VIGAN ILOCOS SUR The Art of Making Burnay
TEXT and PHOTOS BY AUBREY SC MAKILAN
Ilocandia's century old produce is one of the philippines wealth.
VIGAN, ILOCOS SUR – Aside from protecting their historic Antillan ancestral houses, Viganos struggle to preserve the traditional way of making burnay (unglazed earthen jars), an industry that literally came from earth. The burnay is made of clay mashed by carabaos and mixed with sand. The more convenient electric kilns are however displacing the dragon kilns where the burnay jars are baked, leading to the slow demise of a centuries-old tradition and way of life.
Burnay are earthen jars with small openings while those with bigger mouths are called wangging. In the early years, the burnay, locally known as tapayan or banga, was used for storage of water, rice grains, basi (sugarcane wine) and condiments like salt and bagoong (fish paste). Burnay jars are also used in the fermentation of vinegar that comes from the sweet sap of the Arenga Pinnata, a sugar palm tree more commonly known as “kaong.” According to locals, Arengga vinegar tastes better if stored in burnay jars than in plastic or metal containers.
The jar maker takes a piece of the clay according to his desired jar size. He sprinkles it first with fine sand before placing it on the potter’s wheel, which he manually operates with his foot. He earns P5-7 for every large jar he makes.
For huge jars, the molder creates the lower and upper parts separately. Then, another helper combines the two parts.
The jars are then left to dry for a day and then placed in the oven or dragon kiln, which is 50 meters long and more than four feet high. Made of bricks, its roof is designed with dragon’s scales. The jars are cooked in 1200°C heat, vitrifying the sand and clay to form a metal glass-like surface that resonates like a bell when struck by stone. After three days in the kiln, it takes another 20-22 hours for the jars to sufficiently harden.
Unfortunately, not all jars come out perfect. Out of the 500 jars that a dragon kiln can bake at a time, more than 50 usually become deformed due to “over firing.” These “melted” jars however are still used by landscape artists to bring a touch of Ilocos to their houses. Some deformed jars are sold at half, or even less, than the usual price. Some factories sell them at P4-7 per kilo. Well-made jars on the other hand cost P300-P600 per piece depending on the size.
* Photos and text by AUBREY SC MAKILAN of Bulatlat.Com