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Woodcraft in the Philipines #1: Carving in the Philippines

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Blog entry by kiwi1969 posted 1952 days ago 5829 reads 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Woodcraft in the Philipines series Part 2: Workshops in the Philippines »

People in the Philippine archipalago have been carving simple images for millenia, but it was the arrival of the Spanish that really created the traditions and style that we see today. The simple “Bulol” carvings of the Cordillera have become the latest trend for interior designers in Manila and are believed to be either rice gods or meant to help in curing illness. Now they clog up the tourist traps of Baguio and the rice terraces, which I still haven,t seen after all this time.
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With the Spanish came the Catholic faith, good cooking and the skills to build in stone and it was quickly put to use in the building of some of the most impressive cathedrals in the Spanish colonies. Catholic missionaries soon recruited, or forced depending on who you believe, local Chinese craftsman to create the furnishings. It was the use by the Chinese of Indio apprentices which spread the craft throughout the islands. Filipinos are great imitators ,as any one who,s been in a Karaoke bar here will know, and this gives them the ability to reproduce a pretty good estimation of what you want to have made. I,ve seen anything from five foot tall Grizzly bears to the smallest chess pieces. Anyone wanting a saint for their house this is the place to get one.It,s in San Fernando near the lahar flows from the Pinatubo eruption. And when the timber supplies are low they even carve the lahar into garden ornaments!
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Many towns in Pampanga became centres of carved furniture production and any drive in the country will lead you past shop after shop of the stuff. It,s up to you to find the best price if you,re any good at haggling.This is the raw state that you find most of the furniture, although perhaps not as raw as this, then you specify the colour and fabrics. Customers should aware that some furniture can be a little on the wet side, I have a Nara side chair that,s only stopped moveing after two years.
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Carving at it,s best can be found in the town of Paete ( pa-e-te). It,s even named after a woodworking tool. The Paet is the Tagalog word for chisel. And incidentaly it,s also the place where the yo-yo was invented! Life for the carvers has become difficult since the logging ban was introduced by Cory Aquinos administration and although it,s since been lifted many of the species suitable for carving are becoming rare and are now protected, although illegal logging is unfortunatly common. I believe that there is a Mission Dolores in San Francisco that has a pulpit that was carved here and St Peters also has some crucifixes. This is a piece I bought a couple of years ago for the princely sum of 7000peso ( $155 USD). Its titled Danmed soul and stands 32” tall carved in Kamagong. My camera won,t really pick up the detail.
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I intend to post more about the workshops and craftsman of this country. Stay tuned.

-- if the hand is not working it is not a pure hand



6 comments so far

View Francisco Luna's profile

Francisco Luna

936 posts in 1989 days


#1 posted 1952 days ago

Impressive the craftsmanship in those carvings…..the Loveseat work is beautiful, so rich!
I am originally from Colombia, South America, and its something very similar, same spanish legacy, the carving is very popular….it’s very interesting how the same “canon” (Spanish Catholic colonization) produced the unique interpretations, with their own local ingredients, around the world. That carving at the seat is awesome!
Thanks for the nice pictures!

-- Nature is my manifestation of God. I go to nature every day for inspiration in the day's work. I follow in building the principles which nature has used in its domain" Frank Lloyd Wright

View kiwi1969's profile

kiwi1969

609 posts in 2037 days


#2 posted 1950 days ago

Thanks Moai. With the Galleon trade running between spain,Mexico and Manila it,s no surprise that the carving culture made it,s way here. Surprisingly other aspects of Spanish culture didn,t stick here as it has in Central and South America. Nobody speaks spanish here.

-- if the hand is not working it is not a pure hand

View manilaboy's profile

manilaboy

177 posts in 2531 days


#3 posted 1948 days ago

Spanish is still spoken in the Philippines and it is the language of the old rich. Kinda elitist. The Ayalas still speak in Spanish as well as the other families of Spanish descent. I think Pres. Arroyo speaks Spanish at home. I’ve done four semesters of Spanish in college so I can understand and do simple sentences in Spanish. In Zamboanga City in Mindanao, they speak a Cebuano/Spanish mix. It is called Chavacano. It is very much alive and the Zamboanguenos are proud of it. In Cavite City, they also have Chavacano but it is a Tagalog/Spanish mix. But because of Cavite’s proximity to Manila. It is disappearing fast if it still has not.

You can see the Spanish influence everywhere. Language, religion, education, art, fashion, cuisine etc. It is even in the country’s name. The country is named after King Phillip II of Spain.

-- "Real jocks do it on a bench"

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 2910 days


#4 posted 1948 days ago

Informative blog. Thanks. Those prices just make me wonder about how woodworkers in that part of the world survive.

View kiwi1969's profile

kiwi1969

609 posts in 2037 days


#5 posted 1948 days ago

Manilaboy I stand corrected. I can honestly say i,ve never heard any of those languages spoken and I definitely won,t get to meet any of the Ayala family any time soon, let alone the President. And you certainly won,t see this white boy in Zamboanga. I just meant it,s not as obvious here.

Dennis I guess it all comes down to the difference cost of living. My living costs in Manila, not including food or water, only run to about $200USD a month, in the provinces it a lot less.

-- if the hand is not working it is not a pure hand

View manilaboy's profile

manilaboy

177 posts in 2531 days


#6 posted 1946 days ago

Kiwi1969 – You’re smarter than the others ;-)

Dennis – Just get any of the Ayalas to be your client and you are good to go for the rest of your life. Kidding aside, if your work really has style and fine craftsmanship, there is a market for it. There are specialist stores offering original contemporary designs and some of them are known all over the world.

-- "Real jocks do it on a bench"

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