Burnay: Ilocos’ pot of gold


Burnay is a local term for the clay wares produced around Ilocos.

I recall in the mid-‘90’s when our family went to Vigan. We went through a few sidestreets behind the Provincial capitol to find some burnay shops.

We found ourselves in a lot with so many clay pots of all shapes and sizes. Some were deep brown, some were the color of rust. Some looked melted and collapsed, some looked trendy with cut-out designs. Broken pieces of burnay line the pathway to a hut.

In the hut, we find a mud-pit and a lazy susan. The mud-pit is where the raw material is mixed into the right consistency (sometimes with the help of a carabao!). The lazy susan is a gigantic concrete potter’s wheel around 1 meter in diameter. This is where the soft clay placed, spun round and round and shaped into a sexy pot.

We were lucky to find ourselves at the workshop of a national artist. He told us stories about how he was invited to show his art at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. He shaped his claypots to the tune of … “Oh my love, my darling …” (the theme song from 1991 classic movie “Ghost”), to the delight of his international audience.

But on that day, we were his audience. He showed us how a clump of clay is shaped by a steady hand, a patient mind, and years of experience. I helped him (rather, I think I helped him) by spinning the lazy susan with my foot.

We went away with many pots for my mother’s plants and the garden, lots of mosquito bites and brilliant memories of this artwork they call “Burnay” – a pot of gold, I say.

ka edong potter

Next Tuesday: I don’t know yet, we’ll think of something

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