Oxy Arts invited Occidental and Eagle Rock community members to participate in a celebration of traditional Filipino cultural practices April 8. According to Director of Oxy Arts Meldia Yesayan, LA-based visual and fashion artist Jillian Cainghug directed and facilitated “Pieces of the Past: Practice of Protection, Healing & Celebration.” The event was a part of Oxy Arts’s spring programming in support of current Wanlass Artist in Residence EJ Hill, Yesayan said.
Yesayan said Oxy Arts’s spring programming is deeply artist-centered and guided by the interests of the exhibiting artist.
“Often this means that the artist will invite their collaborators or interlocutors to share space with them in programming,” Yesayan said. “Alternatively, the program might be thematically connected to the themes of the exhibition. In this case, it’s both. Jillian is a creative collaborator with EJ Hill and her workshop focuses on protection, healing and celebration. All themes that are connected to our show.”
Cainghug said the event began with a group lesson in Kali. During the demonstration, participants were given Kali sticks traditionally used in the practice, which is about protection, Cainghug said.
“Everyone held up Kali sticks, and my friend Imee, who was facilitating, started off with breathwork,” Cainghug said. “The way she teaches Kali is very spiritual.”
After the Kali demonstration, a teacher of Cainghug’s, Isaac Castro, explained Ablon and began the healing portion of the event, Cainghug said. Participants were strongly encouraged to involve themselves in the demonstrations.
“We tried to get as many people as we could to demonstrate with, and while that was happening, another teacher of mine, Janelle, was doing some sound healing because she’s a sound healing master and teacher,” Cainghug said. “All of these things weirdly feel familiar to me, and these are things that I’m just learning about now. They’ve helped me to reroot and help me remember where I’m from.”
Cainghug said those who were not involved in Castro’s Ablon demonstrations received sound healing and sat on pillows made from binakul, a Filipino fabric traditionally woven by a group of weavers from a small area called Abra, where Cainghug’s mother is from, within the northern Filipino region of Ilocos.
Cainghug said she learned about binakul as she began exploring holistic healing practices in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I started going into more holistic practices of meditating and doing more consistent yoga,” Cainghug said. “I first became certified in Reiki, and from that community, I started to learn the history of Reiki.”
Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. Cainghug said that from her pursuit of Reiki she began researching other holistic practices native to the Philippines.
“[Binakul], I learned, was a practice of weaving that was practiced for hundreds of years before the Spanish conquered the Philippines,” Cainghug said. “I learned that fabric was specifically meant to ward off evil spirits.”
Cainghug said she incorporated binakul into the event and designed a piece she calls Takip, a Tagalog word for cover, with the help of some of the weavers from Abra.
“I designed a sail shade that hung on the ceiling, and the idea of that was that people are under this thing that creates a protective cover or shield, and people can be creative and practice what they practice, whatever that is,” Cainghug said. “Everything underneath this Takip is about healing and protection and celebrating community with one another.”
Cainghug said that although the practitioners’ clothes were not bikanul, they were rather from a Filipina-owned shop in New York called Nara Studio and an online store in LA called WAYAWAYA.
“Specifically from [WAYAWAYA] I pulled a piece from this one Filipino designer based out of Manila called Carl Jan Cruz and his stuff is quite avant-garde. I thought it would be really fun for this night,” Cainghug said. “The other stuff I pulled from the shop in New York is pretty traditional with a bit of a contemporary twist. And so combined, it was very much a Filipino garment, but it’s also quite modernized as well.”
Jeffery Ono, production manager of Oxy Arts, attended the event and said he was pleased with Cainghug and the programming she organized.
“It was a good two hours and it never felt stagnant, and it never felt still,” said Ono. “Even when there were these guided meditations where it was being about stillness, it really moved along.”
Ono said he was pleased by the reception to Cainghug’s exhibition.
“We haven’t had something with that kind of attendance post-lockdown, so that was really invigorating and nice to see that in the space, and we hope it continues,” Ono said.
Cainghug said she was grateful for the response to her workshop and is glad that traditions important to her were able to reach so many.
“I was just happy to share this because these are practices that aren’t looked at or known about,” Cainghug said. “It’s certainly a form of art and creativity — but also healing.”