In late December, the objects in the textiles case of the George and Nancy Ellis Arts of the Philippines Gallery went through a rotation. These periodic rotations help preserve the objects, by limiting the amount a time an object is on display while allowing the museum to display more objects from the collection. The two objects now on exhibit are a colorful Ilocos blanket from the late 20th century and an intricately embroidered late 19th-century camisa, or man’s shirt, of piña cloth.
The Ilocos blanket comes from the city of Baguio in the mountain area of the Northern Luzon Island of the Philippines. The blanket is a 2006 gift of Carl and Jovita Zimmermann. The museum’s object record notes that the blanket was purchased from the Easter Weaving Room. This weaving room is part of the Easter School in the city of Baguio, which was founded by Episcopal Missionaries in 1906. The church school’s original students brought with them the art of hand-weaving, which was incorporated into the school’s curriculum to preserve this traditional art form which continues to this day. The colors in the blanket’s pattern complement the surrounding objects in the gallery.
The late 19th-century camisa on exhibit demonstrates an adaptation of an earlier type of man’s upper garment after the introduction of western styles to the Philippines. This specific camisa has embroidery on the body of the shirt with elaborate embroidery on the bib, and is designed to be worn with button studs and cufflinks. Piña cloth is derived from a pineapple plant. Today, these types of embroidered piña cloth shirts are commonly called Barong Tagalog. In 1975, the Barong Tagalog was designated national attire by the President of the Philippines. This camisa is a 1927 gift of Anna Rice Cooke.
I am excited to showcase a garment, as my background is in historic costume. The two-sided glass case provides a great opportunity for the viewer to examine the objects in the round. The camisa is exhibited on a dark-colored mannequin to create contrast so that one is better able to see the fine embroidery of the shirt and other details, including the gathering of material at the back yoke.
-E. Tory Laitila, Curator of Textiles and Fashion