Master weaver and cultural artist
Floren Meno Paulino is a traditional master weaver, specializing in plaiting coconut palm and pandanus leaves into utilitarian and decorative items. She currently demonstrates her skills at the Gef Pa’go Cultural Village in Inarajan, Guam.
Paulino was born in 1925 to Juan and Patrona C. Meno. She was raised in the southern village of Inarajan along with her siblings in what is now one of the historic properties recently rehabilitated by the Guam Preservation Trust.
For Paulino, the memories of her youth run deep—of the original one-story wooden house, raised three feet above the ground on wooden poles, where she remembers competing with neighboring girls to complete her designated chore—preparing corn titiyas (tortillas) for the family. Life in pre-War Guam was different than today. Many families lived in wood houses, slept on woven mats laid out on the floor, and relied on other woven items such as different sized baskets, mats and hats for various day-to-day activities.
Growing up, Paulino learned the basic skills of weaving from her father. By the age of twelve, she was already crafting both useful and practical items, including guagua’ nengkanno’ (food baskets) and tuhong siha (hats). These articles were usually woven from the new or young, softer leaves, called binga, of the coconut palm tree. She continued increasing her skills with knowledge shared from other family members and friends, sometimes learning different things while at school. She soon became proficient enough to weave decorative items, such as paluma (birds), uhang (shrimp), adothon ulu (head bands) and inareklan flores (floral arrangements). In addition, she began learning how to weave with the harder, sturdier pandanus leaves.
The leaves of the pandanus plant (Pandanus tectorius, or akgak in Chamorro), which is indigenous to Guam, are more difficult to work with and need to be processed before they can be plaited or woven together. The leaves have thorns or spines which must be stripped off, and then the leaves must be rolled, boiled, and then allowed to dry for several days before they can be worked.
Paulino has described how this process is hard work and takes time, but this is how it has been done for generations, and the result is a soft, pliable fiber that is easy to weave. In addition, the longer the leaf is dried in the sun, the whiter it gets. After this preparation, the pandanus leaves can then be fashioned into different shaped baskets, bags, all kinds of table mats and other items, often decorated with elaborate designs by combining different shaded leaves.
Paulino continues the tradition of weaving through her work at the Gef Pa’go Cultural Village, where she demonstrates and teaches traditional weaving methods and articles for tourists, guests and student visitors to the site. She also participates in numerous cultural events throughout the year all over the island and throughout the region. She received formal recognition as a Master Weaver by the Guam Council on the Arts and Humanities Agency (CAHA) in 1997 as part of the Masters of Chamorro Tradition poster series.
For further reading
CAHA Artists Directory. (Accessed 6 July 2014)
Guam Council on the Arts and Humanities Agency (CAHA). “Master weaver Tan Floren Meno Paulino,” in Pasehu-yan i Mansainen Kostumbren Chamorro siha: A Journey with the Masters of Chamorro Tradition. Hagåtña, Guam, 1997.
Guam Preservation Trust: Flores, Judy and Rosanna Barcinas. “Groundbreaking Ceremony February 1, 2011, Juan and Patrona C. Meno House (L67, Inalahan).” Brochure. Hagåtña, Guam, 2011.
Leon Guerrero, Jesse. “Chamorros weave for art and culture” Joint Region Edge. (Accessed 15 June 2012)
Pacific Worlds: Guides to Inarajan. (Accessed 15 June 2012)