Philippine Folk Art
Filipinos are probably one of the most creative and colorful people around. You can tell this just by looking at the types of folk art that we have. Sadly, some of these art forms are now dying as the younger generation does not seem to have any interest in learning about them. Okay, maybe that’s a generalization, but the fact remains that not a lot of young ones know the process and hard work that go with these arts.
Folk Art should not be confused with Indigenous Art. Folk Art is defined as “Art originating among the common people of a nation or region and usually reflecting their traditional culture, especially everyday or festive items produced or decorated by unschooled artists.” (Source) Indigenous Art meanwhile is defined as any art form, whether it be literature, music, fine arts, theatre or film which is created by an Indigenous group… okay, so maybe the definitions are too close together but there is a thin line.
Here are the top Pinoy Folk Art:
1. Saniculas cookie mold carvings (Pampanga)– This folk art is elegant and beautiful as it is a dying art. Saniculas cookies are arrowroot cookies that have the image of St. Nicholas molded on it ergo the name Saniculas. St. Nicholas is also known as “the healer” and is the go to saint for those who need “healing” from illnesses. Legend say that if you consume these cookies when one is ill, you get healed and recover in a shorter amount of time than it would usually take.
The moulds are an exceptional piece of folk art and a rarity, if I do say so myself. Saniculas cookie makers would commission the carvers of these moulds with one of a kind designs. They would also have the initials of the owner monogrammed on the moulds. This is why it’s so rare – it is considered a family heirloom. The moulds are made of hardwood and are of different shapes and sizes. They would have a carved piece and a wooden presser.
2. Pabalat or Pastillas wrapper cutting art (Bulacan) – When I was a little girl, I was so fascinated by these wrappers that I wouldn’t eat the pastillas for fear of ruining the wrappers. Of course, since the wrapper was made out of delicate Japanese paper, they would inevitably tear or degrade. Even the way to make it is so delicate that only the ones with skilled hands and have perfect control of their motor skills can produce the best kind. (So, sa mga taong sobrang inom ng kape, I don’t recommend this at all)
Sadly, this too, is a dying art. Reports say that only Lola Luz Ocampo is the last crafts(wo)man of this art. However, Lola Luz has made it her mission to train and pass on her knowledge to the younger generation in Bulacan. We hope to see this art flourish again.
3.Taka (Laguna) -The art of “taka” or “taka-making” is not an exclusive Pinoy art. Paper mache and decoupaging have been around for centuries. In the Philippines, the first recorded or mention of a created taka was by a woman named Maria Bague in the 1920’s. She has wooden moulds that were covered in strips of paper dipped in a sticky paste. She would later paint them colorfully and presented them as children’s toys. Due to a fire though, none of the original takas were saved.
Taka making became more popular during the American colonization period when there was an excess of newsprint. And because Pinoys hate wasting anything, the people of Paete decided to create more takas and even diversified into different animals and not just the traditional red horse.
4.Pagbuburda (Taal, Lumban, Laguna) -I remember my grandmother trying to “encourage” me to try embroidery when I was a little girl. Somehow it was a pre-requisite then (and probably a birth right) for all women to know basic housework and embroidery. I thank her for teaching me how to do a chain stitch and other sewing techniques but I just did not have the skill she did for pagbuburda.
The art of embroidery is happily alive and flourishing in these towns. Although it’s mostly done by women who are wives of the farmers and fishermen, it is not uncommon to see fishermen and farmers who are also carefully and delicately embroidering floral designs during their “off-season”.
5. Singkaban or Bamboo Art (Bulacan) – A fairly new type of Philippine folk art, Singkaban is the art of shaving bamboo into artful creations that can be used as decor for arches or for the home. Skilled craftsmen patiently shaves off the bamboo, layer by layer, to create curls and delicate twirls of thin bamboo.
Singkaban is usually a celebratory art. Singkaban craftsmen create these gregariously designed bamboo arches for fiestas, weddings and other celebrations that involve the entire community. Perhaps it is our sense of “bayanihan” that inspired this artform – ensuring that art is appreciated and is accessible to everyone in the community and their guests.
6.Puni or Palm leaf folding (Bulacan) -Another dying folk art, Puni or palm leaf folding was intended to create artful toys for kids. However, puni can also be used to create woven baskets, bags and even fans! The most common permutation of Puni art is the palaspas we see every Holy Week.
Because of the abundance of coconut leaves, the Pinoys have ingeniously created toys and other items through Puni. Although fresh coconut or palm leaves are most commonly used, the leaves dry and crumble within a few days. It is now more common to use leaves that are dried, treated and dyed for strength and color.