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Amazing PAETE: That Custom Woodcraft Wundertown Hiding in Laguna

October 11, 2014 | By: Blessing & BodyRock       Amazing Philippines
Amazing PAETE
That Custom Woodcraft Wundertown
of your Holy Dreams in Laguna

A reminder that this town lives on woodcraft, a small
souvenir woodchisel keychain

The famed woodcraft and paper mache cottage industry in Paete is THE best kept secret for anyone looking for local business opportunities.  Many people flock down here to get their poons and religious iconography in time for either Holy Week or for Christmas.

Most Paete travel blogs just show the small town as a place for getting well-carved wooden statues of Catholic icons of worship
and Filipiniana memorabilia for souvenirs, or tableaus of the Last Supper made of wood as home decor.  The posh, commercial tourist shops selling polished ready-made sculptures line the highway going to Paete town and inside the town proper of Paete itself, and the best of all 'handicraft' industry props are available in these accessible drop-off points.

Get your I love Paete T shirts from this Souvenir shop
around the corner from the Town hall.

Going to Paete, Laguna

Small town, narrow roads, houses and woodcraft shops situated
side-by-side like brothers and sisters in Paete town.

Few of the travel blogs show what Paete is really like as a town.

Paete is an hour away from Cubao, if you ride a bus. You pass by 5 or 6 major Laguna towns on the way to Paete, from Calamba first, the most urbanized town, then Los Banos, a sleepy university town famous for its Buko Pie and Coconut delicacies, then Liliw, with some hotsprings resort, then Sta Cruz, the home of Kesong Puti, before Pagsanjan, the water rafting adventure place, then finally Paete.

You would think of Paete as several tight blocks of houses that expanded into a town of 4 or 5 baranggays. It seems larger than it is, yet everything is a 2-minute tricycle ride from the next neighborhood or town area you want to visit.

The town itself is sort of an endearing maze of narrow streets, passable by either one very small vehicle or the ubuiquitous Laguna tricycle, configured for hauling woodcraft and coconuts along with passengers.  They charge just P10 to P20 for short strips around the town. The houses around town aren't what you expect from what you've already seen in Paete travel blogs online showing more rustic homes. There are weathered bungalows and houses with sari-sari stores in every block but these stand side by side with posh, modern and compact tall buildings. If you can manage to stroll around town to know the place better, that would be more enjoyable, unless you go in the middle of the summer season and it is advised that you bring a 2-liter, chug bottle of ice-cold calamansi juice or whatnot to keep you from heatstroke.

The Aglipayan Church right beside the Paete Town Hall, opposite
of which is the El Shaddai Catholic Church, a basketball court and
a town plaza sits between both churches.

Commercial woodcraft shops sit side by side near a crossroads that represents the main business area for woodcraft merchandise. A few blocks away from that are the Aglipayan and Catholic churches in the town center near the Mayor's office and Police HQ. 
Custom artisan workshops are located within the residential area and along a major street leading to the highway.

The El Shaddai Catholic Church, a Spanish era edifice that is one of the
more common places where visitors have their picture mementos taken.

Stained glass detail on the El Shaddai church windows from
inside the church.  These are at least 100 years old or so.

All old Spanish churches seem to have this on their facade, a stone
tablet listing of the  10 commandments and more Biblical verses.

Inside the knave of the church, near the altar is where the revered
poons of the Catholic faith are esconced, worshippers often take
time to offer prayers to these saints and to the Holy Mother
for intercession for their sins, and for good luck too.

Kitsch, Blessed Poons, and Excellent Artifacts

For bespoke woodcraft, there are more design and product opportunities available than just religious iconography when you go shopping for souvenirs in Paete, or look for someone to commission a personal artifact!  Check out the samples of what the woodcarvers can do in woodcraft country...

There are two sides to what you can get, if you are on the hunt for specific custom woodcraft items in Paete.

There are sleek commercial shops with fairly impressive wares displayed like tourist trap merchandise, mostly poon images (Catholic icons--saints and Jesus as the Black Nazarene, and crucifixes), ready-made Filipiniana retablo or wall-hanging sculpture-paintings depicting scenes of Filipino culture like Bayanihan, the Last Supper, Planting or Harvesting Rice, and other nostalgic cultural markers; and then there are the handcrafted one-of-a-kind wood sculptures by the famed local artist  community of Paete and the other nearby Laguna towns.

