Saturday, August 11, 2012

My Mystery Palawan Craft

The jar lids have different design motifs   
My 'Tagbanua' jars
The burnt pattern
I was in Art Circle Cafe in UP Alumni Center yesterday.  I was hanging out with friends Ronald Achacoso, Ulysses Ferreras and Adora Navarro. The three were discussing some important business, while I was attending to a plate of Lucban langgonisa all-day breakfast and my yummy cheesecake dessert. While sort of listening to the seriousness of my companions' conversation, something across the room caught my eye. It was a group of light colored wooden jars standing at a corner of one shelf.
Part of my container collection
A Palawan rice basket with pointed hood
I immediately stood up and examined the pieces. The jars were carved from light-colored wood and marked with dark ethnic patterns. Container-crazy me of course became excited. I hesitantly asked the waitress if the jars were for sale, fearful that if they were they probably would cost a lot!  I could not believe what I've heard when she said they were selling for a hundred pesos a piece.  Sold! 
Rice baskets with round covers
The gallery people said that they acquired the pieces from Palawan.  When I tried to squeeze out a locality, they blurted out Tagbanua. I am not sure if that is even the name of the place where the jars originated from.  What  I was certain is that Tagbanua is a tribe name of people residing in Calamianes and possibly some other parts of northern Palawan. When I was in Popototan, in Busuanga, some of the residents there claim they are of Tagbanua descent. So I am thinking the jars came from the northern part of Palawan.

Covers have different patterns
When I was in Puerto Princesa, I did not see anything similar to these jars in any of the souvenir shops.  What I got were a few miniature rice baskets made from fine bamboo (from Nara, southern part of Palawan) and a wood jar made from nato (probably wood from a Palaqium sp.).  Up north in El Nido, they sold the same stuff plus imported wood carvings from the mountain provinces.    

Intricate basket fits in my palm
Uly examined my new finds and said he remembered reading that some Palawan tribes use soft wood of pioneer tree species like Macaranga or Homalanthus in wood carving.  He further added that the dark patterns may have been applied by using heat, thus the darker color must have been burn marks. He was not sure though if these jars are the exact craft described.

Carved jar from nato
When I got home, I mixed my new acquisitons with my collection. The light color stand out against the dark hues of the other items. Whatever their origin is, they are a nice addition on my display shelves. The Philippines might not have popular local cultures but we sure do have creative and unique crafts. Another more fun item to add in the list! 


The Pinoy Byahero said...

Wow, those are very nice Handi Crafts from Palawan Indeed. I hope they will still have some of those at the Gallery.

Plant Chaser said...

Nice loot, Patrick! How serendipitous. -- Bom @