Celebrating the Bamboo

Bamboo is not just a material for fences, houses or pigpens.  Its traditional uses have been stretched to include other non-conventional ones, from toothpicks to barbecue sticks. Now the bamboo is catching special attention.

Northern Dispatch
Posted by Bulatlat

BAGUIO CITY (246 kms north of Manila) — Bamboo is not just a material for fences, houses or pigpens.  Its traditional uses have been stretched to include other non-conventional ones, from toothpicks to barbecue sticks. Now the bamboo is catching special attention.

A booth at the Panagbenga Flower Festival’s Session in Bloom caught people’s attention with modern furniture and furnishings crafted from bamboo.

Early morning on the last day of the festival, more buyers were rushing to get the last pieces of the reclining chair, coffee table, laptop and bed-meal table.  A foot stool that goes with the reclining chair was also selling like the proverbial hot cakes.

What amazes customers is the manner by which the furniture was built.  No GI nail was used, instead, bamboo pegs fastened the parts to make the furniture.

Prolific venture

Only two years since he first represented his town in a trade fair to showcase his bamboo furniture and home furnishings, Carlo T. Balneg, 30, has gone a long way into the business with the bamboo taking center stage.

The said fair is the one-town-one-product (OTOP) fair in Bangued, Abra in 2006.  Bamboo was the OTOP of Tayum town, where bamboo still grows abundantly up to this time.

Before the OTOP fair, Carlo’s Bamboo Crafts & Furnishings in Bumagcat, Tayum has already been edging its way into the bamboo-craft industry.

Carlo proudly narrates that he has sent three of his siblings to college, one has finished high school and got married; one is still in high school, while two are in the elementary grades. Two of them are among his workers who do menial jobs in the factory.

Father started it

“My father started it when we were just little kids,” Carlo said in Iloco. He added that being the eldest in a brood of 10, he began working full-time in his father’s shop after graduating from high school.

His father was in the business for eight years before passing away. He produced the same kinds of furniture which, to this day, Carlo’s shop still produces.

His brothers and sisters help around in the business. Elmer and Evelyn were in the Baguio booth, while others manned the Bangued display.

His wife Brigitte, who teaches high school at the Holy Spirit College in Bangued, serves as the secretary and bookkeeper. She does her job as soon as she arrives home from school.


Siakon ti nagpadakkel ti puwesto ta naturedak nga umutang ti pagkapital” (It was me who expanded the shop because I am very daring at acquiring loans), Carlo said.

Today, barely two years since his first exposure to the trade, Carlo’s furniture products have been displayed and sold in many SM stores like the Mall of Asia and Megamall as well as in Festival Mall, Aliwan Fiesta Mall and the World Trade Center (WTC), among other posh stores in Metro Manila.

He has gone to Vigan in the north and as far south as Cebu to display and sell his furniture and home decors.

Idi ket manu-mano laeng ti ikasta mi” (Before we did most of the work by hand), Carlo said, adding he has a few pieces of machinery and 10 workers building the furniture.

Carlo adds that around 100 more people help him out and benefit from his shop supplying him with raw bamboo, semi-manufactured bamboo crafts or pieces of furnishings which they make in their own yards and houses.

Suplayandak, siakkon ti agilako wenno usarek iti produkto” (They provide me with supplies or products and I use or sell these), Carlo said as he acknowledged his neighbors who offer much of their labor for the bamboo shop.

A bamboo pole costs P35 ($0.72 at the March 13 exchange rate of $1:P48.65) in Tayum. Runo is P2 ($0.04); talahib, P1 ($0.02) a piece.

Local market

Among those buying that Sunday in Baguio City were members of the Rotary Club of Sta. Cruz, Zambales.  They were attending a seminar at the Baguio Country Club. Not long after they tried sitting on the reclining chair, some of them had a pair each wrapped as a remembrance.

Another couple from Batangas asked for Carlo’s calling card and email address after buying quite a number of laptop tables and reclining chairs with stools.

Besides furniture, Carlo also had placemats, trays, bags, baskets, flower holders, hot pads and glass coasters.

His divider walls are fashioned from bamboo and talahib, his trays from runo.  Furniture is made of kawayang tinik and puser.

His export business transactions have gone down since three years ago. He said last year was the worst so far, with almost zero transaction. This year, almost all his orders come from the local market.

With the Kawayan Festival in Bangued, where he also had a booth, Carlo is hopeful that the bamboo will stir the local market.

Bamboo advocacy

Edgar Manda, General Manager of the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) and Trade Undersecretary, and Mike Arroyo are among his admirers. He remembers Manda asking him for a quotation for a bamboo house, but he did not ask him to make one for the proposed bamboo village

Manda, Abra Governor Eustaquio P. Bersamin and the Abra Provincial Bamboo Development Council, the Rotary Club of Makati Central and Rotary Club of Makati Central Foundation signed the Minutes of Understanding last Feb. 26 at the Provincial Capitol Social Hall during the strategic planning workshop on e-Bamboo.

LLDA adopted Pidigan town, also in Abra, where it would build its model bamboo house and eventually establish a bamboo village. The house would be designed by top-rate architects and the materials have undergone rigid research and development to ensure that the house would last for 50-100 years.

Carlo said bamboo is still abundant in Tayum and elsewhere in Abra, one of the top producers of bamboo in the country.

“After 10 years, the farmers could harvest his bamboo and continue harvesting every two years,” Carlo said of the potential source of raw materials for his craft. (Northern Dispatch / Posted by Bulatlat)

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