A retablo or wall-mounted sculpture of the Last Supper, one of
the more popular Catholic iconography souvenirs bought at Paete.

A Christmas Belen depicted in small wooden mementos, one favorite
altar display souvenir gift of almost all Filipino Catholics.

Mother and Child wood sculptures, is another popular souvenir for
balikbayan Filipinos, from life-size statues to table-top .mementos

Paete's popular souvenirs include carved jeepneys, wooden bead
rosaries, farm and harvest scenes carved into wood mementos to
miniature masks at one shop.

Part of the kitsch props made of paper mache,
fruit sculptures painted to look real.

Paper Mache masks, another strange souvenir offering,
don't laugh these cost a bundle too.

More fiesta masks made from paper-mache, at one dedicated mask shop.

More paper mache objects and figures to be finished as souvenir items
and home decor specials after painting over or kept as faux wood designs.

Tissue box holders and toilet paper containers, part of the kitschy
woodcraft souvenirs that are still useful gifts that are available in Paete.

A woodcraft sculpture of a Filipino cultural tradition, the Bayanihan.

Paper mache Christmas lanterns in a variety of styles and shapes,
which can be dramatic as mood lighting fixtures in the right home

Souvenir basket weave, box holders for paraphernalia and knick knacks.

One of the best value souvenirs, useful wood utensils like wooden plates.
Some are decorative, and others can actually be used as flatware and
dinner ware.  You can get them in natural finish, stained, or like above.

Detail on wooden cruciifix, one of many variations in Paete town. 
People go out of their way from Manila to find a good crucifix
for their home altars,  here in wood craft country.

Not only is Paete, the place for sculpture artifacts, you can find hole-in-the-wall shops like Randy's Sandals, a Paete based sandal-maker with a factory in Marikina that offers some of the best in comfortable and stylish leather sandals and dress shoes anywhere!.  Check out our finds at his shop!

A rare find in Paete!  Custom sandal maker using real leather, the
footwear are made in Marikina.  The sandals are well-made and sturdy
unlike cheap, mass manufactured knock-offs everywhere else.

Look at these beautiful leather footwear!  Randy's Sandals should be
one of your souvenir shops in Paete!  You won't regret getting a pair.

The sandal shop on the outside, displaying not just sandals
but fine leather dress shoes as well.  Randy's has a Facebook page too.

The famed artist community of master sculptors in Paete do mostly commissioned work or exhibit pieces and earn off their art.  No mass production of any design, unless a patron or benefactor commissions them for any design, statue or retablo artifact, for a good price of course.

A list of the local artist guild or association that recognizes only the
most talented local sculptors in Laguna, if you want something
custom made have your commission made by any of
these good gentlemen.

The difference between commercial woodcraft and custom woodcraft is visually obvious.  Luis Ac-Ac, a one time nominated National Arts for sculpture has some of the most incredibly lifelike and detailed sculptures of Poon images, retablos, and collectible wooden statues which range in theme from centaurs archers to a traveling Filipino scout messenger. Luis has made several custom pieces for many clientele including international buyers. His workshop is a sleek studio apartment not far from the church.

The heirloom, crafting tools of nominated National Artist, Luis Ac-AC,
hand-me-down woodchisel toolset  from his father and grandfather.

Before beginning a sculpture, the detail is laid out on cardboard so
the artist-apprentice can wittle down the wood where it needs to be
rough gouged before finishing touches by the master sculptor

The seasoned apprentice of Luis Ac-Ac preparing a wood piece for
sculpting by chipping away and forming the rough shapes
that the Master Sculptor will detail and finish

One of Luis Ac-Ac's finished masterpieces, a young soldier.

Another of his Woodcraft Sculpture Paintings depicting Pinoy culture.

The master sculptor himself, Luis Ac-Ac, putting in final details on a
smaller sculpture.  Working in his home studio in Paete Laguna.

