The province of Bohol remained steadfast in reviving its wood carving tradition, more importantly after the 2013 earthquake turned most of its churches into rubble.
Fr. Val Pinlac, chair of the Bohol Arts and Cultural Heritage Council, said the wood carving industry had not been active for some time and that they only tried to revive it after the 7.2-magnitude earthquake damaged most of Bohol’s heritage churches and buildings.
He said, “Wood carving sort of developed after the earthquake. We were being pushed to the limit. Something like that comes out… it’s do or die.”
In a rush to restore the damaged churches, locals turned to wood carving to make retablos and urnas that are also commonly found in most homes in Bohol, Fr. Pinlac added.
Heritage comes alive
Local carver Arsenio Lagura Jr. has been into wood carving since age 17. With the help of 15 other Boholanos, he was able to carve the grand three-panel retablo of Santa Monica Church in Albuquerque.
The design of the grand, three-panel retablo was taken from the old churches in Bohol. Wood that was used, mostly molave, came from trees that fell during the earthquake. Fr. Pinlac said they were able to secure permits from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to reuse them.
He said, “People always tell me that as long as there are people who are willing to share their time and skills, the wood carving heritage will never be dead. And so, here it is. It was really very ambitious. From then on, Santa Monica Church has sort of gained a reputation of being a post-earthquake church.”
Aside from wood carving, Bohol is also promoting its weaving industry.
The Municipality of Antequerra started its cottage industry in 1911. A family got engaged in making bukag, a big basket or wide-mouthed container with “big eyelets” that are about one and a half meters in height. Usually made from splits of bamboo and rattan, the bukag was primarily used by farmers for transporting rice seedlings from their beds to the rice paddies.
In the early 1960s, production of the bukag rose from dozens to hundreds per week. The weavers sought different materials to use: splits of banban, palms, nito vines or buri midribs.
Weaving slowly spread into nearby barrios of Antequerra. People are now weaving other products such as harvesting hats and mats.
In 1972, the Cottage Industry Development Association was established to help Boholanos with skills training and marketing related to weaving. Since then, Antequerra weavers have produced more than 500 weaving designs of varying sizes and styles. These consists of nito and buri bracelets, nito and buri necklaces, bamboo or buri bread trays, bamboo fruit trays, buri hats, buri and baliw mats, buri and nito hairclips or hamper baskets.
Wood carving and weaving in Bohol are alive again.