Gray Matter


Bamboo and What It’s Used for in the Philippines

RT Cunningham | August 22, 2020 (UTC) | Culture, Food and Drink

bambooThere are many types of bamboo in the Philippines, even a human with that as his name. 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 most Filipino languages, 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.

Bamboo Chairs, Chicken Coops and Fences

The husband of one of my sisters-in-law used to be pretty good at building things with bamboo. He’s probably too old now, but I saw him build both chairs and chicken coops with it.

There used to be a Filipino couple living down the street from us in Olongapo where the fence surrounding their lot was made entirely of bamboo, 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.

Bamboo Floors and Beds

My wife, Josie, lived with one of her aunts in the Batangas province while she was going through high school. When she lived there, the flooring was made of bamboo. The flooring in that house is cement, covered with ceramic tiles.

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 of it.

Does Being Made of Bamboo Mean It’s Cheap?

The Filipinos that live around us in Olongapo seem to think only poor people use bamboo for anything. That 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 a 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.

We recently had a bed made for us, along with a living room set, by a company in Metro Manila. Josie’s contact was a relative she’d never met in person. The company delivered it to our house in about a week. One of Josie’s sisters was there to supervise other relatives in moving things around. There still isn’t anything bamboo inside our house.

Photo Attribution: clarabsp from Pixabay
Edited and updated. Originally published at one of my other websites in September 2014.

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