Friday, May 15, 2009


FULLY FURNISHED. An officer's house in Clark Field, furnished with Pampanga-made wicker furniture, including a rocking chair, a writing desk, cabinets and a lounge chair.

The center of Pampanga's woodworking industry is Betis, which has long been recognized as one of 11 Pampanga's most important towns at the turn of the century. Its name is derived from a first class timber tree, betis (Bassia betis merr.). The abundant supply of wood--old boatmakers remember the days when logs from the forests of Alta Pampanga and Bataan were floated on the old Betis River--gave rise to a furniture industry that has thrived and survved with time.

Indeed, “dukit Betis” has become synonymous with fine quality, detailed woodworks that counts not just fine furniture but also religious carvings and images. Besides Betis, lumbering was done in Lubao, Floridablanca and Porac. Most of the lumber is consumed locally, but some is exported to Manila. Lumber was also sourced from trees cut in Magalang and Arayat, like rattan, mitla, balacat, balanti, balete, baticuling and bangcal—materials ideal for furniture making.

Colonial furniture made locally adapted European styles popular in those times—rococo, baroque, neo-classical, although some elements of Chinese influences were integrated into the design. The use of bone inlays to decorate wood furniture became a trend in the 18th century, and Betis craftsmen were singled out for their skill. Historian Mariano Henson noted that Betis anloagues (woodworkers) were masters in the art of inlaying carved furniture with mother-of-pearl, bone and hardwood.

The American regime introduced new art forms like Art Deco and sleek, streamlined furniture pieces like Ambassador sets and Cleopatra dresser became the rage in the 1920 through the 40s. Americans took to furniture made from indigenous materials. Officers’ houses in Stotsenburg were furnished with attractive living room sets made of hardy rattan, which can be bent into different shapes, even mimicking expensive bentwood pieces from Austria. Their porches featured lounge chairs made from mountain bamboo (bulu) or with sillones and butacas with sulihiya (cane-woven) seats. American ladies sat on gorgeous peacock chairs of wicker , virtual thrones for the queen of the house.

Commercial furniture shops sprouted all over Pampanga during the peacetime years catering to different tastes and whims. In Guagua, Moderna Furniture manufactured “aparadores, catres, tocadores, vegillas, sillas made of narra and tanguile”, all with “first class workmanship and reasonable prices”. In Angeles, Sibug Furniture on Calle Rizal was the place to look for the latest furniture styles. Mabalacat had its won Bazar y Tableria de Tuazon y Lim, a “fabrica de diferentes clases de muebles”( a factory of different kinds of furniture). On Calle N. Domingo in San Juan, two enterprising Kapampangans, Clemente Dungo and Estanislao Dalusung opened Pampanga Furniture Company.

The rise of Clark Field in the 50s through the 1970s induced the flourishing of Pampanga’s furniture industry. Balibago in Angeles was lined with furniture shops with pieces catering to American taste. American servicemen particularly found South Pacific design themes appealing and so, rattan furniture gained more popularity, with cushions sporting floral and palm leaf upholstery. Kon Tiki masks, monkeypod pieces, dinettes with lazy susans and carved coffeetable trunks graced American as well as Kapampangan homes.

A notable woodworker who worked during this period was the versatile Juan Flores (b. 9 September 1900) of Sta. Ursula, Betis. He not only sculpted figures of heroes and saints but also made carved furniture that incorporated local patterns like bulabulaklak (floral) and kulakulate (design simulating vines). Flores and his platoon of Betis carvers re-did the guest rooms and various suites of Malacanang, furnishing them with exquisite furniture sets and various Renaissance style carved ornamentations.

Today, the Pampanga furniture industry is alive and well. One only has to see the many talyers lining the Olongapo-Gapan and Bacolor-Guagua Roads, with their roadside displays serving as showcases of Kapampangan woodworking expertise. Thanks also to successful, modern day entrepreneurs and furniture exporters like Myrna and Jose Bituin of Betis Crafts, the world has started to see what hard-working Kapampangan hands and creative Kapampangan minds are capable of.

1 comment:

talulard said...

keep posting like this it’s really very good idea, you are awesome!