A visit to the Ifugao woodcarver’s village in Asin
Captivated by the beautiful backpack or “pasiking” of my niece Aina, I asked her where she got it. It was especially attractive on her as it was enhanced by her beauty, flowing long hair and height.
Aina told me she got it from a sale at the top of Porta Vaga. Nevertheless, she gave me the name and number of the person she bought it from. The seller’s name is Grace Afos-Mondiguing, who hails from Abra while husband, Baltazar, is from Hungduan, Ifugao. Together they own and manage the Grace Mondiguing Handicraft and Trading at Km. 5, Asin Road, Tadiangan, Tuba, Benguet. They have nine children and two apos.
I was able to get in touch with her thru her Facebook account “Grace Afos Mondiguing” as I failed to connect with her mobile: 0935-838-4612 and her landline 424-6296. I inquired if she still had some pasikings because a lot of Baguio Museum visitors were interested.
The pasiking has attracted of lot millennials and visitors from the lowlands and abroad. It is an indigenous basket-backpack found among the various ethno-linguistic groups of northern Luzon.
Mostly, it is used to carry goods and equipment or nothing at all. Its alternative use is as a raincoat. Entirely woven and made of rattan, there are also bamboo versions.
Written materials about the pasiking describe the designs as something sacred. Mainly, it is aesthetically beautiful, durable and light to carry. So, I asked Grace if she could bring some to the Baguio Museum, however, she suggested instead for us to visit her in Asin. One famous rattan weaver in Baguio is from Sagada, Mountain Province. He is Jason Domling, who creates a unique “giant” pasiking exhibited at one of the museums in Baguio.
The Ifugao woodcarver’s village is a three-kilometer stretch of woodcarver stores and shops, along Km.5 going down Asin Road. It is a 15-minute ride down without traffic. Jeepneys ply the route, otherwise one can also take taxis.
Most of the visitors who go to the Asin hotsprings during summer pass through thru the shops barely noticing the beautiful handiworks. The village was catapulted to fame with the help of the late village chief Reynaldo Lopez-Nauyac, an elder from Hapao, Hungduan. His son, Wigan Warren, is following in his father’s footsteps.
We met the amiable Grace who welcomed Jon, Gemma, and me with a big smile.That’s what you call customer service. Her welcoming spirit entices clients to buy more woodcarving items. She patiently explains the types and uses of wood of each item. You will probably end up buying more items from what you originally planned.
She carefully explained why there was difference in price between the special triangular pasiking and square regular one. “Ang kaibahan ng special pasiking (triangular unisex backpack) sa regular (square type) eh yung habi. Yung special ay double weave (smaller weave) at yung regular pasiking naman (with removable lid) ay single weave lang.” And that also spells the difference in prices.
Baltazar, started carving small objects of wood at the age of 12 years old. His seven decades of wood carving experience is a testimonial by itself. However, according to Grace, her husband prefers working on huge pieces. That afternoon, we were given a brief lesson in the types of wood being used like kamagong, molave, acacia, gemelina, and alnus. “Ang kamagong ang ginto ng mga kahoy,” Baltazar said.
The Baguio Museum is the abode of resident multi-awarded Ifugao woodcarver Ernesto Dul-ang. The museum unveiled his latest work, the “Surrender of Tomoyuki Yamashita” woodcarving on Sept. 2, 2022 graced by United StatesEmbassy Ambassador, Her Excellency MaryKay Carlson.
According to published articles, “the common misconception about rattan and bamboo is that they are the same. Rattan and bamboo come from different plants and are entirely different species with differing properties. However, some of their uses are similar, so most people are sometimes confused.”