If you’ve ever visited the furniture shop Crate and Barrel, chances are, you may have seen these finely crafted placemats, carpets, rugs or even some exquisite living room furniture pieces made from abaca (Manila hemp), rattan or nito. The prices here is a premium and it’s easy to conclude that most of them may be imported. Interestingly, when I visited Camalig, Albay’s Natural Carpet Industries, I was surprised to see Crate and Barrel tags on the newly woven circular abaca placemats inside their 7,300 sq. m. factory. Those US$10 placemats at the shop can be bought here directly for only US$ 3. It just shows that the abaca industry is back in the limelight as one of the main export products of the country and can compete with international brands.
There’s a distinctive smell of wood amidst the mixture of paint and thinner lingering in the air. I could hear the constant pounding of multiple mallets on chisels carving away pieces of wood to make form to an otherwise large piece of wood. Occasional sawdust fills the air when sudden gust of wind blows through this open air wood carving workshop. Paete Woodcarving has been a thriving industry since the Spanish era until now. A walk at the town’s market road, it is hard not to notice the rows of shops, selling variety of wood work and paper mache. This crafty town of Paete, north-east of Laguna have earned its declaration as the Woodcarving Capital of the Philippines back in 2005. Thanks to proud Paetenians whose generations of wood carvers passed their skills and dedication for elevating the art. Here we meet some of the master woodcarvers that have etched their legacy in the town’s history.
Death and dying is an inevitable subject in conversations when All Saint’s Day and All Soul’s Day approaches. Like an evening conversation over a warm fire one cold and rainy night in Maligcong, from the talks of somewhat paranormal encounters in the rice fields we ended up talking about Igorot culture and the commonality of their beliefs within tribes in Cordilleras. It was interesting to talk to a native i-Maligcong and hear from them their traditions in wakes and still observed but slightly modified in the modern times for practicality. My thoughts immediately shifted to their neighboring town of Sagada only an hour away. The town has seen tremendous visits year long for its unique burial tradition of Hanging Coffins. Much so during All Saints day for its fiery spectacle during the Festival of Lights. But these popular display is just a small part of their traditions.
There’s a certain sense of nostalgia finding a carnival behind our hotel in Quirino province. It’s like a throwback to my early years at home. When I was a kid, I revel at the sight of a small carnival being set up just in front of our building on a vacant lot. Oh we look forward to those tsubibo (small ferris wheel) rides, horror train and table games where we doesn’t seem to win. That vacant lot in the neighborhood is long gone and has been overtaken by buildings. A walk through the Paskohan sa Quirino in Cabarroguis town awakened that good old-feeling of Christmas. Simple pleasures of being with friends and family enjoying the bazaar, the rides and the company during the holiday season.
I’ve seldom talked about how Sagada has changed throughout the years. Yes, the roads have been paved for better access, more tourist are coming in, internet connectivity is just about everywhere and more structures being built to accommodate them. Despite the developments, Sagada’s is still rooted to their traditional cultural practices. One of this significant rituals is the Begnas, a rice thanksgiving ritual that usually happens three times a year. We were lucky to be there to witness their pre-planting ritual. It was a three-day event and the 2nd day was the time when the “Indians March”.
Much of Mati City in Davao Oriental has been a surprise. I recall the place having been devastated by Typhoon Pablo a couple of years ago but I’m glad to see the city has recovered and with interesting developments. From the plaza, to the capitol, schools and hospital a familiar paint of purple can be seen which I was told was the color of healing. When I was going around Mati, I had no idea there was a Subangan Museum in which my habal-habal driver recommend I visit. I was hesitant at first but since I was already there, I thought I would do a quick round but ended up staying more than an hour.
September in Iligan City is the month-long celebration of the Dyandi Festival. Originally a rite performed by the Dumagats, Maranaos and the Higaonons to pay homage to their patron saint, Saint Michael. It’s a multi-cultural celebration passed through generations now practiced by Christians, Muslims and the natives. It was in 2004 when the city established the Dyandi Festival as their tourism identity. Among the highlight of this month-long revelry is the Kasadya Streetdancing Competition.