Saturday, January 24, 2009

the Burnayan of Vigan

Outside of Luzon especially in the Visayas, mentioning the word Vigan makes people think of a lot of things- the longganisa, the living movie set that is Calle Crisologo, the brick tiles and not least of all, the burnay or the large earthenware jar Vigan jar. Think of vessels valued customarily used for bagoong (fish sauce) and sugarcane wine.

antique burnays on display at Crisologo Museum (photo by my wife)

In one visit to Vigan, Ilocos Sur in 2005, we saw how the Vigan jar is made in Barangay VII more popularly known as Pagburnayan. Up to this date, this southwesternmost part of the poblacion is where all the burnay camarin (cottage factories) are located. Unsurprisingly, the manufacture of burnay essentially remains faithful to the technique introduced some five hundred years ago by Chinese artisans. The primary material is the rich red Ilocos clay. When fashioned by hand on a potter’s wheel, mixed with find sand (“anay") as tempering material and baked at a high temperature in a huge brick-and-clay ground kiln, burnay is known to be stronger than ordinary terra cotta.

a craftsman at a burnayan in Vigan City, Ilocos Sur

Its commercial ascendance actually came in the late 1800s when burnay technology was revived in Vigan by a new wave of Chinese immigrants. Its main proponent was a direct descendant of Fidel Go, owner of the Ruby Pottery and sometime nominee in the Gawad Manlilikha ng Bayan (National Folk Artist Award) of the National Commission on Culture and the Arts for artistry in the craft.

At present, burnay is used for decorative functions, coming in new shapes, sizes and designs from the plant pots and fanciful ashtrays. To most of us though, burnay still means oversized jars. Some images are difficult to shake off.

Burnayan, Vigan, Ilocos Sur
traditional large burnay for sale at Vigan

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