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Arts & Culture

Filipino artists share weaving and storytelling traditions in public workshops

Two-year-old Idiyanale Padrigan watches fourth-generation Filipina weaver, Evelynda Otong, as she works at her backstrap loom. She’s crafting another square to join the fabrics scattered from the floor to the ceiling at the PASACAT Philippine Performing Arts Company studio in National City.

Whether Idiyanale knows it or not, she is receiving an introduction to her father and mother’s Filipino ancestral culture.

PASACAT promotes Filipino traditions through music and dance. This week the organization is connecting the community to cultural and indigenous traditions through a series of workshops led by Otong, cultural worker Virgie Nicodemus and T’boli storyteller Myrna Pula.


Otong said she began learning the Yakan traditions of weaving when she was 7 years old.

“(My) great-grandmother, it was started with her, so from my grandmother to mother and me,” Otong said.

Otong works at her backstrap loom.
Charlotte Radulovich
Evelynda Otong sits in front of her backstrap loom weaving a fabric, April 30, 2024.

Otong said 1 meter —about 3 feet — of the weaving can take four days to make. The fabrics at PASACAT are nature inspired with flowers or leaves forming the patterns. Otong shared how she makes saputangan — a square piece of woven cloth — at the backstrap loom. “Sapu” refers to touching and counting the thread. It is the most intricate of the Yakan weaves because it doesn’t have a pattern, it’s created by counting.

The fabrics tethered in the room shimmer; some flutter with a slight breeze. Some will be for sale at the workshops, but for now, Idiyanale walks among them, peeking out with a grin.

With a help translating from Tagalog by Nicodemus, Otong said it’s important to her to showcase her work in the U.S. for people who aren’t able to go to the Philippines to see it for themselves.


“I want to showcase to the world that we still have this kind of culture. It’s rich and it’s still existing,” Otong said.

PASACAT Assistant Artistic Director Matthew Padrigan said he first met the artists on a 2018 trip to the Philippines where he explored his cultural heritage.

“I thought about the process it took for me to meet these artists. It’s not easy, if you don’t have an inside man to connect you to the groups; it’s almost impossible.” Padrigan said. “I wanted to give that opportunity to our members, our community in San Diego, to not have to go through those hurdles to meet those master artists.”

His effort to connect Idiyanale to her cultural heritage began at birth.

Evelynda Otong at her loom and Idiyanale Padrigan plays in the background.
Charlotte Radulovich
Evelynda Otong sits at her loom as Idiyanale Padrigan plays in the background on April 30, 2024.

“Idiyanale is the Tagalog goddess of good deeds,” Padrigan said. “We were looking for a name, something that connected, that allowed our daughter to connect to her culture.”

By introducing her to people like Pula, Idiyanale and other Filipino Americans can learn about and continue these traditions, he said.

“We want to spread more, and we are willing to give everything we have because these are the people who are capable of helping us to continue practicing our culture,” Pula said.

A workshop with Myrna Pula is happening on May 2 at 6 p.m. It will explore epic stories from the T’boli language and culture.

A workshop with Virgie Nicodemus takes place on May 3 at 6 p.m. She will share efforts to sustain cultural practices and drive economic growth in indigenous communities.

To learn more about “Weaving Stories and Dreams,” visit