At the newly-built Antequera Municipal Hall, the Tourism Information Center looks like another office. It’s actually a working art gallery of baskets.
In a community where the livelihood of most families is basket weaving. They wove baskets from native grasses and plants out of necessity since 1911. Before these baskets became art, they were tools.
“The people of Antequera have been keeping the tradition alive through a lot of hard work and a love of the process,â€ said Russel Villas, information officer of Antequera.
He also said that the weavers were not just ordinary weavers.
â€œAll of the basket makers here in Antequera are artists,” he said.
Weaving baskets is something Rodel Barace, 29, of barangay Obujan-Tagubaas, has been doing since he was a little boy.
He learned from her mother and grandmother, who used to sell baskets at Antequera and Tagbilaran markets.
He said it’s more than a family tradition; it was a way of life, a livelihood.
Barace said that the basket he is weaving reflects his town, known as Boholâ€™s basket capital.
“This is what I am doing since I was young and I represent a community,â€ he said.
When the strong earthquake hit the province in 2013, Antequera was one of the severely damaged towns. Â However, the quake had not stopped the residents from weaving basket.
The style of weaving is unique to the residents of Antequera. A familyÂ in Barangay Bicahan started weaving in 1911 with â€œ bukag,â€ Â a big basketÂ as product.Â Â Over the generations, different families have developed their own artistic flair.
â€œThrough the years, we are making different styles and sizes,â€ said Barace.
Selling baskets and other handicrafts was a way of supporting the families. Before good roads attracted visitors to visit Antequera, residents then walked long distances to sell their familyâ€™s baskets. On foot, they travelled to Tagbilaran City, at least 18 km from their hometown.
Almost everyone in the town knows how to weave. You can visit houses and see their quick, skilled hands can pull strips of Â â€œuwayâ€ and other native plants into the form of a basket and other native products in just a couple of hours. Bamboo, rattan, nito, buri, wicker, sig-id and other vines can be dyed and woven into native products such as hampers, lampshades, wall decors, furniture, fashion accessories and even animals such as duck, cat and tarsier, in all shapes and sizes.
Last March 17, the town was celebrating the 2nd Basket Festival honoring the local tradition of basket making. Â Â There was a display of their native products, street-dancing and a dance showdown at the town plaza.
â€œThis is the second year of our celebration. In fact, it boosts the basket revenue of our town considering it has experienced a downfall in production in the market,â€ said Villas.
He also said that after the 1st Basket Festival, many suppliers contacted the tourism officeÂ to have their designs drafted andÂ weaved by the local weavers.
Antequera Mayor Jose Mario Pahang said that the festival was an avenue to showcase their handicrafts to the world.Â Councilor Lani Labado, tourism chair, said that the townâ€™s native handicrafts are widely accepted in the world market.
The festival featured a street parade with participants in bright-colored basket themed costumes, dancing to the beat and rhythm of drums, trumpets, and native gongs.
This year, residents have noticed the newly-built town hall.
And weavers who have witnessed the festival were inspired to keep the old tradition alive.
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Incidentally, the dry/summer season has officially begun last Friday. Have you started writing your summer go-to checklist yet?Â Why not going local? Bohol is one of the countryâ€™s top tourist destinations, after all.
While Antequera retains its glorious native products, itâ€™s grand, impressive, crystal-clear water of Mag-aso Falls remains a favorite summer destination. It was destroyed by the quake in 2013 and typhoon Seniang in 2014 but Mother Nature has carved a new view of the falls. All summer long, Mag-aso falls is hard to beat. Â Other interesting places to see are Inambacan Falls and Celing spring and fish spa.
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