Burda, The Way of Life and Cultural Identity of Lumban, Laguna
Lumban is a charming town in Laguna, about a three-hour drive from Manila. It’s the perfect place to visit in Laguna, providing respite from the bustling cities of the province. Lumban is known too, for being the home of the most popular man-made lake in the Philippines, Lake Caliraya, which is famous for being a place of retreat and leisurely activities close to nature. But aside from that, did you know it’s also the “Embroidery Capital of the Philippines?”
Lumban and its history of embroidery
In Lumban, Laguna, creativity and craftsmanship are celebrated through the art of hand embroidery. This art form tells tales of tradition and cultural pride as it is passed down through generations. Lumban’s burderos (embroiderers) existed as far back as the 1600s, during the Spanish colonization period when Spanish nuns taught young girls about the art of hand embroidery. However, some historians believe embroidery may have existed before, as early as the 13th century.
This is because there has been evidence of imported iron needles in the Philippines and influences of Chinese and Indian design in some embroidery. Nevertheless, Lumban traces its roots to Spanish influences but is now made more artistic and colorful, thanks to our embroiderers.
Lumban Hand Embroidery through the years
Embroidery can be quite a delicate art form– much more by hand. It takes a specific skill set to master this art form, but thanks to Lumban burderos, they have created ways to improve and innovate the craft while preserving the tradition. Lumban’s burderos masterfully weave with their nimble fingers and keen eyes, creating beautiful quality embroidery as detailed as ever. Usually, their hand embroidery is made with colorful threads and intricate designs, often with natural elements, traditional symbols, and cultural ones.
What makes Lumban’s hand embroidery more unique to them is the use of two techniques. One is the calado technique, characterized by delicate cutwork, while the other is called “punto de taas” characterized by adding dimensions to their embroidery.
These methods were carefully preserved by Lumban embroiderers and passed down through generations. As time goes by, Lumban’s form of hand embroidery continues to thrive, adapting contemporary styles while staying true to its cultural roots.
The Modern Burda
While using decades-old techniques, embroiderers try to mix the past and present in innovative designs and patterns to adapt to the ever-changing fashion scene. From the usual floral patterns, embroidery design has now incorporated modern symbols, abstract designs, and bolder colors.
One perfect example is the modern embroidery of Berches Barong Avenue in Lumban. Frederick Berches is a true innovator, transforming traditional designs into modern creations that still pay homage to the trademark of Burdang Lumban. His Barong Avenue Embroidery is a perfect example of this. His unique approach to design has made him a leader in Barong embroidery in the fashion industry.
Lumban burderos learn about these modern aesthetics, showcasing new designs in their works without losing their own Burda identity. This hand embroidery works appeal to younger audiences, too– a win for the burderos and customers. As the embroiderers learn about modern designs, they target a broader market through the younger generation who will get to know their works.
Embroidery as a way of life
Apart from being a cultural pride and a symbol of their town, hand embroidery plays a significant role in the town’s economy. However, many embroidery shops closed when the pandemic started due to lack of customers. At a time when events were non-essential and travel was prohibited in many parts of the country, local seamstresses had no choice but to look for other sources of income. A lot of families residing in Lumban rely on embroidery as their livelihood. Thankfully, they have started to pick up momentum as more people find their way to Lumban shops again, shopping baro’t saya for formal occasions and public events.
It’s an art, a tradition, and a livelihood. Families help each other as they stitch together and create intricate patterns that make a beautiful piece of art in the barongs, saya, and ball gowns they create.
In this sense, they foster a sense of togetherness and work hard to create and simultaneously have a sustainable source of income. The tradition of hand embroidery has been passed on to generations, mainly by the women in the family– the grandmother, mother, aunt, and female cousin. For many burderos, they think the art of embroidery is a skill that every woman in the household needs to learn.
They are taught early on the methods, and they develop skills and designs of their own. They have been exposed to this art at an early age, and because of that, they know that hand embroidery is a part of their life forever. But more than that, to Lumban residents, it’s part of their identity– after all, Lumban is the embroidery capital of the Philippines.
Lumban, the Hand Embroidery Capital of the Philippines
Lumban’s embroidery works have already reached the global stage as national and international artists proudly wear their works wherever they are. Even local and national government officials proudly wear these locally made artworks to support the embroiderer’s livelihood. There have been local initiatives to preserve this time-honored craft. Deeply rooted in the town’s heritage, embroidery reflects the creativity and identity of the Filipinos since the era of colonization. Now, Lumban is being recognized worldwide thanks to the talented burderos of Laguna.
About Burdang Lumban Festival
Lumban has its annual Burdang Lumban Festival to celebrate its craftsmanship. With colorful parades, street performances, and a display of their best works, Lumban residents get to showcase their culture every third week of September. They also hold workshops and demos and enjoy exhibits and performances that proudly promote their embroidery crafts.
At this festival, local and international visitors are welcome to join the festivities of the heritage town, see its attractions, meet the locals, and learn more about their culture through the different events in Burdang Lumban.
If you want to learn more about Burdang Lumban Festival, follow them on Facebook for more details about this year’s festival. Join the town in preserving its local heritage, check out their events, shop local, and proudly wear the works of the talented burderos of Lumban, Laguna!
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