Kawayan or Bamboo in the Philippines

While in the Philippines I was amazed at how resistant and how versatile bamboo can be.

Filipinos use it everywhere: I have seen bamboo poles on the sides of the boats I took to get to the One Hundred Islands, the one I took on Lake Taal as well as in other places.

One common feature with many boats in the Philippines are the long bamboo stabilizers fitted to either side of the boat.

Also in the Philippines there are plenty of bahay kubo which are made of bamboo or kawayan and kugon or cogon grass.

The last time I was in the Philippines a bahay kubo was being built in the backyard of our house in barangay Pinaod, San Ildefonso Bulacan and I was amazed at how tough and resistant kawayan is.

Bahay kubo

Filipinos are so closely tied to bamboo that they have their own mythology about how man came from bamboo:

“there was a bird that flew incessantly between the sea and sky, unable to find a place to alight and rest. To add intrigue, the bird sparked a quarrel between the sea and the sky. It told the sky that the sea had designs of rising and drowning the sky; the sky replied it would fight such a move by hurling rocks and islands to hold the sea down, a statement the bird conveyed to the sea, provoking it to lash waves at the sky. The sky retaliated with rocks until, weighed down with islands, the sea no longer proved a threat. The bird then alighted happily on a protruding rock.

While it was resting, a bamboo node washed ashore and nudged the bird’s feet. The bird shifted a little. The bamboo nudged its feet again, and again the bird shifted. This went on until the bird, in anger, pecked at the bamboo, breaking it open. Out of the bamboo node emerged the first man. From the second node emerged a woman. Obtaining permission from the gods, the couple had many children. All grew up idle, doing nothing to help their parents until the father angrily picked up a stout stick and threatened to beat them all, sending them scampering in terror. Some ran out of the house, others fled to the bedroom, a few cowered in the living room, some hid in the kitchen and some among soot-covered cooking pots. Those children who entered the bedroom sired the chief and datos; those in the living room became free men; descendants of those who hid in the kitchen became slaves; while those blackened by the cooking pots produced the Aetas. From those who fled the house never to return descended all the people from other parts of the world” (source “Culture-shock Philippines” by Alfredo and Grace Roces-Chapter 2)

Maybe the only way to break open a matigas na ulo is by using bamboo….

Close to my wife’s town is the city of Meycauayan. I thought that it meant may kawayan (there is bamboo here) but I didn’t see much kawayan there….but I didn’t see any bakla in Baclaran either….

8 thoughts on “Kawayan or Bamboo in the Philippines

  1. Yes, I agree. Bamboo is very resistant and versatile. It should be utilized more (such as scaffolding for house constructions, more decorative furniture, etcetera).
    I also noted the ending. It’s funny and witty. You have a point in looking for “kawayan” in Meycauayan, since some places in the country have been named from plants that grew there (or were thought to grow there). 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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