Clay Jars by Filipino Artists. I thought about my little jar and wished I could have brought it home as a souvenir but they had already placed it in and lost track of which one was mine.
By midmorning, I was dropped of by my Kalesa at the pottery shop of one of our country’s National Artist Fidel Antiporda Go. I asked the lady offering souvenirs where I would find the studio and she pointed me to the three men smoking. Apparently they were on a cigarette break and were just about to resume working. One of them cut up a huge slab of clay, lifted it up and placed it on the metal wheel where the guy who would mold was dipping his hands in water. Someone spun the wheel around with his foot, round and round it went as the clay was being formed into a pot.
Today they were making clay tiles for salt farms near the sea. I asked the one molding the pot how long he has been in his work and he told me he started learning the art when he was 10 years old and took him another ten years before he finished his apprenticeship. He started explaining the process by which tiles and Burnay jars were made describing how suitable clay is gathered first and then molded, baked and cured. The whole process takes about 8-10 days depending on what they are creating.
These earth jars used to be the container of choice by people of the region, I myself experience using them back in the province as water containers, and my grandfathers gourd for his favorite basi wine. Nowadays, demand for these jars center on opposite ends of the spectrum one being merely decorative and the other absolutely utilitarian as salt filters and fish sauce fermentation containers. I asked the workers if I could have a go at it and they obliged by letting me mold my own lopsided jar. I enjoyed the feel of damp earth on my fingers and gained a sense of appreciation of their craft as I learned you also needed to have some degree of strength to be able to mold the earth into the shape and design of your choice.
They took my pot and soon I followed to the oven or what they called kiln. They told me I could go inside the oven and I felt a little bit foolish when thoughts of Hansel and Gretel popped inside my head. I crawled up into the Kiln and saw how spacious it was after all. It stretched a full 50 meters but was already almost filled up by jars that were going to be baked. I stepped out of the oven thanked my gracious guide.