Devotion to Niño sustains their craft-A A +A
Sunday, January 27, 2013
FOR more than 40 years, Tony Febroa, 61, has carved a living out of making wooden Sto. Niño sculptures on the sidewalk of the Ayala access road in Cebu City.
Regular customers keep coming back, ordering new carved images or needing repairs for their old pieces.
“Since carved images are not disposable, previous rather than new clients come to visit again, either for repairs or enhancement,” Febroa said.
He observed flat sales in December despite the holidays, but was grateful for frequent clients who ordered small Sto. Niños as gifts for the Sinulog.
Aside from January when Sinulog is celebrated, Febroa said his business also enjoys a peak season in May when fiestas are celebrated in succession.
Unstable weather as 2012 was closing challenged his business last year. With only a beach umbrella and a table on an open spot, Febroa pointed out he can’t extend his working hours under the rain or the scorching heat.
He accepts retail, but most requests are made in bulk by long-time buyers within and outside Cebu, including barangay officials and religious shops in the city, as well as churches in Davao and Zamboanga.
Febroa generated about P10,000 on the day of the thanksgiving mass for San Pedro Calungsod and P11,000 last month from Zamboanga orders alone. Since January opened, he collected an estimated P35,000, with 10 recent orders that included three Sto. Niño and four Pedro Calungsod figures.
It takes three to four days of labor to complete each figure. Prices depend on the icon and its size, and can range from P500 to P7,000 apiece on cash and installment basis. Repairs are charged P50 minimum.
Febroa explained that his standard price includes the cost of materials like varnish and paint.
But unlike before when he could stock Gmelina pieces from Toledo, Febroa said the wood these days must now be provided by customers.
One advantage Febroa has is his being the only Sto. Niño wood carver in the Ayala-Mabolo area; his competitors are concentrated in Pardo, Mambaling, N. Bacalso Ave. and Lapu-Lapu City.
Febroa started carving religious icons at 20, relying on devotees, going church to church until the mayor back then in Victorias City, Negros Occidental discovered his
The tallest image Febroa has ever sculpted was a 15-foot Inmaculada Concepcion ordered by a client in Victorias City in 1989.
His only source of income has helped him send five children to school.
Meanwhile, the presence of fiberglass sculpting has affected Dihayco Woodarts (DW), a manufacturer of carved wooden religious images near the Mactan Shrine in Lapu-Lapu City.
According to owner and Mactan Barangay Captain Evaristo A. Dihayco Jr., many people are opting for fiberglass images because they take less time to produce and cost less.
Customers need only pay P300 to P400 and wait a day for each item, compared to DW’s wooden items that cost from P1,500 to P3,400 and take three to four days to make.
The company’s craftsmen make these images from hardwood trees.
DW accepts orders for the Sinulog season as early as November, but Dihayco said his orders last year began to pick up only in late December.
Regulars like devotees, priests and doctors in Cebu, Leyte and Mindanao keep coming back mostly for repair jobs, which are charged from P500 to P1,000, Dihayco.
But Dihayco remains optimistic they will get buyers after the Sinulog, despite competition from fiberglass images.
DW, which also exhibits in trade fairs within Cebu, banks on the quality of their products, which are mostly ordered in bulk. Mactan’s reputation for wood carving, which includes furniture and décor, also serves the company well, he said.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 28, 2013.