Date of this Version
Textile Narratives & Conversions: Proceedings of the 10th Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, October 11–14, Toronto, Ontario
As Eliza Calvert Hall’s words suggest, a patchwork quilt, made up of a lifetime of castoffs and remnants, not only brings together the artifacts of intimate relationships and events in an individual’s life, but also becomes something larger – a tangible extension of memory itself. Operating on the premise that “material objects… can [not only] act as the analogues of human memory... [but also] prolong and preserve them beyond purely mental existence, ” the material bases for my research are several patchwork floor mats from my childhood home that my family refers to as, Apo Nananag’s rag rugs. My grandmother, Catalina Pacleb Gonzales (1918-1986), made several of these rugs from old household linens and garments that passed between her hands from approximately 1946 to 1965 (fig. 1). Embedded within these simple and unassuming rugs is the complex story of my family’s immigration from the Philippine Islands to Hawaii and their transformation from Filipinos to Filipino-Americans. In this project, my grandmother’s rugs are the vehicles through which I explore a period in my family history and our dynamic crosscultural identity with the Philippines, with Hawaii and with America.
The supported data for this story stem from two primary sources: photographs and interviews. The photographs, taken by my grandmother and mother from their earliest days in Hawaii, are not only vital snapshots into the daily lives of Filipinos in Hawaii, but also confirm that the textiles within the patchwork rugs originally served as garments and household linens. Of the thirty-eight textiles in the rugs, twelve were identifiable in photographs that are dated from 1946 to 1965. This timeline coincides with the period in which my grandparents, Juanito and Catalina, and their six children immigrated to Kauai and lived in the Lihue Sugar Plantation Camp until its disbandment in 1965. This essay, therefore, focuses on these formative years from 1945 to 1965, which I refer to as the Lihue Sugar Plantation period. Additional data were collected from interviews with Juanito and Catalina’s five surviving children, which include my mother Josephine, my aunt Warlina, and my uncles Galiardo, Virgilio and Juanito Jr. During the course of the interviews, the five siblings shared their childhood memories, the ideals instilled in them by their parents, and the significance of Hawaii and the Philippines throughout the various stages of their lives.