The town of Vigan is well known for its burnay pottery, which is characterized by its dense, watertight and unglazed earthenware. Burnay pottery was established by Chinese immigrants who made the typically small-mouth jars to store food and water and ferment food such as brown sugar, sugarcane vinegar, sugarcane wine, and fish sauce. Even prior to the Spanish colonial period, there were many burnay pottery workshops in the region; now there are only a few, mostly located within Vigan. We visited the pottery place known as Vigan Burnayan. right off of the main Calle Crisologo street.
The clay is gathered locally and is combined with fine sand and then is kneaded by two water buffalo trampling over it. After that, impure particles are picked through and removed. The pieces are formed on a large kick wheel; some pieces are so large that two people are needed to form them. Due to the materials, process, and thickness, the pieces are typically very sturdy and quite heavy. Dried pieces are placed inside the large kiln, known as a dragon. Kindling wood is used to generate heat in this 50 meter long brick kiln. Gradually these massive brick kilns are being replaced by electric kilns. Imagine how long it must take to load such a kiln! The process and structure of the kiln reminded me a lot of the one I saw in Icheon, South Korea.
While burnay pots are still being used for domestic use, the pottery places also depend on purchase of smaller souvenir pieces.
Read more about the Burnay pots of Vigan on this website.