Ilocos terracotta town: A gamut of San Nicolas damili wares

Laoag Central School graffiti art

I wanted a “banga”, or earthen pot, for an authentic Ilocano “pinakbet”, and so I headed down south to the town of San Nicolas, where “damili”, or pottery, is an old cottage industry. While tracking down the potters in the thriving town that used to be a territory of Laoag before its reconstitution on the first of January in 1909, I learned quite much about this culture and tradition that might be as old as the coming of the Spanish conquistadors to the land of the Ilocanos.

The unglazed earthen wares, which are more eco-friendly, come in many forms. In one pottery place alone, which I found in Barangay Sta. Monica, the finished terracotta products on display were plant pots, tiles, “dalikan”, “banga”, “liso”, jars, novelty items, and miniatures, each skillfully crafted by the artisan potters.

Preservation of “damili” is one of the paramount concerns of the LGU of San Nicolas. As a tribute to the age-old tradition, an annual Damili Festival, also a celebration of the town’s reestablishment, is held from November 9-December 31.

A potter at his wheel: Feeling the earth move under his skin

Dalikan, a traditional charcoal stove

Do you see something strange but the tribal figure?

Decorative tiles

Unfired greenware

Applying external pressure with “sipat” movements — a stage in the moulding process that comes after the wheel stage, and before drying and firing.

Choosing my banga.

I got my “banga”. My best pinakbet ever, I tell you.

(If you need a pinakbet recipe, here it is. Same steps.  Don’t include the chicharon, though.)

P.S. Earthen jar or “burnay” fact: In a grenade attack, an Ilocano journalist’s precious life was saved because of a water-filled “burnay”. Read this article.

Location: Damilians in Brgy. 6, San Juan Bautista / Bolit’s Rangcapan Pottery, Brgy. 24, Sta. Monica, Nagrebcan, San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte, Philippines

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