Piña Burdadero sa Lumban
February 25, 2013 § 1 Comment
Mom, Tita Pelang and I just returned from Lumban, hopping off the South Luzon Expressway and onto the National Highway, which hugs the shores of Laguna de Bay. We passed through Calamba (birthplace of the José Rizal) and Los Baños, which along with Calamba is famous for its hot springs. The highway is lined with nurseries stocked with bouganvilleas in a riot of different shades. On the way we passed by this crazy looking restaurant in the town of Victoria, called Isdaan, which had these enormous terra cotta fish sculptures spitting water into this very elaborate system of canals, difficult to describe… anyway we ended up eating a very late lunch there on the way back. We had green mango shakes, a roast chicken marineated in gata (coconut milk) and a very crispy and delicious krispy pata.
But back to the purpose of the trip. I had done a little research and decided that I would stop by Marivic’s house to procure Barong Tagalogs for my dad, brother, Owen and his dad. Marivic owns La Burda de Filipina (the embroidery of the Filipina)… . Marivic laid out several beautiful barongs, some gown fabrics and some alampays. Because I was curious, she called in two of her embroiderers to demonstrate the process of decorating the Barong Tagalogs. One of the embroiderers, an older manang was embroidering vines and roses in a padded satin stitch onto an enormous piece of fabric, the other embroiderer, actually a caladodero was a man in his early 40s. I was a bit confused when he came in, as out of the corner of my eye it looked like he was crawling. Acutally he contracted polio as a child, but refused a wheel chair all of his life. Instead he chooses to walk around with his legs tucked underneath him, moving mostly with his arms. When he stopped in front of us, his legs were in the same position as they were when he was moving. He was shy, but clearly enjoyed our sense of awe as we watched him spread the fibers of the piña silk into various patterns.
Marivic is the chairperson of the Lumban Embroiderer’s Association, a cooperative organized to secure fair wages for the craftspeople of Lumban. By the time that heavily embroidered garments make their way to market, they’ve been marked up in excess of 300% in some cases, and very little of this goes to the craftspeople themselves, a fact that disincentivizes the preservation of the craft, which for me is only a secondary concern, though I would be truly heartbroken if this craft disappeared. However, truly heartening is the fact that the coop has been largely successful, with the help of Lumban’s mayor in securing higher wages for the burdaderas and burdaderos.
A partial explanation about why Lumban ended up being the embroidery capital of the Philippines is the fact that it was the center of missionary activity in the region. Spanish nuns, or so the story goes taught the art of embroidery to local girls. However, it has been noted that iron needles were being imported to the region by Chinese traders since the thirteenth century, which would explain why you see so many Chinese motifs in Filipino embroidery. Similarities to Indian artistic traditions, in addition to motifs drawn from native tattoos can also be seen. The influence of the Spanish Franciscan nuns, however is perhaps, strongest in Lumban.
By the way, my dress is being designed by Oliver Tolentino… he also deals through the Lumban Embroidery Association. Here is a dress he did in blue piña that he designed for Maria Menounos (of Extra).