Woodcraft in the Philipines #6: Trees, bamboo,palms and their uses

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Blog entry by kiwi1969 posted 04-24-2009 07:23 AM 5178 reads 0 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 5: vigan style Part 6 of Woodcraft in the Philipines series Part 7: How much? »

The Philippines is finally moveing again after the holy week, Easter break. The entire nation simply shuts down over this period as everyone goes home to the provinces and attends a myriad of church services and spectacles. I still have yet to go to Pampanga to see the guys who litterally get nailled to crosses. Maybe next year. My original plan had been to end this series with a visit to a couple of nearby furniture stores and get some pictures and prices but that had to be put off so I will share with you a website from a local company dealing in reclaimed Philippine architectural timbers and has an impressive range of timbers as you will see on the site and it,s exactly the kind of place I love dealing with as most of my woodworking career has been with recycled wood . The link will first take you to the timbers page where you can see the vast range of species available here and what they are used for. Originaly I planned to just copy/paste to this blog, but the list is simply to big, so you can check it out for yourself and then peruse the site at your leisure. It,s great having this resource 10mins away from my house.
For something different here a forest dweller from Philippine legend. I swear it,s all true!
Photobucket The Kapre is a Philippine mythical creature like a tree demon, but with more human characteristics. It is described as being a tall, brown, hairy male with a beard, smoking a big tobacco pipe or cigar ( actually sounds like most expats I know!). It,s said they dwell in big trees like acacias, mangoes, bamboo and banyan. The Kapre wears a loincloth, and is believed to carry a white stone, a little smaller in size than a quail egg. Should any person obtain this stone, the kapre could grant wishes. Kapres are not necessarily evil. They may make contact with people to offer friendship, or if it is attracted to a woman. If a kapre falls in love with a human, then it will follow its “love interest” throughout life. Kapres are also said to play pranks on people, frequently making travelers become disoriented and lose their way in the mountains or in the woods. It is also believe to have the ability to confuse people even at their own familiar surroundings; for instance, someone who forgets that they are in their own garden or home are said to be have been tricked by a kapre. Reports of experiencing kapre enchantment include seeing rustling tree branches even if the wind is not strong, hearing loud laughter or voices coming from an unseen being, witnessing lots of smoke from the top of a tree or seeing big fiery eyes at night from a tree; as well as actually seeing a kapre walking by in forested areas. It is also believed that abundant fireflies in woody areas are the embers from the kapre’s lit tobacco.

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

4 comments so far

View daltxguy's profile


1373 posts in 3913 days

#1 posted 04-24-2009 08:42 AM

That legend explains a lot. Thanks for sharing it. It must be true, I’m pretty sure I’ve spotted the Kapre in that picture you included, just like you described…

Now, where are my glasses…

I noticed they have a lot of used beams, so I suppose that timber framing is very traditional there. I’ve just come across the “Nuki” joint used in China and known in Japan and probably many other places and am fascinated. Did this joinery wizardry make its way to the Philippines as well? If so, is it still practiced? I mean are there still master joiners there?

-- If you can't joint it, bead it!

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18271 posts in 3674 days

#2 posted 04-24-2009 08:46 AM

We must have kapres here in Western WA; something is confusing me all the time. We have 100 foot fir trees with a few fet of the house. I’m sure he’s up there!!

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View kiwi1969's profile


608 posts in 3440 days

#3 posted 04-24-2009 09:05 AM

Steve, according to what i,ve read about it, the original master joiners originally were japanese and chinese but they seemed to actually work in the spanish traditions. The timber framed house was common. Most ancestral homes stand on posts made from multiple tree trunks supporting the upper floors and roof. The stone lower walls are infill with butressed corners to counter the devastating earthquakes that have leveled Manila on more than one occasion. As for master joiners now, It,s doubtful given the love affair the filipino builder has with concrete and steel. Incidently the kiwis are trying to market structural pine here as an alternative for a more earthquake proof house but there is resistance to pine being used as its seen as inferior to native woods and cement breeze blocks are cheap.
Topamax, he,s watching you right now.

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

View Jim's profile


150 posts in 3321 days

#4 posted 04-24-2009 12:59 PM

Wow, I envy you. My grandfather was filipino, and I’ve never gone over to see “The Island” as he used to call it. I am currently actually trying to find some hardwood from the Philippines for a project I have planned for my Grandma, but being stuck in North-Central Indiana doesn’t bring much my way lol, well just plywood. Grandpa never told me any stories of these Kapres though, thanks for sharing!

-- -- Jim - Kokomo, Indiana

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