22 Mar2010


The era of “fine dining” at home has almost all but disappeared in the last generation or two. While my parents and their peers often entertained with sit-down (formal or informal) dinners at home, today most people opt to eat out at restaurants instead. The practicality of dining in a restaurant is completely understandable, but there is nothing like welcoming friends and family to one’s own dinner table, regardless of the size of home, the table settings or the meal served. Sister was in town a couple of weeks ago, and one of her “quests” was to locate suitable wedding gifts for several upcoming weddings of the children of dear friends. She hunted high and low for pina (pineapple fiber) placemats and when she found those, was disappointed at the size of the accompanying napkins, which were tiny. She managed to get Balikbayan handicrafts to accept a custom order for pina placemats and appropriately large 24×24 inch pina dinner napkins and we picked up that order today…


The linens are quite stunning. Intricately embroidered (but not excessively intricate), they are at once impressive and daunting as I would be loath to see them soiled on their first use with an errant drop of soy sauce, patis, or the oily sauce of a carefully made adobo. And what does one do with lipstick stains? At any rate, I decided to mock up a place setting to see how the linens would look and I think Sister will be pleased with her orders. Up top, the setting that I would use should I suddenly be asked to host a Pinoy themed dinner for some of the Presidential and Vice-Presidential wannabees, with dark blue bowl for Mar of course…


Silver flatware looks great on the pina, and I used glass plates so that you can see the embroidery on the placemat. Mother of Pearl accessories would also work well with this plate setting.


Noy would have a yellow bowl at his place setting, of course…


…an emerald green one for Gibo…


…and while bright orange seems a bit loud or tacky, I suppose that would have to be rolled out for Manny. Oh, and for Erap too of course, since he was the first to pick the color orange as his trademark campaign color…


If you wanted to remain neutral, you would have to use clear bowls instead. At least the upside of that would be an unfettered view of the embroidered place mat underneath. :)



  1. millet says:

    very, very nice! but i would cringe visibly everytime a guest wiped his/her mouth on the napkins.

    Mar 22, 2010 | 4:51 pm


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  3. Vanessa says:

    Very elegant! But I owned this set I would only take them out when the president comes to dinner and for no one else.

    Mar 22, 2010 | 5:22 pm

  4. Ley says:

    So elegant! I would never invite Erap and Villar though:)

    Mar 22, 2010 | 5:33 pm

  5. mbw says:

    These pina table placemats and napkins are sooo exquisite! i wouldn’t mind having them as another table setting motif. But I know I will use them rarely so frame them first :-)! Proud to be Filipino!

    Mar 22, 2010 | 6:01 pm

  6. Mom-Friday says:

    So delicate and lovely! But I can only look, don’t think I can use them :D The blue one is most striking, a contrast of the bold and contemporary against the old-world charm of pina.

    Mar 22, 2010 | 6:51 pm

  7. socky says:

    Can you wash piña? You can’t even dry clean it, can you? My tita was from Lumban, Laguna known for the best, most elegant embroidery. But I was told that embroidered piña barongs. for example, were used only on special occasions and NEVER washed!

    Mar 22, 2010 | 7:21 pm

  8. Marketman says:

    Socky, OMG, does that mean these napkins have to be disposable? That would be extravagant (wasteful) indeed. I have dry cleaned pina barongs before, but it probably isn’t great for the fabric…

    Mar 22, 2010 | 7:28 pm

  9. eric carlos says:

    Beautiful. Every home should own a set of this handmade work… Just to keep his wonderful industry alive.

    Mar 22, 2010 | 8:16 pm

  10. sister says:

    They look great. I presumed that pina could be hand washed. What guests do to napkins is quite heart rending, maybe some wipe their shoes between courses, I don’t know, but some of the stains are not attributable to the food… thank you Balikbayan Handicraft for taking my order. Thanks to MM, too.
    Now we only have to hope the next president is available for dinner!

    Mar 22, 2010 | 8:42 pm

  11. Brian Asis says:

    This brings me back when I go to my uncles home in Bulacan that was built during the Spanish occupation.

    Mar 22, 2010 | 8:43 pm

  12. atbnorge says:

    Those napkins will complement my Wedgwood set! Lovely!

    It is heart rending to have to wash table cloths (na pinaka-ingat-ingatan mo—mala-bikining itim, hahaha). Pero siyempre, sa espesyal na okasyon lamang ginagamit ang mamahaling linen or silk damask…I would readily take them out for friends kahit hindi sila presidente or presidentiables, hahaha!

