On our way to Silay for the complimentary tour given to the Philippine Blog Awards Participants, we stopped by this welcome marker in the outskirts of Silay. The marker is a recreation of the simborios that dotted the Negros landscape. These simborios are the primordial boilers in making muscovado sugar, the primary export of the island during the Spanish era. Most haciendas in Silay have one of these simborios since muscovado then was made by haciendas before the onset of sugar refineries. Most of these simborios are made of clay bricks. These clay bricks are made from clay mud but the preferable type of clay are those found in termite mounds for their characteristic strength. Silay City is the home of the brick-making factory in the Spanish era with bricks finding its way to many heritage structures like the Fort San Juan which was also the former Provincial Jail.
The brick-making days of Silay City are at the leanest but another industry related to clay, Pottery, is well alive and kicking. Silay is one of the three pottering centers in the island and is known for their decorative clay designs to the humble colon or palayok and pugon. Passing by the highway, one will never fail to notice the number of pottery displays lining up this part of the highway. The highway is literally awash with clayish red. A lot of people stop by here to buy clay decors or suppliers from some public market stalls that sell pugon with charcoal or colon. If one is lucky enough, the owners might even entertain you with a demonstration of pottery making. Most of these potters do this on the yard of their houses with a little workshop for mixing clay. While some of the potters have already invested in electronic turntables and modern kilns, there are some that still use the traditional way of firing clay by stacking rice husks under and over dried clay forms, setting it on fire. I have a first hand experience on a field trip when I was in grade school and the curious boy in me found it very interesting.
Sadly though, the pottery industry in Silay is slowly dying too. This ancient industry that has been in Silay for hundreds of years and a heritage is threatened to be gone as more and more people are losing touch of clay. More and more, the dirty kitchen concept which uses clay cooking utensils and charcoal is being replaced by modern stoves and cookwares. Unless the enterprising among these potters come up with a more unique and modern usage to these earthen vessels, the trend will continue so. There is hope though since people are beginning to be inclined to what is natural and organic. One such industry that is setting the goal for natural living is the culinary scene. Where people have forsaken clay pots for cooking, famous chefs have revived the practice. In architecture and engineering, the use of clay bricks are gaining popularity again not only for the classic aesthetics but for its cheaper cost too. With these demands, the pottery industry might see a comeback after all.
Addendum: Nowadays, brick making is made to order. People can still get clay bricks as long as they give time for the orders to be done. The flooring of the Marian Missionaries of the Holy Cross at St. Francis Subdivision have brick floorings ordered from Guinhalaran. (by: Dr. Maritel R. Ledesma)