Laguna is close to my heart for I call it home for almost half a decade. I remember almost every other Wednesday I take to the road and drive through the outskirt towns, what we also call “Upper Laguna”. Lagi kong binabaybay yun all the way from Calamba – Los Banos – Calauan – Victoria – Pila – Sta Cruz – Pagsanjan – Lumban - Kalayaan – Paete – Pakil – Pangil and end my field work in Siniloan. These road trips passing through old towns, verdant greens and seeing Laguna Lake at some points are a welcome break from the more chaotic and industrialized “Lower Laguna”.
Products and Pasalubong from Laguna
Each town of Laguna has something special to offer like the abaca slippers and sandals of Liliw, to the wood carvings of Paete, buco pie of Los Banos, puto binan of Binan, kesong puti of Sta Cruz, espasol of Nagcarlan, pineapple of Caluan, banig ng Luisiana, hand-made embroidery of Lumban and a lot, lot more. These are on top of the natural wonders that this province offers from waterfalls, mountain treks, hot springs, Laguna de Bay, 7 Lakes of San Pablo, Mt Banahaw and Mt Makiling, Hidden Valley and more. Laguna really offers so much and is poise to become a strong player when we talk about tourism in the Philippines. The province and its towns are great destinations too especially if you are looking for vacation spots near Manila or for your quick weekend getaways.
This post however will be focus on the famous products of the town of Lumban, Laguna also known as the “Embroidery Capital of the Philippines.” A close rival when it comes to this craft is the heritage town of Taal in Batangas province.
Lumban Where Embroidery Rules!
Lumban is located between the towns of Pagsanjan and Kalayaan, a section of the town faces the Laguna Lake. As is usual with Laguna towns, an old welcome arc bearing the town’s name will greet you. Too bad I wasn’t able to take a snap of the Lumban arc; I will just update this post if I pass by that way again. If you have a private vehicle, it’s best to drive leisurely so you can observe the passing towns and take in the scene of Upper Laguna. If you are not in a hurry, I implore you to stop at one of the embroidery shops for therein you’ll see the products that Lumban is most proud of.
Embroidery is the main industry of the town; it’s what fuels the economy, close second are fishing and agriculture. Almost every townsfolk is connected in one way or another with the making of fine pina jusi, barong tagalogs, embroidered items like wedding gowns, handkerchief, purses, table mats and runners, scarves, dollies, abanicos and so much more.
I don’t know the full history of embroidery in Lumban but I know that this craft flourished during the 60s and 70’s when then First Lady Imelda Marcos decreed that government officials should come to the office wearing barong tagalog as a sign of nationalism. Lumban rose up to the occasion and become the primary and favorite source to get finely made, tailor fitted embroidered barongs. Even today Imelda continues to be seen in public in her ternos, some of them might even came from Lumban.
Simple formal attire: Terno and Barong Tagalog
Barong tagalog is the Philippines national costume for men while for women its baro’t saya. For formal functions the Filipina formal dress is called “terno”. These special clothing are usually worn by politicians, executives and during special occasions like weddings, business meetings, gala affairs etc.
Lumban is also well known for calado technique in embroidery; its needlework wherein the decoration already on a textile is made more intricate by pulling out threads in some spots while adding more on others. Doing this takes utmost patience and a keen eye for minute details but the resulting design will undoubtedly be very intricate and wonderful. My explanation of the technique falls short on what really goes on, it needs an embroidery expert to fully explain the method of calado. But I do take my hats off to the artisans of Lumban! Saludo talaga!
Lumban’s famous needlework, right side pic is an example of calado embroidery
When it comes to designs, the best sellers are chinese colar barong tagalog, lukot mayaman short sleeves barongs, pina jusi barong, the cheaper version compared to the internationally famous pina barong, elaborate wedding gowns and ternos. If you are a walk-in customer you can buy textiles, linens decorated with needlework as well as ready-made barong and ternos. With today’s progress and access to modern equipment, some shops already employs embroidery machines for their products but many still favors the good old, traditional hand-made embroidery.
Labor of Passion, Handed Down Tradition
The creation of one fully embroidered piece of barong or baro’t saya is a painstaking process and will take long hours of dedicated needlework. Just check out the details sa burda and you know that the women and men behind these products must have labored long and hard so they can produce such fine specimen of clothing. Passion I think musts be involved too in the making of one high quality barong.
Most of those I know personally have inherited this craft from their mothers and grandmothers. There are even young boys and full grown men who do embroidery work too; it’s not consider emasculating for them to be doing this because this has become a part of tradition for the members of the family. A family in Lumban may not be directly doing embroidery work but you can bet that they have relatives who are connected directly to this craft.