    Mar 22, 2010 | 9:32 pm

  13. Mimi says:

    I have never eaten on a pina placemat or have ever used a pina napkin. I know in some family gatherings we have used pina tablecloth. The last time a relative asked me to buy pina tablecloth was ages ago, and even then an eight seater cost thousands and thousands of pesos. MM, if you don’t mind, how much did Balikbayan charge for each napkin?

    Mar 22, 2010 | 9:36 pm

  14. Marketman says:

    Mimi, as these are destined for presents, I would rather not disclose the price. The placemats cost more than the napkins, and the napkins were quite plain, with only an embroidered border, but they weren’t cheap. A good pina handkerchief might run $8-10 a piece or thereabouts, so you can extrapolate a bit and figure out the approximate cost…

    Mar 22, 2010 | 9:43 pm

  15. Vicky Go says:

    I’ve never seen silverware in place settings set w the ‘bowl’ part facing down for the spoon & same for the fork(s). Is this a new trend?

    Mar 22, 2010 | 10:31 pm

  16. millet says:

    sister, you are so funny!
    i believe in using the beautiful things for the family instead of reserving them for guests, but if i had this pina set and used it for a family dinner, i’d serve my family soda crackers and water only. at least cracker crumbs are bigger and easier to shake out of the placemats.

    Mar 22, 2010 | 11:13 pm

  17. THELMA says:

    millet, i totally agree with you in using beautiful silverware for the family instead
    of reserving them for the guests. the kitchen is the most frequented place in the house. i like serving food in nice plates and other utensils. those beautiful pina sets would be good for special occasions…

    Mar 23, 2010 | 1:26 am

  18. Mimi says:

    Thanks for the info, MM. At least I have an idea how much to bring the next time we go visit and haggle with the ladies in Lumban. The placemats make exquisite gifts and I can picture the artisan embroiderer hand sewing them in those bamboo hoops.

    Mar 23, 2010 | 2:40 am

  19. mei kwei says:

    very nice, MM. may i suggest – maybe you can fan out the table napkin – parang abanico style and secure it with the napkin holder.this is what we do at home and i think its more pinay. just a suggestion– if you dont mind. anyway, love the pina settings.

    Mar 23, 2010 | 3:59 am

  20. sonia ner says:

    Pina can be washed. From the definitive book by Lourdes Montinola on the fabric and my personal experience, anything made from that delicate looking but strong fabric can be hand washed.

    Soak in water with mild soap or Woolite. Rub gently ; do not rub vigorously. Use calamansi or kamias on spots with stains. Rinse thorougly ; do not wring. Hang or lay on towels to dry.

    Iron only when ready to use. For a nice finish, you may want to use a spray -on mild starch

    Mar 23, 2010 | 8:38 am

  21. Quillene says:

    Wow, MM and Sister! These remind me so much of my lola’s place settings when they had SPECIAL SPECIAL dinners at home. I never thought Balikbayan Handicrafts could have something custom-made.

    May I ask how long was the lead time for the special ordered linens? Tnx!

    Mar 23, 2010 | 9:06 am

  22. sister says:

    Vicky Go,
    It was the custom in the 18th and 19th centuries to heavily engrave or decorate the backs of flatware so tables were set with the pieces face down, and knives often blade down as well so as not to threaten the person dining across the table. The initials were also placed so they could be read in this position. It is still done in Europe or with European sets of flatware which are larger in size than the America made sets. Note the ones in the picture are simply beaded on the back with a center space for initials if so desired.
    Although the placemats and napkins were pricey they were no more than a good set of linen ones from Italy or France. A pina tablecloth would be very nice to have as well but the placemats give you the option of using only the required number instead of covering the whole table. This will make a fabulous wedding gift. Another wedding gift item I like is mother of pearl plates, a by product of pearl farms.
    FYI the standard size for a placemat in the US is 14×20″ and a dinner napkin should be at least 22×22″ but 20×20″ is more common. European sizing is 16×22″ for the placemat and 24×24″ for the dinner napkin and 27×27″ for the banquet size.
    I spent some time convincing Balikbayan Handicraft that tiny napkins sold along with their sets of placemats were virtually useless. So I hope that those of you who like to set a nice table will insist on getting these sizes. After all plates have generally increased in size over the last decade. It is not unusual to see a 12″ place plate or an 11″ dinner plate.
    At the Marjorie Merriweather Post museum in D.C. the dining table was set with a similar pina placemats and napkins, albeit antique. Pina is unique to the Philippines and always very well received abroad.

