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Art Deco molave bench

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‘Silyang bastos’ beside a piedra china side table at the open court



Bohol resort is Visayan furniture showcase

By Marge C. Enriquez
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:31:00 05/12/2009

Filed Under: Tourism & Leisure, Interior Design

MANILA, Philippines ? After a French writer waxed poetic about Amarela in Panglao Island, Bohol, and its motley of local folk furniture, his countrymen have been checking the resort out to see if the write-up was honest or mere hype. This three-year-old, 26-room resort has become a must-go place.

Corporate lawyer Lucas Nunag was planning to build a vacation house in his home province. But when he started doing the paperwork for its construction, a clause cited that buildings should have a commercial tourism purpose in a tourism estate like Panglao.

Riding on the tourism boom in Bohol, the Nunags set up the resort named after their favorite color, yellow, which in Portuguese means amarela. The main three-story edifice was built from architectural salvages while the modern annex uses floorings from tiles and woodwork from old houses.

The colors are painted in bright yellow to enhance the wood tones; they?re complemented by blue. The main areas are the atrium, where shafts of light penetrate, and the dining area that faces the Mindanao Sea.

Amarela?s charm lies in the proliferation of vintage Visayan folk furniture and their reproductions whose simple and functional lines complement the building. Although in their time these furniture pieces were as plebian as today?s Monobloc chairs, their modest provenance strikes a familiar chord, especially to Boholanos.

The locals would tell the owner they once saw similar pieces in their grandparents? home. The presence of these folk furniture in the new environment adds warmth and introduces the enticing quality of the aged, the time-worn and the most cherished. They provide the important ambiance of comfortable equanimity and mellow well-being.

According to connoisseur and furniture maker Osmundo Esguerra, Bohol, Leyte, Cebu and Siquijor share the same design aesthetics. The lines are spare, the pieces are held together by solid mortis-and-tenon joinery. Carving is not as elaborate as the furniture from the other provinces and the favored woods are molave or tugas and balayong or bayong, which are abundant in Bohol. Esguerra says the more sophisticated craftsmanship are those made for the ilustrados and the churches.

In ?Tubod: The Heart of Bohol,? cultural historian Ramon Villegas wrote that during the late 19th century, the local furniture makers tried to mimic the imported styles for the mass market. However, the furniture lacked the proportion, refinement and craftsmanship. Chairs of mediocre standard were called ?silyang bastos? or the common chair. He notes that in that era, Bohol furniture pieces became shoddy, using substandard materials.

Esguerra says vintage common furniture is also low in value, between P3,000 to P5,000.

Tradition survives

Today Bohol furniture-making has survived. Still, the quality of their production pales in comparison to their precedents. Even Nunag laments that craftsmen resort to cheaper materials instead of pure rattan to make cane weaving.

Nunag set up a furniture workshop to give jobs and to reproduce furniture for Amarela. He also established a gallery which features modern artists. A recent exhibit paid homage to the icon paintings, religious paintings similar to the Byzantine style, done on wood.

All these local crafts are in danger of extinction. Amarela, in its own way, is keeping them alive. This is a good example of how tourism brings benefit to a sustainable future.

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