Ulingan is a local term used to refer to the traditional clay stove here in Iloilo. In Filipino, the clay stove is called kalan. Before gas stoves and ovens were invented, Filipinos cook their rice and viand over the ulingan. Up to now there are many people who still cook their food using the ulingan. Personally, I find it irresistible eating rice cooked in the ulingan especially if it is placed in the traditional clay pot called kolon. According to some Ilonggos, “namit guid ya kung gin luto sa ulingan ang bugas kag sud-an“. (“The rice and viand get delicious if they are cooked over the clay stove.”)
The Sellorin Family are tumandoks (natives) of Jibao-an; the family members include: Romeo “Roming” (father), Adeliada (mother), and their children: Jeobert (eldest), Juvylyn, Jeomel, Jessica, Jirah and Jezrell (youngest).
I asked Manong Roming if he could give me a rough estimate of the year their pottery business started, and he said “I cannot really give you the exact or even jut the approximate year, since I only know that our small business started back from my grandfathers and may be from their grandfathers too.” Now, Manong Roming is the one who manages their small business, and every family member knows how to make a pot. According to them, Jeomel (Roming’s son) is the one who makes good clay stoves.
Making the ulingan.
The process of making the clay stoves starts from the gathering of materials. Generally the materials in making the ulingan are: baras (a mixture of clay and sand) and water. Interestingly, in our language the term baras/balas refers to the sand alone, but in the world of Jibao-an potters they refer it to the mixture of sand and clay. There is also another term from them, ihut.
It refers to the clay alone. Sometimes, Manong Roming uses pure cement which is molded in an aluminum bucket/mold to make cement stoves since these are more durable and can last up to a year. On the other hand, the ulingan made of baras lasts for about four months. The pricing also differs, the clay stove is worth 35 pesos per piece in retail but in whole sale (60 pieces) it is only 25 pesos per piece, while the cement stove costs about a hundred and fifty pesos per piece in retail but for only about a hundred and twenty pesos per piece in wholesale (60 pieces). Even though the cement stove has its advantage, in which it lasts longer than the clay stove, I still believe that the clay stove is better. Like for example, the rice cooked in a kolon and over a clay stove is much more delicious and has an irresistible aroma than that of the cement stove. Just like me, my father also thinks that his appetite is intensified whenever he eats rice cooked over an ulingan.
The forming or shaping of the clay stove is one important process in pottery making. First, the potter gets a portion or about two handfuls of the baras and kneads the clay using both of his feet in order to soften baras. After that, the clay undergoes the kandol process, where the clay is placed on a table and kneaded by both hands, to soften and estimate the appropriate amount of the clay needed. The next step is called gihit, which is done on the potter’s wheel to shape it. An appropriate amount of water added is important when shaping the clay, so that it would be easier and softer to handle. A piece of hilo (thread) is used to gurut (separate) the shaped clay from the potter’s wheel.
The clay stove is then air-dried or sun-dried or transferred to a covered place for about five days until the clay becomes white and hard. After it is dried, finishing touches are then applied like making opening for the entrance of charcoal and small holes on it for the passage of air and ashes during cooking.
These clay stoves are now ready for pagba (open firing, a process of cooking the clay). But before the open firing, dry wood and bamboo branches/twigs are placed for about one dangaw or a hand measure underneath steel bars. Above the steel bars are piles of dried clay stoves which are covered by uhut (rice hay) and lastly covered by labhang (rice hull), and after all of these are piled; now the
There is a secret shared by Manong Roming. He said that after the clay stoves are cooked (get reddish-brick in color), they are left to stand overnight and picked-up in the morning to make sure that the ulingan is mabugnaw(cool). Usually, open firing takes about a day. But some potters have a kiln or a closed oven that only takes four to six hours to get their clay stoves cooked.
After all the clay stoves are cooled, the clay stoves are then placed in the trisikad (a bicycle with a “side car”) for delivery to any point in Iloilo. But most of his suki (constant customers) are retailers located in downtown or city proper of Iloilo. The heartrending story is that Manong Roming needs to wake-up 3′oclock in the morning everyday and deliver his products in whole sale to the city proper no matter what the weather conditions would be. I feel sad and I really sympathize for the hardships his family is undertaking everyday. Yet, Manong Roming thinks his job is as good as the job of wealthy people and besides, he is contented yet proud of his job. He does all of these sacrifices in order for his family to surpass poverty and also to fulfill his dream, that all of his children will be able to finish college. Go Manong Roming, you can do it and God bless you and your family!
*A Pavianhon, Johnnel Pahila is a BS Bio student at UPV. Mang Roming’s place is just a bicycle ride away from his home.