    Mar 23, 2010 | 9:08 am

  23. Jen says:

    Hi MM, I am from Lumban, Laguna (though I’m currently based here in Singapore). Im proud to say that we produce the best barong tagalogs. If you need quality and cheap embroidered pina products (barong, shawl,gown,fan, table cloth, placemats,coin purse, and hand bags you can visit Lumban, it’s the town after Pagsanjan. We also have a yearly Barong Festival where you can buy really cheap and beautiful barongs. They also accept made to order. You may try Burdahand Center, they have lots of choices.

    Mar 23, 2010 | 9:43 am

  24. Lea Gonzales says:

    Hi MM. The province of Aklan produces beautiful pina cloth (for garments, housewares, bags etc.). They are holding the the yearly Aklan Pina & Fiber Festival this coming 21-27 April 2010 in Kalibo, Aklan. This is a public-private partnership project of Aklan Pina Manufacturers & Traders Assn. Inc., Hugod Aklan Producers Assn. Inc., Provincial Government of Aklan, Department of Trade & Industry and Fiber Industry Development Authority.

    Mar 23, 2010 | 11:51 am

  25. Betchay says:

    MM, it’s so elegant! I like your idea of using clear plates–brilliant! And I agree with Mom-Friday,I like the contrast of the royal blue bowl best!

    Mar 23, 2010 | 1:42 pm

  26. Eden says:

    WOW, the pina placemat and napkins make for a wonderful place setting. I probably would just use them on display on the dining table… I know, I know horrors… but the thought of having to worry about stains and handwashing the finery would be a downer. :)

    Great job, Sister and MM for having the initiative to make the special order for usable size napkins.

    Mar 23, 2010 | 2:15 pm

  27. Jack Hammer says:

    MM….no need to worry about the Pina, becoming dirty. I have Pina Barongs which my Sister in Law gifted me and I hand-wash them regularly after each wear. Only they are difficult to Iron and have to covered with a Wet cloth before putting the Iron on them, or else they would burn and get discoloured. As far as I know…Pina Barongs should never be dry-cleaned as the harsh chemicals react with the natural fibre and discolours it.

    Mar 23, 2010 | 5:49 pm

  28. sister says:

    It took three weeks for the custom ordered pina placemats and napkins. But I hope that the store will stock the napkins from now on to go with all their various placemat designs.

    Mar 23, 2010 | 7:54 pm

  29. Quillene says:

    Thanks, sister! At least now they know that there is / will be a demand for proper sized napkins… :)

    Mar 24, 2010 | 8:56 am

  30. Lava Bien says:

    Yup, our good friends from Kalibo, Aklan poduce some of the nicest piña products. They say that the piña material they use in Lumban, Laguna are usually from Aklan and Lumban only embroider them (or whatever they do to make it nicer). So they decided to do it themselves. I actually saw them weaving the piña fiber with the manual machine thingy. It was amazing. Love Kalibo, then love Boracay more hehehehehe.

    Mar 24, 2010 | 2:40 pm

  31. Zharmagne says:

    Hi MM,
    Wonderful post! You gave me an idea what to give a foreign couple who are about to get married next month. May I know where to get these exquisite table linens?

    Thanks much!

    Mar 24, 2010 | 6:29 pm

  32. thea says:

    hi! i was wondering, why are the spoons and forks in the table setting facing downwards? is it ok to set it facing upwards too?

    Mar 26, 2010 | 11:46 am

  33. Marketman says:

    thea, if you read up to the comment by sister, she explains the inverted silver setting as a more traditional European style, with the cutlery having designs on the back of the pieces, hence they are set “upside down”. The set used in this post is a European stye one, and rather old. If you have more modern flatware, yes of course it is ok to set them facing up… Zharmagne, Balikbayan Handicrafts carries the pina placemats and napkins.

    Mar 26, 2010 | 6:49 pm

  34. jay says:

    Hi, san po nakakabili ng mother of pearl table mats and that pina napkins. reputable shops only. thanks

    Oct 3, 2011 | 11:19 am

  35. Marketman says:

    jay, try balikbayan handicrafts, they have a good selection.

    Oct 3, 2011 | 11:36 am


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