Philippine Pottery has a long tradition in the islands. It is one of the earliest arts practiced by Filipinos. Originally a purely functional art, pottery can be highly artistic as well.
Throughout the centuries, pots have been made for cooking, like the traditional palayok. They may also be used for storage, like the banga and tapayan that were once used for storing liquids. In the time of the early Filipinos, jars were used to keep the remains of corpses: the Manunggul Jar is an example of such a burial jar.
Evidence of Philippine pottery-making dated as early as 6000 BC has been found in Sanga-sanga Cave, Sulu and Laurente Cave, Cagayan. It has been proven that by 5000 BC, the making of pottery was practiced throughout the country. Early Filipinos started making pottery before their Cambodian neighbors and at about the same time as the Thais as part of what appears to be a widespread Ice Age development of pottery technology.
Pottery began with the making of earthenware articles for domestic use, as cooking vessels and storage containers. The earliest pots were made by hand-molding or the use of a paddle and vessel in building the walls of the pot. The pot could be embellished by either carving the paddle or wrapping it with cord and slapping it against the side to leave marks. Incised designs also appeared in pots in Masbate as early as 4500 BC.
By the New Stone Age, the time to which the Manunggul Jar was dated, pots with particularly creative and attractive designs were commonly made.
By the Metal Age special designs of pottery began to be produced in large numbers. Each group was developing its own special type of pottery.
Among the finest of early Philippine pottery designs are footed dishes that were decorated with geometric cut-outs, molding, cording, or finger impressions. Most of these were made from the 7th to 9th centuries in Batangas. By the 10th century, Philippine pottery had reached a high level of artistry. The kendi, a spouted jar design of Indian origin that is difficult to make, was produced by this century.
All this time, slip (a mixture of clay and water) rather than glazes was still used by the Filipino potters to seal the pottery and the pottery was open-fired (fired in a bonfire rather than in a kiln or oven). As foreign trade increased, Filpinos found that glazed and kiln-fired ceramics from China and other Asian countries was more waterproof and more durable. As imported ceramics grew in popularity among Filipinos, they neglected the local pottery craft.
Nevertheless, pottery traditions continued to develop in certain locales, such as the burnay unglazed clay pottery of Vigan. The pottery tradition of burnay is among the pottery traditions that have been maintained, along with those of Leyte and Bohol.
In contemporary times, several potters have diverged from tradition to create unique designs, whether purely decorative or functional. Among the well-known pottery artists are Jaime de Guzman and Jon Pettyjohn whose works are one-of-a-kind or in very limited editions. Nelfa Querubin, now based in the US, also produces highly unusual designs. Baidy Mendoza's clay pots and sculpture are art pieces with a primitive look. There are also potters like Lanelle Abueva-Fernando, Ugu Bigyan, and Hadrian Mendoza who produce attractive pieces for daily use as well as art pieces.
- Guillermo, Alice G. Sining: An Essay on Philippine Visual Arts. Manila: Cultural Center of the Philippines, 1989.
- The New Stone Age
- The Appearance of Metal
- Philippine Contemporary Pottery Exhibit
- Nelfa Querubin
- Baidy Mendoza
- [Wilson, Elizabeth. A Pocket Guide to Oriental Ceramics in the Philippines. Manila: Bookmark, 1988.]