Sunday, March 4, 2012

Brenda V. Fajardo's "Ang Inukit na kaalamang bayan ng Paete"

Brenda V. Fajardo's "Ang Inukit na kaalamang bayan ng Paete"
by BRT Baylas

Siningbayan or folk art, according to the Museum of International Folk Art, is an art created by a community with shared values, and is passed from generation to generation through established traditions. According to Fajardo, understanding folk arts in a particular community is essential in grasping one's culture, and recognizing one's local and international identity (3). The products that make up a community's folk art are concrete proofs of artists' values and beliefs.
Photo by Angelsketch

Paete, the Carving Capital of the Philippines (Presidential Proclamation no. 809), is a 6,301.625-hectare town at the northeastern part of Laguna. Paete is popular for its woodcarving, an industry that provides for seventy percent of the population's livelihood (from Paete website). Carving has been part of the life of the people of Paete since, or maybe even before the Spaniards invaded the Philippines. It is one major reason why Brenda V. Fajardo, the author, has chosen Paete and its carved crafts as the main focus of the study. To understand Paete's cultural identity is to understand their art.

The author consulted different sources to get enough background about Paete and its culture. First, she looked at the art itself, the different forms and materials used in carving, since the art products are the primary source in understanding an artist. Also, she interviewed the townspeople and took into consideration their own observations and memories. She also consulted the documents published about the history of Paete. Lastly, she looked at the different articles and documents published about the Philippine arts.

The research was presented like it was following the same process a sculpture is going through. In that way, as a reader finds out more about Paete and its art, he or she would also feel closer to the art process. Just like carving, the process began with the laying out of the pattern and template, tilling and carving, and ended with cleaning and varnishing. The first part talks about the pattern and template. In carving, the padron (pattern) and plantilya (template) is set out to guide for the artist in carving. In the research, the padron part, presents the framework used in, plans for, and focus of the study. While the plantilya (template) part looks at the historical background of Paete, before the Spaniards came up to 1906, during Peacetime up to 1946, and during Liberation time up to 1986.

The second part is the banghay and bagbag, which is the process of tilling and carving itself. In the study, the banghay part talks about the art as applied to churches, where the lives of the people revolved around. The bagbag part talks about the purpose of art in the people's everyday life. A calendar of activities that involved the art was presented.

The last part, linis and barnis, which is literally translated to clean and varnish, is the process of removing grazes and further detailing the sculpture. In the linis (clean) part of the chapter, the author talks about the art itself, the different ways it was created and the different forms of art that evolved out of it: statues, figures, wooden slippers (bakya), decorations, ice, and many more. In this part, she also featured various artists from Paete and discussed their different contributions in the art and culture of the town. In the barnis (varnish) part, the author shares her own interpretation and insights on art, society, values, and beliefs of the town (12).

As a guide in conducting and analyzing the research, the author followed three concepts: pagkatao (personation), pananaw (vision), and pakikipagkapwa (relationships). In personation, the author followed the framework established by Dr. Prospero Covar, which claims that an artist always has an inner (loob) and outer (labas) aspect. Dr. Covar, mentioned that the outer aspect that affects an artist consists of the environmental situation, the history, and the meaning and structure of the society, while the inner aspect consists of the artist's own beliefs and values. The author made a slight change in Dr. Covar's framework. She added that the inner and outer aspects affecting an artist is a continuous process (5).

The author also followed Dr. Zeus Salazar's pantayong pananaw or having your own sense of identity. Since the country has been colonized, the culture is influenced by different foreign factors, so it is so hard to distinguish a towns own identity. The best way of understanding a culture is to recognize a town's own cultural identity and consider own self as part of the culture being studied (11).

The concept of socialization or relationships established by Dr. Virgilio Enriquez, also proved helpful. Dr. Enriquez believed that interviews are not enough in understanding a culture, and that being part of the people's lives gives a researcher a good grasp of their lives (Fajardo 12).

The way the culture and art was presented was not far from the concept of thick description. The details were presented the way it is, not as interpreted by the author. Following the process of making the sculpture in presenting the research is a good  way to keep the readers closer to the subject. As a reader gets to know about the culture and art, he or she also follows how the art came to be. The frameworks used gives an idea on how to look outside from the inside and vice versa. Knowing what affects an artist outside and inside, gives a reader a better understanding of the art.

Works Cited

Fajardo, Brenda V. Ang inukit na kaalaman ng bayan ng Paete. Manila: NCCA, 2005. Print.

Museum of International Folk Art. "What is folk art?" Web. 7 January 2012. <>

Presidential Proclamation no. 809.  15 March 2005.

Paete Government. "About Paete". Official website of the Carving Capital of the Philippines. Web. 7 January 2012. <> 

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