A scarecrow in a lush field of palay or rice… Who would have thought this could be the setting for a couple of gingerbread houses? Several years ago, one of this blog’s regular readers suggested that I attempt to do a Filipino-themed gingerbread creation. It seemed like a farfetched idea, the gingerbread tradition being rooted in cold weather, snow, et al. But that “reader challenge” was filed away somewhere in my brain and I guess this turned out to be year to take it on. So while just a few of you figured out what I was doing with these materials a few weeks ago, here is the story behind Marketman & Crew’s gingerbread village/barangay/scene.
While shopping for some gifts a couple of weeks ago, I found two of the cutest model piglets about 1.5 inches in length. I bought both of them and knew right then and there that the gingerbread design for this year would follow from there. For Marketman & crew, this was essentially our “year of the pig” what with all the Zubuchon activity, so it seemed fitting that the pigs would be the center of attention.
After a couple of days spent thinking up the “blueprint”, I ended up going back to the same store and purchased several more small animals, including a mommy and daddy pig, anatomically correct… :) We also got a couple of chickens, wild boar, etc.
We plotted several “rice fields” into the tableau, and the pigs were center stage.
The entire edge of the village had a bamboo wall, made from some placements. Several rice paddies were a beehive of activity.
A few brown ducklings played at the edge of the of the rice fields…
Two incredibly intricate homes were made from a base of thin styrofoam, to keep the gingerbread supported and firm (it is sometimes way too humid in Manila to expect the gingerbread to stay crisp). The small but native homes had gingerbread walls, bamboo lanais and railings, what looked like cogon roofs made from cereal, and all parts of the styrofoam were concealed with brown colored icing, bamboo poles, etc. Unusual for gingerbread, the insides of the houses were completely visible through large windows, and the interior walls were clad in what looked like authentic local materials. And if you looked closely, the houses have ceilings as well!
The essence of a simple yet practical provincial home is apparent in both homes. Just one large multi-purpose room for eating, sleeping, chatting and living. Cross-ventilation from large windows all around. Bamboo floors for natural air-conditioning. And in the case of this second and bigger home, it is raised off the ground with thick but short poles. Authentic stairs with four steps (oro, plata, mata, oro after all) lead up to the large lanai shaded by a light woven material. Note the three hand-made parols or Christmas lanterns in red, green and white on the homes… each one took nearly an hour to complete! And they have the tiniest but most accurate of “tails” on the lanterns.
You can see some of the interior wall coverings in the photo above, as well as the crochet window treatments that were placed at every window, and of course, the main doors. :)
An outhouse of bamboo and real dried palm leaves has a door and a little window vent.
Railings were painstakingly done by hand by two members of the crew, as was much of the other intricate bamboo work. Note the rolled up mat on the balcony. There is a more colorful mat in the other house as well…
The crochet work, ceilings and interiors of the smaller home.
An overhead “nightime” view of the tableau… Recently electrified, the barangay was aglow in an excess of lights from lamp posts placed way too close together, probably due to some hefty kickbacks… :) Hung on the poles were also fiesta banners, each triangle cut by hand and pasted onto thread. It took over four hours to make the multi-colored decorations…
What’s amazing about this year’s creation is that EVERYONE in the house contributed something. Whether it was the idea for how to string the lights, to the hundreds of palm tree leaves that we had to cut by hand and past onto spare rattan poles from the backyard storage area, to the fabrication of the styrofoam bases… we all had a part in this year’s effort. It was truly the spirit of bayanihan, in a theme that screams local pinoy. I mean, this is the idealized provincial setting… no exterior bathroom design styles in this make-believe part of the gingerbread realm.
Notice that we also took the time to take photos of everyone in the household, to scale, well almost to scale, and mounted the printed cut-out photos all around the scene. This makes it extremely personal and meaningful for our household. But it was a result of trying to find Asian figurines and I couldn’t locate any… the ones in the stores are all Caucasian! Oh, and let’s not forget the chocolate lab, whose name is Ginger, after our annual gingerbread effort, and she hangs out in the lanai of the smaller nipa hut watching all the hubbub on the farm. She isn’t sure whether she should run around the fields since she is most certainly a city dog… hahaha.
Set on a large narra table surrounded by pots and pots of poinsettias, this small but unique set-up is definitely one of our family’s favorites to date. After each long and crazy day of pre-Christmas activity, I like to turn off almost all of the lights in our living room and sit staring at the gingerbread for a few minutes before finally heading off to bed… It’s an oddly calming thing to do. From our home to yours, we wish you all a wonderful holiday season!!!
Gingerbread has been an annual tradition in our home for the past 15 years. Here are some other editions…
Madeline’s orphanage, 2001.
The domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow, 2002.
A large candyhouse and the St. Basil’s Cathedral piece, 2002.
A block of townhouses, some unnamed Western City, 2003. Note, templates for the front of the townhouses designed by A. Locsin, the architect. :)
The Kid’s Village strip Mall, 2005.
The Red Barn, 2006
The Green Chapel, 2006
Some gingerbread cookies decorated with icing and double as ornaments for a Christmas tree…
Last year’s New England Gothic Chapel, 2009