Vigan City, Ilocos Sur
06 March 2010
In Vigan City, there are two well known pottery shops, the RG Pottery and the Ruby Pottery shops, which are actually related to each other. When I first set foot in Vigan City in 2006, my siblings and I visited the RG Pottery, but in 2007... seeing there was a bus pulling over Ruby Pottery Shop, we decided to go with the tourists' flow and it allowed us to see National Folk Artist - Fidel Go - in person, at work.
March 2010, I went back to Vigan City, and seeing the Ruby Pottery was just walking distance from the bus terminal where I left my luggage as I walk around Vigan, I went to give it another visit.
Fidel Antiporda Go is a National Folk Artist of Chinese descent known for his craft in pottery. He is the son of Ongkai Go, who set up the Ruby Pottery shop with cousin Igan Go. He inherited the jar factory from them, and among the two surviving Chinese-owned pottery shops, he is the only one who still does pottery himself.
In 2007, I was able to witness him work, and I was really amazed. Not only did he share his talent, he also shared history and knowledge about the art and the craft of pottery making... and also allowed guests to get their hands try pottery making. Sadly, during my revisit in 2010, he wasn't around in the shop, but since there were tourists, workers at the jar factory were the ones to impart knowledge.
Clay Mixing. With the help of a carabao (or water buffalo), clay soil is mixed (just like making a dough to make bread), which is then going to be used to mold the clay jars.
At Work. How they do the jars are basically the same as how any potters do their jars. I guess the biggest difference is that their materials are quite bigger, and as one molds the jar, another spins the wheel using his foot, and one readies the next chunk of clay to be used.
After the initial molding, one will carry it to the next station - where a worker polishes the shape of the jar before leaving it to dry for some hours.
Pugon. This is where they cook the clay jars. Cooking and cooling the jars take days to complete, so consider yourself lucky if you happen to pass by the factory while they load and/or unload the oven.
There are so designs and sizes available for tourists to buy, but the time I visited the factory, they were busy making jars the size of a small bucket. One of the workers said these jars were orders from a salt-making factory.
The Ruby Pottery shop is open everyday, but of course, if you want to see the men at work, try to visit the place around 9am - 11:30am and again at 2pm -4pm. They are open even during lunch break - as they have a shop outside, but I just put the time in as a guide. There are no guarantees, though. :)
Burnay (or the clay jar) is one of the products Vigan City is proud of. Next time you visit the city, I really suggest you try and visit the shop.
*** Jenn ***