I am going to recruit my pilates machine for my solo demonstration through KulArts at 2 Blocks of Art this Friday, October 19th, 2012, from 4:00 - 8:00 p.m.  Check all the art out in SOMA.  Drop on by the Bayanihan Center for more art and my first ever LAGA DEMONSTRATION & the debut of my pilates support for LAGA this Friday at:

Bayanihan Community Center
1010 Mission Street @ 6th
San Francisco

Here's the website: http://kularts.org/wp/2-blocks-art-walk-oct-19/


Flyer Announcement: Hope you can make it!!!
Flyer Announcement: 
Hope you can make it!!!

1st Belt: Close up of Kalinga Belt completed in Spring, 2012 by Holly Calica.
1st Belt:
Close up of Kalinga Belt completed in Spring, 2012 by Holly Calica.

Belt Preparation: Loom preparation ~ one of my beginning sessions with Jenny.
Belt Preparation:
Loom preparation ~ one of my beginning sessions with Jenny.

Summer Weaving in Castro Valley: We rigged up the family's weight lifting rack so I could weave outside. Weaving my tapis (skirt) couldn't have a happier setting!
Summer Weaving in Castro Valley:
We rigged up the family's weight lifting rack so I could weave outside. Weaving my tapis (skirt) couldn't have a happier setting!

Luguagan Weaver: Mabilong weaver braces her feet while Irene Bimuyag holds her baby.
Luguagan Weaver:
Mabilong weaver braces her feet while Irene Bimuyag holds her baby.


Working on tapis: Summer weaving at home...
Working on tapis:
Summer weaving at home...

Creating tension: These bamboos came in handy pressed against the chairs by my feet. (No, I am not accepting comments on my unpolished toes!)
Creating tension:
These bamboos came in handy pressed against the chairs by my feet. (No, I am not accepting comments on my unpolished toes!)

Blog #2: DIWA Threads in Winter

Balls of Thread ~ DIWA Rehearsal: My very first lesson that took place at Porling's house, where our all women ensemble of kulintang and gangsa performing artists learn & practice their music & dance. We gather at each others' homes to rehearse, but also to share a meal and catch up with each others' lives.

All the DIWA members had a chance to wind the red sting too, so my first project has the spirit (DIWA) of the DIWA members ~ cool ~ the DIWA of the DIWA ~ ...ANYWAYS, I had homework once I left rehearsal, but I am so glad my friends had a hand in Laga (weaving) with me.

 ...winding away...My turn making a ball... ...photo courtesy, Mylene Cahambing

What seemed to take me a long time was making round balls of red string. I would sit in front of my tv & wind away day after day & sometimes in my bedroom. I had to remember to put my hair in a ponytail or bun, otherwise if I wasn't paying attention strings of hair might get caught up in the ball of string. Part of our project was to find materials here, but in our rounds to different crafts & big box stores (well, with Globalization that's pretty much what's become of shopping as the smaller stores are almost non-existent), we couldn't find the large quantity that Jenny is used to getting in the Philippines. She eventually found something online & we decided to experiment with it. I would call Jenny, as she volunteered to make balls of the other colors, always used along with red for traditional Kalinga Laga belts:white, black and yellow. Making a belt is the first project given to children by the elder weavers. Jenny learned from her maternal grandmother, Mambot Cusay, and her aunt, Alice Dumatog, in Mabilong, Lubuagan. It was her grandmother that instructed her at the age of ten to complete her first belt...for me, it's been many decades since I was ten, but with the excitement of a child, I was eagerly awaiting my chance to make a belt. I hadn't expected making the balls of string to be tiresome for me, yet I found out that I was excellent at dropping the ball and chasing it under my bed!   

Reflections on Kalinga Weaving: Blog #1 (5/3/2012)

I’m honored to be an ACTA Apprentice, and to have this opportunity to learn Kalinga Backstrap Weaving from Jenny Bawer Young.  The Alliance for California Traditional Arts (ACTA) has enabled me to manifest a desire to learn and practice traditional arts, something I envisioned for over ten years while still painting and printmaking in San Francisco. The road leading me to this apprenticeship and to Jenny Bawer Young is literally based on my feet, through dance.

