The Philippine Brassware

The Philippine Brassware

By Apolinario Villalobos

The Maranaos of Lanao find brass as a good object on which they express themselves artistically. Be it on a lampstands, “gong”, plant holders, jars, ash trays, and food trays, the Maranao brass artist whose deft hands have been made sensitive by years of experience, imprint his personal expression of the “okir” and “naga” art forms.

Equated with the southern culture which in itself is exotic, the brassware is usually considered as an object that could enliven any living room, office, restaurant corners, or hotel lobby. Those who visit Marawi City, Jolo, Zamboanga City or Cotabato City, always see to it that they have a brass item with them as a souvenir to be brought home. Not only are the brassware kept for their decorative value, but also for their cultural significance.

While brasscraft is a waning source of income for some families in other Muslim provinces as product outlets, in southern Lanao, particularly, Tugaya, locals still consider it otherwise, on which they still rely for a living. Here, some of the artisans still use the crude centuries-old foundry and casting methods. Despite the crudeness of the craft in Tugaya, the cottage industry is struggling for its perpetuation.

It is said that the craft was brought in Tugaya by a local trader, Maruhom Maulia, who got the knowledge from his trading trips to Tampasok, Sabah, where brass and bronze items were manufactured. Eventually, he fell in love and married the Sultan’s daughter.

According to Dr. Manitua Saber, an authority on Islamic arts, the techniques used by the artisans of Tugaya are, similar to those being used in Bali, Sumatra and Brunei. Furthermore, he said that the technology could have found its way to Southeast Asia by way of China or India, in 1,000 A.D.

There are two processes practiced by the Maranao artisans, such as, the stamping and drip wax techniques. It is interesting to note that the tools which the artisans use are also made by them, usually out of the local materials.

In the stamping technique, brass plates are incised using a home-made compass for the purpose of indicating the size. Several plain plates which are tied together are etched or punched with intricate designs of “naga” or “okir”, or both, before they formed into the desired item. Brassware produced out of this method, are cheaper compared to the drip wax technique which is more tedious, involving more time and processes. The latter, actually, revolves around the “mold” technique, and though crude, needs several phases to complete the process.

The brassware comes in many forms and uses. Those who are not familiar with the use of the items, would resort to just one thing – use them as decorative accessories in homes and offices. It is not surprising therefore, to find homes whose tables in the living room are accented with brass betel nut containers, open flat iron, small gongs or kulentang set and urns.

In Pasay City, brass and bronze items from the small ash trays and betel nut containers to big jars and urns can be found at the Philtrade Center, beside the World Trade Center, along Roxas Boulevard. Similar items can also be found in the Ermita district of Manila and the Islamic Center in Quiapo. As there is much difficulty in determining the antiquity of an item that might catch one’s fancy, it is suggested that it be purchased based on its exquisiteness…just always remember to haggle.

“Help Save Our National Library”

“Help save our National Library…”

By Apolinario Villalobos

The call to save the National Library of the Philippines (NLP)…our Library, came from Atty. Antonio Santos, the Director of the National Library of the Philippines. He voiced this out during our meeting (November 5, 2014), regarding matters on solicitation and donations, with his Asst. Director, Ms. Yolly Jacinto, CDD Chief, Ms. Tess Pimentel and CDD Asst. Chief, Ms. Melody Madrid. He added his call for understanding from readers in view of the ongoing retrofitting project. The loud drone from the drilling equipment below the conference room did not deter the progress of our discussion.

Atty. Santos shared long-ranged plans that centered on how the facilities of the library can be made more reader-friendly and abreast with the fast evolution of high technology. He cited in particular the plan to establish an e-library to facilitate researches, and the expansion of the Filipiniana section which shall include a gallery of rare books. He was positive that all those can be done with the support of the different sectors in augmenting whatever budget can be allocated from the national coffer. He, with the untiring support of the Assistant Director, Ms. Jacinto, has been enthusiastically coming out with his progressive ideas ever since he took over the directorship of the institution.

In the meantime, the cooperative and cohesive attitude of the staff who had been willingly sacrificing their weekends ever since the retrofitting project began, is very much observable. They have been pitching in their time to pack books and equipment for moving to available safe spaces within the building to give way to the retrofitting of the posts and floor areas. Despite the hectic activities and dust, pertinent sections are still made available to readers and clients with other transactions.

