If we have our local pottery industry, Aklan has its own, too. Barangays Pahanocoy south of Bacolod and Guinahalaran in Silay are both famous for their clay products. If one should ask any of the potters how old the industry is, they would more likely shrug their shoulders and just say that it’s been around for a long, long time. Lezo in Aklan is the prime source of pottery in the province because this town is located along the clay-rich Aklan River. Just like Pahanocoy and Guinhalaran, their industry must also have been around since time immemorial.
Pottery is probably one of the oldest arts for it involves creating implements for cooking aside from ornamental objects. Together with porcelain, pottery is under the term “ceramics” which applies to clay objects that are baked.
When I visited the town of Lezo, southwest of Kalibo, I was pleasantly surprised to see the Bayangan Village. I never imagined that the sleepy atmosphere of Lezo had something bustling in one little corner. One short street just beside Lezo Church starts with a welcome arc and we enter on foot only. The scene was awashed with the reds of clay pots of all shapes, sizes, and purposes. From the huge banga to the chicken water dish, Bayangan Village showcases to the max its One Town One Product (OTOP) contribution. Potters’ sheds are lined up alongside and these act as workshops and showrooms at the same time. This is so much better than what we have here in Negros. Our pots are displayed along the highway, so, we buy our banga and patukaan sa manok at risk to life and limb.
Farther and to the back of the street is the huge common kiln made of bricks that the potters themselves produced. I asked a charming woman potter busy forming a foot-high vase at her wheel, “If that kiln is for everyone, how do you get everything to fit in?” She replied that the village people follow a schedule for firing clay pots. Now, that’s what I call “cooperation”! I sit on my haunches mesmerized by the skillful fingers grabbing some fine, sticky clay and adding it to the rim of the vase. She trims some excess clay here and there with a thumb or a forefinger, spins her wheel, and before I can say “Harry Potter, Dumbledore, Hermione, Gryffindor”, the vase was done. She lifts the vase up and hands this to her husband who set it on the side of the street to dry.
I wanted to buy a piece or two but just the thought of going back to Bacolod with shards instead of a whole pot made me a very reluctant buyer. So I stood up and turned to leave only to be arrested by the sight of a cooking pot that was the stuff laswa dreams are made of. And I mean “Laswa” the Visayan vegetable stew and not the sensual “laswa” in your Tagalog dictionary. Health professionals recommend using clay pots or cast-iron implements for cooking vegetables. Aluminum pans are considered health hazards because of the possibility of aluminum traces leaching into the food and making their way into our brains and causing Alzheimer’s disease. Although some studies say amount of leaching is miniscule, I was ready to pack up my clay pot because unlike the ones we have in Negros, Lezo’s has a wider mouth which makes stirring its contents easier. Besides, what is a Pinoy kitchen without a kolon? “That’s P80, please, Ma’am,” said Mrs. Potter. Mwah, mwah, mwah, my kolon, you’ve made me very happy!
It takes a village to make pots. It also takes perseverance to continue a tradition. May our artisans flourish and may their customers pay them well to make their craft a financially rewarding one.