“Philippines: Home of Stunning Trees, Residence of Proficient Furniture Makers.”

Written by Angelique Jane Bantiquete, B.S. in Political Science III.

A skilled job that includes the major toil of cutting, shaping, carving, assembling, and finishing is called carpentry. Carpentry is also a profession of people who make furniture; which is a form of decorative art where in it is designed not only for its functional roles, but also for the purpose of embellishment or ornamental satisfaction. Furniture can be made out of many materials such as metals, plastics, bamboos, rattan and popularly of wood.

Philippines is a country that is rich of many resources including its diversity of trees in the forest. This country is so blessed to have trees with stunning features. Trees such as Narra, Mahogany, Molabe , Acacia, Gemelina, Yakal, and Lawaan are just few of those trees that can be found in the country’s forest, and prevalently being used in the process of furniture making.

This paper basically wishes to feature a furniture maker in Iloilo City. It essentially advocates to promote local furniture, eye-catching trees of the Philippines and of course, the recognition of an artist that is seemed to be outside of the canon.  The chosen artist or the furniture maker to be featured in this paper is Dionisio Bantiquete, 57 years of age, and a legal resident of North Fundidor Molo, Iloilo City. Mr. Bantiquete has been making furniture since the Age of 23. He gained his knowledge in making this art form through his experience at Conpinco Industry from the year 1984-1997. He further advanced his adept skills in making furniture by attending different classes and seminars offered by the Man Power or most commonly known as Technical Educational and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) today. He also gained a three years experience abroad in making furniture that helped him to augment his income and to support his family and children to finish their studies. Through this job, three of his children are now professionals and are very proud of him.

At present, he has a small furniture shop and currently accepting orders and contracts from various costumers. Mr. Bantiquete makes any kind of furniture and various home sets, ranging from sala sets or sofas, cabinets, doors, dinning sets, beds, chairs, and even floor and stair installation. For him, the tree of choice in making this art form largely contributes to the outcome of the furniture.

According to him, trees such as Narra, Mahogany, Molabe, , Acacia, Gemelina, Yakal, and Lawaan are the usual type of trees used in making furniture by the carpenters in the Philippines. Though, today tree such as Narra is now scarely found in the market because of the illegal practices of the people who are responsible for the forest degradation in the country. Those mentioned trees have their own unique characteristics. Based on my interview with the artist, he can differentiate trees based on their texture, natural finished color, availability in the market, span of time to let them dry, and natural features of these trees before they are being cut down. He specifically described Narra as an ornamental tree because of its astonishing features. According to him, Narra is one of the most expensive types of wood in the Philippines. It is the most chosen variety of wood by the well-offs for their furniture and other house decorations. A Narra tree, in his view has a broad narrow small leaves, sagging stems, yellowish-orange-red colored lumber, and has yellow flowers. Mahogany on the other hand is the most commercialized type of tree. Today, many investors or businessmen got interested to invest for a Mahogany plantation because this kind of tree is already marketable, with a gratifying market price at the age of 30 years old. In the point of view of the artist, Mahogany can be uniquely described as a tall and strong type of tree. Another commonly used type of tree in furniture making is the Molave tree. It is a medium size tree that can grow up to fifteen meters as its maximum. Its leaves have a unique composite of three leaflets. Molave’s flowers are blue in color and usually come together at the end of its tiny branches. This tree is known for its sturdy, coarse and durable wood. Mr. Bantiquete also identified Acacia as one of the widespread species of tree used in furniture industry. He asserted that Acacia is a wattle or thorn-type tree. It is yellowish in color and typically used for flooring, and other indoor or outdoor furniture. He further explained that this tree grows up to 25 meters tall, has a very rough bark, hairy leaves, and pink flowers. Whereas Gemelina, as claimed by the carpenter, is one of the fastest growing type of tree, that can grow as tall as 30 meters. It has a shrubby feature, white-yellowish in color, and it grows more profoundly in moist and fertile valleys. Another widely used tree is Yakal. As described by Mr. Bantiqute, Yakal tree can also grow to 30 meters tall. It is a hard and dark brownish tree, has a slimmer and faintly hairy feature, the shape of its leaves is oblong, and has a yellow leaves. Lastly, Lawaan is also considered by my featured artist as one of the stunning trees of the county. He described Lawaan as a large tree that can approximately attain a height of 50 meters and a diameter of 200 centimeters. It has a smooth dark leaves that are oblong in shape. Its outer bark is dark brown in color, while the inner bark is reddish in shade.

According to him, the course of setting up the prices of his furniture depends on the costumer’s design and wood of choice. Basically, the price follows the logic of: “the simplier the design, the lower the cost of the furniture”. Also, the price of the furniture is much expensive if the costumer chooses to use wood such as Narra or Thick wood as the main material. Aside from the higher value of these trees, there are also constraints such as the wood’s availability in the market and the effort involve in processing the permits of these trees in the Department of Energy and Natural Resources or DENR.

Among all kinds of home sets or furniture, my featured artist finds and considers cabinet making as his forte. He has strong biases in making this furniture because for him, cabinets, regardless of the designs, are relatively easier to make compared to other furniture. It just involves considerable cutting, assembling and finishing. It also adds to the fact that most of his trainings and seminars attended are centered in making this kind of furniture. Nonetheless, he exerts his full effort and creativity in making other kinds of furniture. For him, as a carpenter, it is a fulfillment as well as a honor whenever a costumer praises his works.

To sum up and to give my own insight based on my interview with my featured artist, I can articulate that furniture can give some decorative satisfaction. Its presence does not only allow us to benefit from its function, but it also completes the landscape of our house. As a responsible consumer of this mania, it is important to take into account that the primary materials used in making this art form are the vulnerable trees in the forest. As a consumer, an awareness and consciousness of the type of wood and how these woods were legally produced is a must. It is also a necessity to have basic understanding that this art form is very arduous, for it requires necessary skills to arrive to a desired outcome. The carpenters are also exposed to possible danger; dealing with different machines may permit hazards. It is just fairly reasonable to pay an amount equivalent to the effort they have exerted. Above all, let’s not forget the Filipino first policy. Let us all develop some sense of patriotism and let’s consume the furniture made by the adept carpenters of our own country.

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