After our meeting, I braved the dust to personally see the extent of the retrofitting project, with the help of Delia Tambong, in-charge of the Library’s utility support group. While making the rounds, we met staff with trolleys full of boxes, while some were stacking them in safe corners. What I saw has made me wonder how the institution could still function as normally as it could, despite their difficult situation. Indeed, they show an admirable feat!

Surveys and studies show that despite the hi-tech phenomenon resulting to the unquestionably convenient access to information via the internet, there is still a popular demand for hard copies of reference materials that are available in libraries and bookstores. Add to that the fact that practical and wise researchers, especially, students would rather spend their time, free-of-charge in libraries than in internet cafes where every single minute ticks the peso sign.

The retrofitting project may take some time until the last whiff of dust has settled, signaling the completion of the gallant effort to make the National Library of the Philippines more sturdy and functional. Despite this, coupled with the limited financial upkeep, the institution, with Atty. Santos at the helm, untiringly pursues its set goals of satisfying the requirements of walk-in readers, and serving as the umbrella of all public libraries throughout the country.

The National Library of the Philippines is an integral part of the country’s history. It is the repository of the Filipino’s intellectual achievements. The edifice houses books some of which were written by our heroes, including those of Jose Rizal, aside from different kinds of documents that stood as mute witnesses to the arduous cultural and political development our country in the face of trying times. These reasons are just a few, that should awaken Filipinos to realize its importance, and its need to survive. Personally, I cannot imagine a country without a National Library.

To know more about the institution, friends are requested to check the following:

Website:; twitter:;

wordpress:; tumbler: nlpmuse;

facebook: NationalLibraryofthePhilippines



Ang Bulok na Style ng Mga Mambabatas Upang Kumita at Maalala

Ang Bulok na Style ng Mga

Mambabatas Upang Kumita at Maalala

Ni Apolinario Villalobos

Ang ginagawa ni Franklin Drilon na hindi pag-ako ng proyekto sa pagpatayo ng Convention Center sa Iloilo City, ay pagpapakita ng bulok na style ng mga mambabatas pagdating sa ganitong bagay. Kung hindi siguro siya sinampahan ng kaso na dahilan upang siya ay maimbestigahan, malamang pinagyayabang niya ito na kanya. Ngayon, ang palagi niyang sinasabi ay maliban sa paggamit ng kanyang budget, wala na siyang kinalaman sa proyekto. Kaya siya napagbintangan ng overpricing ay dahil, ang kontraktor na nanalo sa bidding ay siya ring kontraktor na gumawa ng Makati City Hall II, na pinaghihinalaang kakutsaba ni Binay upang magawa ang overpricing. Nagkakabistuhan na sa style ng mga mambabatas na “referencing” para malaman kung anong kontraktor ang maaaring kutsabahin upang kumita.

Hintayin nating sana ay mapatunayang walang problema sa proyekto na ito, at siguradong hindi magkakandaugaga si Drilon sa pagbrodkast na kung hindi dahil sa kanya ay hindi magkakaroon ng Convention Center ang Iloilo City!

Ang hindi mabura-burang bulok na style ng mga mambatatas ay ang paglagay ng larawan nila sa mga tarpaulin at mga pininturahang yero na palatandaan ng mga proyekto, at nagsasaad na sila ang promotor, sa halip na ipahiwatig na ang pondo ay galing sa kaban ng bayan, kaya proyekto ng taong bayan. Pati ang mga sasakyang pinamumudmod sa mga barangay, kalsada na ilang dipa lang ang ni-repair, waiting shed, basketball court, eskwelahan, karatula ng mga NGO, at mga t-shirt tungkol sa mga proyekto ay hindi nakaligtas.

Minsan may nadaanan akong squatter’s area at natawa nang makita ko ang tarpaulin ng isang epal na pulitikong ginamit na pantapal sa butas ng dingding sa second floor ng isang lumang gumigiray na building, dahil nasa ibabaw mismo ito ng karatula ng beer house na nasa ground floor. May nakita rin akong tarpaulin ng kaepalan pa rin ng pulitiko, kumpleto sa larawan niya, na nagsilbing “pinto” ng kubeta. Yong isa namang tarpaulin na may larawan, nakita ko na ginamit pambalot sa isang malapad na bangko ng karinderya, sentrong- sentro ang larawan sa nauupuan…kaya tuloy hindi ligtas sa utot ng mga umuupo – deserve nilang mabugahan ng sama ng loob!