Another incredible sculpture from Luis Ac-Ac.  As you have seen,
bespoke sculptures are better art pieces and heirloom investments
than even the best of the commercial art sold in tourist
souvenir shops in Paete.

One of the finished pieces of natinal artist nominee,
Luis Ac-Ac on a special softwood.

The Baldemor clan, Angelo, Felix and Mario, are another esteemed family of woodcraft artisans and sculptors in Paete, who are part of the Paete Artist Community. They also do custom commissions and exhibit pieces for sale and Mario has a small and cozy nook of a workshop nestled along one major road within Paete that leads to one of two rmin-esorts in the Area.

Mario Baldemor doing his magic on good wood
at their roadside workplace.

A Baldemor religious woodcraft sculpture WIP: a painting depicting Christ.

Bert Baldemor also looking after a few unfinished pieces on
 a lazy summer afternoon in Paete.

Literally carved out of a tree trunk is this diwata, another WIP from the
amazing Baldemor clan of woodcraft artisans.

Not only is Paete an enclave for woodcraft artists and paper mache craftsmen in Laguna. The town has several special places that exhibit the best work of the artists from the province, like the charming Kesada Cafe, a hole-in-the-wall Coffee Shop that displays custom woodcraft, paintings, paper mache constructs of Filipiniana and all sorts of knick knacks and memorabilia.

Kape Kesada is a meeting place where the best artists of Laguna display
their best artwork for sale.  A boutique museum and cafe in one.

Kafe Kesada has a museum curator managing the display as well as
the food service amenities of the boutique cafe.

This paper mache jeepney done by local artist, costs Php 65 thousand
pesos.  And it looks more expensive than that because of the stylized
yet clean d

One of the gorgeous stylized pop art fantasy paintings at Kafe Kesada.
Most art pieces displayed here are often high-end personal masterpieces
by the local artists of Laguna.

Bespoke Woodcraft is Not a Lost Art

During the last F.A.M.E. exhibit in Manila, some enterprising fashion designers, like Risque Footwear, had bespoke designer shoes and clogs made by Paete artisans. These fashion items and accessories are one of a kind and are just an inkling of what any smart designer can do with the help ot the town's best artisans.

A custom sculpture of Bernardo Carpio at one woodcraft shop. 
This beautiful Filipino-made heirloom runs at Php 70 thousand.

People today are rediscovering that handmade and custom crafted artifacts provide more satisfaction than any mass market branded item can offer. A Swiss designer has made geometrically usable wooden purses that sell for $600 a pop. There are custom machined wood casings for mobile phones and tablets that sell for a premium yet everyone wants them no matter the cost as long as they are well made. Rogue businessmen on eBay offer custom made, scaled replicas of ANY vehicle you have in mind like model kits except these are handcarved to perfection using good wood: from a World War 2 fighter plane or ship to movie themed spaceships and even movie characters.  And the base of operations for online custom woodcraft is in the Philippines!

A woodcraft Buddha statue for sale, there are religious iconography
from other cultures sold in Paete and these include Chinese dragons
and Indian gods like Ganesha

A horsehead sculpture in the same shop selling figures and statues
from different cultural references.

Still, one of our favorites, rustic wooden bowls and spoons and forks
and ladles that you can either display or actually use too!

Other individuals, not necessarily based in PAETE, have made bespoke woodcraft their way of life and it has rewarded them with more blessings and an incredible artisan freedom to excel at their work....

Renown carpenter-artist, Benji Reyes from Antipolo creates custom carved, high value furniture pieces AND sculptures from recycled hardwoods that are the best anyone has every seen for woodcraft furniture the world over.

Rockstar designer Dale Mathis, based in Pampanga also does his clock artifacts in woodcraft and his designs have attracted an international clientele as well as avid fans willing to buy low ticket custom merchandise--all bespoke woodcraft.

In small provincial towns in our country, where some of the most talented and dedicated artisans and craftsmen live and work, you will find and see many opportunities that NO ONE else will see because they look at uncreative ideas and cheap follies that don't hold out in the long run.  But if you travel around and look what our people can do, you might see how easy it is to make good and better than anyone else given all the resourceful talent and creative people everywhere you look.

All you need is an inspiration to make something that no one else can copy, then go to PAETE and make things happen.


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