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Chamorro weaver shares secrets

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by Joan Aguon Charfauros

Guam - When you walk into Security Title, you will see that the office is adorned with woven baskets, birds, and hats all courtesy of IT/office runner Mark Benavente. Benavente has been in charge of the Chamorro Month décor for the past few years. He fondly remembers when he was 26 years old and how he got into weaving by watching his 91-year-old grandmother.

"I called my grandmother one day, asked her if she could teach me to weave a basket and spend a day with her, kind of just watching," he recalled.

His grandmother is master pandanus weaver Tan Elena Benavente. He says that pandanus weaving is the most difficult to learn mainly because of the length of the leaves and the intricacy involved. Now although Benavente has other cousins and siblings who know how to weave, he was the only one to learn how to weave a basket from his grandmother

"It was difficult at first, only because you are not used to it the way you are holding the leaves in your hand its kind of awkward, you pull too hard and you break a leaf and the basket is done and you have to start all over," said Benavente.

Co-workers said that Benavente is always willing to offer his talents, mentioning he spent three months weaving over 200 baskets, which were loaded up with baked goods and given as gifts to clients during Thanksgiving. He has also taken the time to teach his co-workers, companies such as DZSP, and has even woven items for some of the local banks.

Benavente offers some sound advice to those who want to weave, especially the younger generation. "If they an aunt or uncle, mom or dad, call them up ask them to weave because once it goes with them. Unfortunately like my grandmother, it's going to be gone. I encourage everyone to go out and learn to weave," he said.

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