The last women to mold the earth

Text and photos by: Dax Simbol

Erlinda Asuncion, 65 years old, starts her day sitting in her backyard with mounds of clay beside her.  She takes clumps of the moist earth and skillfully molds them into round masses to be formed later into pots and pot covers, shadows slowly moving down from her face to her body.

Erlinda Asuncion lines upu freshly molded clay pots in the village of Nambalan, Sta. Ignacia, Tarlac, north of Manila. Photos by: Dax Simbol

Erlinda Asuncion lines upu freshly molded clay pots in the village of Nambalan, Sta. Ignacia, Tarlac, north of Manila. Photo by: Dax Simbol

Some twenty years ago the village of Nambalan, Sta. Ignacia, Tarlac, north of Manila, where Nanay Erlinda was born and raised, was bustling with traders from all over Luzon. People from as far as Batangas in the south and Pangasinan in the north would flock to the small village to buy the handmade earthenware. “Hindi na rin namin alam kung saan pa umaabot ‘yung mga binibili sa amin, kasi naikukuwento ng mga bumibili na pagdating sa Batangas sinasakay pa ng barko ‘yung iba,” says Nanay Erlinda, her hands glistening against bits of soil.

In the afternoons, she gracefully spins a mound of clay, which slowly takes shape of a pot. Each batch is sundried and polished with smooth stones. She is joined by her daughter-in-law, baking the polished clay pots with hay and rice hull. The workers are enveloped in a thick white smoke. The pots and covers turn from a grainy gray into shiny black as they are taken out of the embers.

A pot is being molded by a skillful hand. Photo by: Dax Simbol

A pot is being molded by a skillful hand. Photo by: Dax Simbol

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