Taka of Paete

FILIPINO FOLK ART. Colorful, warm, and whimsical – the taka of Paete have become the epitome of Filipino folk art. They are like the Filipino fiesta painted on papier-mâché figures of dolls in Filipiniana, roosters, carabaos, and fire engine-red horses.

These takas are sold side by side with woodcarvings in shops in this town known for its fine woodcarvers and visual artists.

HISTORY OF TAKA MAKING. The exact history of taka-making in Paete is difficult to trace. Old folks claim that Mexican friars introduced taka-making to the pueblo of Paete some centuries ago as a cottage industry for the female population while the males worked on woodcarving.

This perhaps explains why the taka of Paete is linked with the Mexican piñata. While the piñata is decorated with tear up colored paper, the taka of Paete is individually hand-painted with the happiest and vibrant colors and embellished with floral and fancy designs.

HAND MADE. The art of taka-making begins with the process by hand carving hardwood sculptures that becomes the takaans or the actual mold where layers upon layers of paper are glued, sundried before the papier-mâché figures are hand-painted.

VINTAGE MOLDS. The vintage papier-mâché molds are sought after by antique collectors but the taka-makers in Paete often refused to sell them for their heritage and cultural value  –in other words they are priceless.

BUHAY AT HUGIS PAETE. One of the shops in Paete that specializes in taka and other paper craft is the Ang Buhay at Hugis Paete.

Different sizes and color of horses, carabaos, dolls in Filipiniana costume, tropical fruits and vegetables all made of papier-mâché fill the store from floor to ceiling. There also Moriones masks and masks for Mardi Gras that becomes in demand at certain seasons.

EPILOGUE. Founded by director and production designer Lino Dalay with her 80-year old mother mommy Martha, the store is like a museum of Filipino folk art that showcases Paete’s tangible heritage.


Burnay Jars

JARS FROM VIGAN. One day my father brought home from Vigan a car load of burnay jars. The old dark earthen jars that came in different sizes and forms, even the purposely deformed ones stayed in our garage for a while since we have no use for them until I decided to place the miniature jars in our aquarium.

Together with live aquatic plants, lava rock, driftwood, and the different tropical fishes, the display in our aquarium looked like an underwater ancient site or remnants of a shipwreck. We allowed green moss to grow over the burnay jars making the arrangement look more natural. It was lovely.

BURNAYAN. When we visited Vigan, we went to the place where these burnay jars were made. Burnayan is a potter’s village where from a mound of tight sticky clay dug out from the riverbank, the dark and heavy burnay jars are individually shaped by-hand on a potter’s wheel and fired in an open kiln.

Old time potters claim that burnay is the first jar their ancestors ever made. Traditionally, burnay potters have always stayed around Vigan because they believed that this is where their ancestors lived and had taught them the art of burnay-making.

BURNAY IS HEAVY. The smallest burnay jar packs a sturdy weight. These earthenware is heavy because it is a closed, tightly packed jar which is kneaded and pounded over and over to make it air-tight. Fine gravel, sand, and ashes are mixed into the clay. All these make the burnay heavy and very sturdy.

Unlike clay pots that are light reddish brown, the burnay is darker because it is smoked before the potters work on it. Burnt clay is added to the clay mix and as the burnay is fired, smoke is allowed to run through the jars.

ILOCANO TRADITION. Just as generation of potters did before, each burnay jar is formed by hand. The potters maintain the design simple. Sometimes potters put a curly lay around the shoulders of the jar or prick the jar using a stick while it’s still soft to make the jar little less plain.

It is a tradition in Ilocos to buy burnay jar only in Vigan. But unlike the clay pot palayok and the balanga, the burnay is never used for cooking or for keeping drinking water like in the case of the versatile tapayan. Burnay jars are too thick to hold heat and since it’s airtight water  does not get cool enough to drink. So burnay jars are used to ferment bagoong and the sukang Iloko. It is said that the sugar cane wine called the basi will not turn into a potent drink if it is not stored in a burnay jar.

EPILOGUE. Just like with other Classic Filipino Kitchenware, the burnay jars are hardly ever used today for storing food and drinks. They have ended up in antique stores and the really old ones have become heirloom pieces. For my father, bringing home those charming burnay jars from Vigan is like linking us to his Ilocano roots.

Father’s Day | 17 June 2012

Marcela Agoncillo House

A HISTORICAL LANDMARK. Visiting ancestral houses links us with our cultural and historical legacy. In Taal Batangas, the centuries-old ancestral houses in what has been declared a Heritage Town were not just indicators of landed wealth but also reminders of the active role that its prominent residents took in the struggle for Philippine Independence.

The 17th century Agoncillo House is believed to be one of the oldest in town. Now a museum, the Agoncillo House is a historical landmark dedicated to the making of the Philippine flag.

THE AGONCILLOS. Built by Andres Mariño, the house later became home to first Filipino diplomat Felipe Agoncillo and wife Marcela Mariño Agoncillo, seamstress of the Philippine flag. Following the demise of the oldest living children of Felipe and Marcela; Gregoria and Marcela (named after her mother), the ancestral house was donated to the National Historical Commission.

THE AGONCILLO HOUSE. There are those who say that the flag was actually made in the house on M.N. Agoncillo St. After all, the first thing that visitor would see upon entering the house is a marble and cement sculpture depicting the sewing of the flag.

But what we’ve learned in school is that the flag was designed by General Emilio Aguinaldo while in exile in Hong Kong.  Aguinaldo went to see the Agoncillos where the family resided also in exile, at 535 Morrison Hill, Hong Kong, and requested Doña Marcela to sew the flag he designed. With the help from her daughter Lorenza and Delfina Herbosa de Natividad, niece of Dr. Jose Rizal, the flag was finished in five days and was hand carried by Aguinaldo on his return to the Philippines.

ZAGUAN. Like most houses built during Spanish colonial period, the main living quarters of the Agoncillo house was on the second floor. The ground floor space was usually intended as parking area for the carruaje and storage for supplies and grains.

In the olden days, tenant-farmers were only allowed in the lower levels of the house where they were usually seen seated on the capiya while waiting instructions from their landlord who held office at the despacho in the entresuelo.

ENTRESUELO. In the Agoncillo House, the entresuelo is an elevated room beside the main staircase. It now contains the library where antique books are displayed. Impressive were the colorful stained glass used on the window shutters instead of the usual capiz panels. The ornate grill-work also provides a sense of nostalgia when viewing the street while sitting by the windowsill.

SALA MAYOR. We learned that the main rooms of the house still have the original wooden floorboards where an arrangement of antique furniture style known as Luis Quince and Carlos Trese, are mixed with Viennese bentwood pieces.

CUARTO. Flanking the huge framed-mirror in the sala are double-doors leading to the two adjoining bedrooms. One has been converted into an oratorio or prayer room. The main bedroom has a four-poster Ah-Tay bed, which was considered a status symbol during that time.

COMEDOR. The dining room can be accessed through a small door by the prayer room. However, it can also be viewed from a window opening from the the ante-sala. To the left of the ante-sala is a room leading to the kitchen where assorted kitchenware are displayed.

EPILOGUE. Visitors exit back to the main entrance and are encouraged by museum staff to go to the garden located at the side of the house where a bronze statue by Florante Caedo depicting a heroic Marcela holding up the flag she has made in time for the declaration of Philippine Independence on June 12, 1898.

12 June 2012 | Independence Day