Friday, August 23, 2013

Pottery Making in Miagao: True to Tradition

a family of potters in Barangay Cagbang, Miagao, Iloilo, photo by Bombette G. Marin

Travel to Barangay Cagbang in Miagao, Iloilo to try your hands in making clay pieces like mini pots and jars, pendants, vases or beads under the guidance of local potters that have never stopped turning all their pieces by hand. There is even a workshop where you can test your own pottery-making skills with your clay ready.

traditional "pugon" for wood and charcaol, photo by Bombette G. Marin

The barangay has long been the cradle of Miagao's good quality clay pots. Traditional pottery making in the area starts with the gathering the clay from natural deposits. They go through pounds and pounds of natural clay weekly, normally dug at the back of their houses. The clay is then packed in thick paper cement bags or dried banana leaves and carried back to their homes to be worked into pottery. Before the potter could begin forming the clay, potters had to remove any hard, non-clay items, such as pebbles or twigs. The traditional process required adding water to the clay and then kneading the body using their bare feet for a long time to remove all inconsistencies making sure it is smooth and with even texture. Then they shape the clay body using basic traditional tools that include the wheel and turntable; shaping tools such as a paddle, rolling tools cutting and piercing tools.

Pottery is made by forming a clay body into objects of desired shapes. The figures are then dried. Before heating the objects, they are covered with fried hay then heat them to high temperatures. Baking normally lasts for 3 hours. For pots, a finishing tool such as a burnishing stone or a “Bato Bantiling” is used.

Clays had been pumping through their veins and hands many centuries ago. And many generations of potters in the barangay have passed down the craft from its humble beginnings all the way to today. Though the pottery has made some concessions to modernity, including electric turning wheels and enormous gas-fueled ovens, most of them have no part of pot-making machines.

In August 11 of this year, potters have organized themselves as the Cagbang Association of Potters and are composed of 22 active members headed by Mr. Edgardo Reyes. Members are now making flower vases, ashtrays, paperweights, trinkets, showpieces, decorative figures and mini tea sets that can be offered as gifts to the loved ones and can be used for interior decoration.

Pottery art is the traditional of all art forms. Many of the world’s civilizations have left indelible marks of their art and culture through their art of pottery.  Ancient potteries with rustic shapes and coarse textures are heritage pieces that make for ethnic decorations.  The Terracotta objects, clay artifacts and glazed potteries are some popular antique pottery items.

Miagao church in the eyes of a 17-year old boy potter

Though pottery making has changed over the years, and the process of pottery making has been modernized in some ways, two things have remained constant down the generations: the passion family members show for their craft and the hard work they commit to it.

clay beads as bracelets for sale

Barangay Cagbang is situated 7 kilometers from the town center or a 20-minuter tricycle ride. For more information, please contact Mr. Arli John Nim-Municipal Tourism Officer at 09328748314 or Mr. Edgardo Reyes, President, Cagbang Association of Potters at 09052026543 or 09996535809. See more of their potteries on exhibit at the Miagao both for the 9th Tumandok on September 18-21 at the fountain area of Robinsons Place-Iloilo.

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