We first met a few years back at the Malonga Center for the Arts in Oakland, California, during a special workshop on tribal dances of the Cordillera Mountains held for the Likha Pilipino Folk Ensemble. Having studied many world dance forms, I was delighted to learn the dance and music practices of the tribal peoples of the Philippines.  As a student of Maguindanaoan Kulintang Master Danongan Kalanduyan, and performing member of Palibuniyan Kulintang Ensemble, I was more familiar with music and dance from Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago than the gangsa music where my family was from, Luzon.

Manong Cirilio "Sapi" Bawer (far left), with daughter Mimi (seated next to Marcos Rabara), lead a music workshop in San Francisco (2007).

In 2008 I traveled throughout the Cordilleras, where I conducted research on the relationship between contemporary and tribal art forms. In addition to spending time with the “Father of Philippine Filmaking,” Kidlat Tahimik, I was able to meet Kalinga Culture Bearer and father of Jenny, Mr. Cirilio “Sapi” Bawer, the tribal elder who introduced Kalinga music and dance to the world through the famous Bayanihan Dance Company. I was particularly happy to spend time in Lubuagan and was invited back to participate in the 100th Year of Provincial Government celebration in the summer of 2008 where I was presented a special tapis (skirt) by the Mabilong weavers. Dozens of weavers prepared months in advance for this celebration and specifically wove this particular design of the tapis for the Mabilong community.

Mabilong weaver prepares for Lumin-Awa Festival.

Mabilong Elders overlook Lubuagen, Kalinga in preparation for Lumin-Awa Festival.

Mabilong Weavers begin procession in Lubuagen to town square from Mabilong.

Mabilong Community gathered in town square of Lubuagen.

Entire town of Lubuagen gathered before music & dance celebrations begin.

Mr. Bawer, his daughter, Jenny, and other Kalinga elders, such as Manong Napoleon Batalao, have shared their wealth of knowledge in Kalinga dance, music and ritual with Filipino performing artists of the San Francisco Bay Area. Jenny Bawer Young has consulted with my performing group, DIWA, the all-female music and dance group initially formed to practice kulintang music.  Her participation as creative consultant to our group has enabled us to add Kalinga music, dance and culture to our repertoire. As a culture bearer of the Philippines, she has been critical to maintaining her traditional culture while living in California.

As my friendship with Jenny grew, we came to share other passions as well, this time it was in the visual arts. Through a casual conversation I was to learn that her greatest passion was weaving. Little did she know that I had a small collection of textile weavings from Latin America. Nor did she know that I first fell in love with traditional Filipino weaving of the T’boli called T’nalak, which is made from the abaca tree. She also didn’t know that I had loved making headpiece regalia for the Bahaina section of Carlos Aceituno’s Fogo Na Roupa for San Francisco’s Carnaval and Oakland’s Carijama celebrations.

The relationship a dancer has with his or her regalia is significant, especially when the dancer creates his or her own regalia. These experiences are meaningful on a spiritual and soulful level and they become more so after one dances in their regalia. I was honored to have the tapis given to me by her family in Lubuagan and had danced with her family in the celebration before thousands of people. I am ecstatic at having the opportunity to learn to weave the traditional Kalinga belt and tapis necessary for performing Kalinga music and dance. Most often, performing artists have to travel to the Philippines and/or purchase the regalia from people who collect the textiles. In December, 2011, both she and I were doubly surprised to receive this apprenticeship. The opportunity to weave had finally arrived for me!

My first lesson actually took place amongst other DIWA members at one of our rehearsals in Castro Valley. Weaving, Kalinga style, is a group activity, at least it was that day at our rehearsal. DIWA members and I tried our best to roll perfect balls of string. This activity reminded me of a quiet evening in Lubuagan sitting with Jenny’s mother, Maria, enjoying time after our evening meal while she steadily spun a ball of yarn, explaining to me that this was the most important part of the weaving.

All photos by Holly Calica.