Lumban’s embroidery industry involves the whole community and many of their products are world class, something that we as Filipinos can be proud of. These products are also constantly evolving in keeping with the times; we now see hand-painting on textiles and fabrics as well as on women’s accessories like native bags and purses. But of course, the traditional needlework like colado will never go out of style.
How much is barong tagalog and other products?
If you check online, there are only a few blogs that talks about these products. What abounds though are online shops and stores that sells Lumban made clothes and clothing articles. There are just tons of them if you try to google it. Supply is high because the demand continues for their finely crafted products. Production has also extended to include hand-painted textiles, office uniforms, wedding gowns and embroidered RTWs like lukot mayaman barong, formal wear like Filipiniana ternos etc.
If you are planning your wedding, you might like to order custom made wedding gowns with full embroidery and beading works from Lumban shops. Most embroidery stores in the town offers wedding packages whose prices can rival those in Divisoria. Of course if you want more details, more bead works, tasteful sequins work, and intricate embroidery and the whole shebang, the price will also rise up accordingly. But they can adjust to your budget and style. Go to Lumban and see for yourself why even some top fashion designers of today commission works from Lumban artisan and craftsmen.
Bridal Gown and Embroidery
Usual prices of Lumban product starts at P4k for bridal gowns, made to order short sleeve lukot at P450, long sleeve lukot at P500, pina jusi barong around P900 up to P1,500 depends on the materials use and intricacy of needlework. These were the price ranges quoted to us last November 2012, I don’t know if there are changes. You can always try to haggle with the shop owners to bring down the prices too!
My boyfriend who hails from nearby Liliw used to buy all his barong tagalog in Lumban because it’s cheaper there compared to similar items you can find in department stores which usually sells for P800 to P1500 for short sleeve lukot mayaman. He also suspects that many of those displayed in department stores are sourced from Lumban and was just “labeled” to make it more “sossy”, that’s his word by the way not mine hehehe.
Anyhow, because embroidery is part and parcel of the town, it comes as no surprise then that this town in Laguna celebrates every third week of September the Burdang Lumban Festival. If you happen to be in Upper Laguna during those days whether for vacation or simple road trips, hope you can go drop by to this town and see the special exhibit of Lumban made products. Chances are you maybe unavailable to resist and buy one or two of their creations! Support Proudly Philippine Made Products ika nga.
Table runners embellish and embroidered
The next time I visit I hope to witness a master of this craft in action or try my hand at embroidery. I wonder if the community hold regular workshops?
Get to Lumban via commuting? Easy!
How to go to Lumban is relatively easy. Just get to the bus terminals in Taft, Pasay or in Cubao that serves routes going to the Calabarzon provinces. Look for buses going to “Sta Cruz” Laguna, usually these are “Green Star” buses. You can find more bus options if you go to Alabang central terminal. From Manila to Sta Cruz the whole bus ride will take you about 2 to 3 hours depending on traffic in Slex and the traffic bottlenecks of Calamba and Los Banos. Get off the bus when you get to the bus terminal in Sta Cruz, then just cross the street and wait for jeepneys that goes to Siniloan or Paete. These jeepneys will pass by the town center of Lumban as it’s along the national highway.
After you pass by the Lumban arc you will already see shops beside the road, you can get off the jeepney there or you can also go all the way to the town proper. You will know you are in the town proper when you cross a bridge. The river the bridge is over is the Pagsanjan River by the way so you can also say to friend when you get back home that you’ve been to Pagsanjan River. =) Anyhow, get off the jeepney and go left on the first street; you’ll again see these embroidery stores I am talking about on this post. When in doubt ask the driver or your fellow passengers for directions. Lagunenses are a helpful lot. =)
I don’t have the updated bus and jeepney fare, it’s another info that I will add once I know updated rates. =)
Where to buy barong in Lumban as well as made to order ternos?
Embroidery is Lumban’s contribution to the OTOP project of the PH government. OTOP stands for One Town, One Product. These products are also great for pasalubong especially for balikbayans and your foreign friends.
Penfires recommended shops are “Burdahan” on the right side of the road after you pass by Petron while in the town center you can check out “Meling’s Embroidery – (049) 5011145” and “Bote’s Embroidery – (049)8220337”. Both stores can be found on Rizal Street. When you are there, take the time to explore all stores so you can compare on design, styles and prices. More choices are always preferable, right?
That’s it. Hope you’ll own one proudly made Lumban creation! =)
We have just placed orders for custom made Lumban barongs, read about it on this post: