Various types of regional banig has varying qualities of flexibilities and softness which make specific banig appropriate for a given product or function. Different regions have different processes to achieve what each considers as ideal banig for their own use. So, it is not surprising to come across some banig that are so pliable and soft and some which are stiff and rough to the touch.
The Sulu mats, particularly those coming from Laminusa and Unggus Matata in Tawi-tawi are the softest and most pliable. This is achieved by subjecting the unwoven pandanus leaves to a heavy wooden press called panggosan. Leaves are flattened and softened by rolling the panggosan back and forth as the leaves lie flat on a huge wooden slab.
To achieve a shiny sheen on the leaves, oil is added to the boiling water in the process of dyeing. The resulting product becomes highly pliable and smooth to the touch which makes it very ideal and suited for products for fashion items such as clothes, bags, shoes, etc. It is soft enough that it no longer requires a heavy duty sewing machine. Ordinary sewing machine will do.
But not all Sulu-type mats are subjected to these mat making processes. Mats coming from Jolo, Palawan or Zamboanga are never subjected to these preliminary preparations. The latter would have the pandanus leaves dipped in dye, dried, and woven. The special processes make mats from these islands expensive and hard to find.
One should note that all mats from Sulu are woven, while some Samar mats are embroidered – a major distinction between how the designs from these two areas differ in terms of aesthetic.
By “embroidered” we meant that the basic background is woven plainly and the designs are embedded on the surface layer of the background while the other would have design incorporated in the woven structure.
Very stiff mats are excellent for the floor liners, boxes, placements, attaché cases among others. They could stand the wear and tear of constant use. The T’boli rattan mats are good example of these. However, with scarcity if rattan in the T’boli areas, production and availability are now lessened.
Rattan-made Palawan mats are also hard to find nowadays due to the scarcity of raw materials. In the midst of these scarcities, Cordillerans found climbing bamboos as a good substitute raw material. Climbing bamboo grows profusely in the hillside of Baguio, particularly in Sto. Tomas mountain.
And there is of course the runo reeds which also grows in any Cordillera hillside. It is generally used for matting or walling. It could be used in many varied ways because of its strength and durability.
The raw material tikog (Visayan) or the sesed (Maranao/Maguindanao) is well known in those Maguindanao area with the exception of Basey.in Samar. The problem with the Maranao design is their stubborn adherence to the same dye colors. Unlike the Basey mat makers who have innovated with the use of a whole spectrum of rainbow colors, the Maranao has stuck to the same old color spectrum determined by the same color dye available in the area.
The Bicolanos use karagomoy and the younger leaf called buri, – both of which are of the same plant species, they have developed the use of varied colors particularly on the buri, as evident in the various well-made ladies’ bags now seen in SM Kultura. Karagonoy is thicker and tougher and often relegated for use as storage boxes, waste baskets, hampers and plant liners for interiors.
Bolinao in Pangasinan has yet to make use of color spectrum in their designs. Contrary to that of San Juan, Ilocos Sur. What used to be in the backseat of mat making is now experiencing a bountiful return from its production of buri bags in kaleidoscopic colors with intricate weaving style. The Design Center workshop has done wonders to the craft tradition of this town.
The country has a great resource of raw materials ideal for mat weaving. It could be a foundation for a viable craft industry with the focused and sustained assistance from the local officials and agencies that are willing to make inroads. The opportunities are limitless as shown by this exhibition.
The current name of the game is banig – for environmental relevance, sustainability, aesthetic exploration and cultural uniqueness.