The wooden wonders of Agi Pagkatipunan

I FIRST saw his works at the ManilArt17 where he had several wooden seats on display. The craftsmanship was the mark of an artist, very fine, very smooth, and it prods you to see more.

Thus, during a short visit in Metro Manila last December 12, we decided to visit Agi Pagkatipunan right at his workshop in San Mateo, Rizal. It was a wow.

A self-made man who is an architect who chose to be a furniture maker after he made a name making finely-crafted wooden functional art from rotten wood, Agi became byword in furniture-making in San Mateo.

His works have been featured in several glossy magazines.

Among his most famous works are the dining table used for the Miss Universe 2016, the wall mural at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, and the furniture at the Chapel of Bishop Camomot in Carcar, Cebu.

His home is a feast to the eyes and senses, with his series of pregnant women lining up the stairs and windowsills.

There's a playfulness to the wooden sculptures he makes for himself as sexual symbols abound, you'd laugh once you comprehend what they are.

As he said, "Parati akong tinatanong bakit ang dami kong ginagawang mga buntis at mga ganito, ang sagot ko naman, eh kasi hindi ko na mabubuntis ang aking asawa, eh di dito ko na lang ibubuhos ang lahat."

Agi and his wife has one son, who as an infant and a child had to undergo several medical procedures for a congenital medical condition. It was his wooden functional art and furniture that allowed the small family to overcome the trials and financial travails brought about by their son's condition.

Thus, he said, all his works are imprinted with the immense gratitude that burns inside him for the miracle that is their son, who is now full-grown and apparently following his father's footsteps. He then points out to what could have passed off as just a two-person wooden stool by his home's doorway. Pointing to a raised slat on one, he said, it's the "salung-guhit". He then points to the other side of the stool that has two round indentions, he called "salung-bola".

It's a play of words, in fact because in Tagalog, which is the lingua franca of Rizal Province, a seat is called "salumpuwit (butt-catcher)". "Salung-guhit (line-catcher)" refers to the line of the female organ, while "salung-bola (ball-catcher)" refers to the male genitals.

If you still don't get it, then just look at the legs of the stool. These were not just phallic objects, they were in fact four phalli.

Agi's expertise is carving out a finely-crafted furniture from rotten wood. The art, he said, is in finding the form that is hidden within the rot. Thus, Agi's woodworks have a fluidity to them because he follows the lines and forms that come out once all the rot are taken out.

His eccentricity, as artists are allowed to have, is in hoarding tons and tons of wood whether long-abandoned flitches, discarded railroad tracks, and lumber from old houses.

He must have more than enough wood to carve for a lifetime and beyond, even if he makes dining tables as long as 30 feet, as his workers have just loaded onto a truck on the day we visited. He gets these from all over the Philippines.

His workshop is abuzz with workers doing assigned tasks from sawing to sanding, to putting the pieces together. His works are put together using wooden pegs. There are no nails to be found in this place. It's more durable, he says.

The artist believes that these wood all have a story, and attached to this are the spirits of the forest and of the past. Thus, he creates to bring this out and do justice for what the wood once stood for.

One thing is sure, Agi's furniture are made to last as his works enjoying the seasoned durability that only old wood can give.

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