There are many types of bamboo in the Philippines, even a human “Bamboo” (okay, I’m silly). In some places it’s growing where people want it to grow and in some places, where they don’t want it to grow. It’s one of the fastest growing plants in the world. Although it’s a member of the grass family, it can sometimes behave a lot like a weed. Called kawayan in Tagalog, it can be used for construction and it can be eaten (bamboo shoots, the favorite food of the panda). It’s used to make fences, floors, beds, chairs, tables, chicken coops and things I can’t even think of at the moment.
The husband of one of my sisters-in-law (of six) is pretty good at building things with bamboo. I’ve seen him build both chairs and chicken coops with it. I’m planning to have him make some chairs and at least one long table when I get back to the Philippines, but I’m not in a hurry.
There used to be a Filipino couple living down the street from us where the fence surrounding their lot was made entirely of this stuff, except for what held it together. I saw the husband replacing a section once. They were just renting the house and when they moved away, someone removed the fence.
One of my wife’s aunts lives in the Batangas province and she, Josie, lived there for a few years when she was going through high school. When she lived there, the flooring was made of bamboo. The flooring in that house is now ceramic-covered cement.
We visited her after we moved to the Philippines in 2006. I think it was on the last day of May, when a fiesta took place in that area. The bed Josie and I slept on was made of bamboo. There wasn’t a mattress or cushion on it, so I didn’t sleep long. In a place where people sleep on cement floors, her aunt probably didn’t think anything about it.
The Filipinos surrounding me in Olongapo seem to the think only poor people use bamboo. This could be true, but it’s the wrong way of thinking. I think of it as inexpensive, not cheap. When properly treated, it will last far longer than a lot of other types of wood in the tropical climate of the Philippines.
I told Josie I wanted a large bed frame (big enough for me to fit on top of it completely stretched out) and headboard made of bamboo and she said didn’t want something so cheap inside our house. The first bed we had in the master bedroom didn’t last more than two years and I’m sure if it had been made of bamboo, it would still be around.
I think I’m going to have a lot of things made with bamboo, including a bed larger than a California King, regardless of what Josie has to say about it. Not all at once, of course, because I don’t want to get into an argument about it.
By: RT Cunningham
September 1, 2014
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