Another discovery at the Bohol Bee Farm were these terrific handwoven buri/raffia fabrics made from fiber of the buri palm tree. A huge palm tree, the buri palm is the source of three natural fibers: buri, raffia and buntal, according to the Philippine government Dept. of Agriculture website. The fibers are then dyed and in some cases, woven on a loom. Buntal was also well know as a hat material in the 1960â€™s and 70â€™s. What struck me about this buri fabric were the stunning color combinations. Sometimes I am at odds with the color combinations used in our local crafts and textiles (not always)â€¦but in this case the color combinations were noticeably different. You could almost see them in a European textile catalogue but interpreted in local materialsâ€¦
At PHP100 a meter, I considered this tremendous value considering the amount of work necessary to hand weave the fabric as partially seen in this photograph taken by my 10 year old daughter. I pounced on several different rolls even though I had no clear use in mindâ€¦they just seemed to be something I should buy. I stopped when I hit 25 meters and thank goodness they gave me a slight break on the price due to the bulk purchase. Aside from the rolls of raffia, they also went a step further to make table runners, place mats, coin purses, wine wrappers, etc. The weavers and the sewers worked right on the premises and you can catch them actually making the fabric and handicrafts.
Back home in Manila, I decided to try using them as wrapping material and I was truly pleasantly surprised with the results. I wrapped a nice bag filled with freshly baked broas (also from Bohol) in about Â¾ meter of the buri/raffia and used plain raffia as a ribbon. It was at once native, modern, unique, colorful, unusual and an â€œaha!â€ moment. I have over 500 sheets of wrapping paper and kilometers of ribbon but this beats all of that by a mile. And better yet, the Christmas present is almost entirely locally madeâ€¦