Sunday, February 17, 2013

About Bamboo

my bamboo-framed bike

Bamboo has been used by man since a thousand years back – it’s readily available, easy to grow and harvest, relatively strong and provides a wide variety of uses. In the Philippines, this has been used as main material for traditional Nipa Hut, as fence material, for art work, house items like drinking ‘glass’ or sandok (big spoon), candle holder, even as a weapon like the traditional spear.

Nowadays – we’ve seen the admirable effort of various groups in transforming this as the sustainable material of the future. Plywood made of bamboo? Some construction groups already started using this. Bamboo-made kitchen and dining items? I’ve seen a lot in Make Room stores, and bought a dozen pieces of dinner ‘ware’ from Gourdo’s, at a very cheap pre-Christmas sale prices. Bamboo bikes? I have one and it’s a functional work of art.  I even used it in an adventure race and the bamboo-framed bike did just fine (and I didn’t haha). Oh don’t forget our Bamboo Organ – Pinoys should make more of that..

I have a TNF tshirt made of bamboo fabric. Though used for clothing – some observers concluded that for this specific use - “bamboo is sustainable but not green” given the chemical-laden process of converting bamboo into soft fabric. But there’s hope, technology will improve over time.

If you visit your grandparents in some remote province, there’s a high chance that you’d still see bamboos in high use. Bamboo fence? Little kubo in the rice-fields? Or even in some tambayan-corners in the neighbourhood. So for sure, use of bamboo is here to stay…

My wish – if I have mucho dinero, perhaps I’d build a restaurant or little hotel made (or almost completely made) out of bamboo. Laminated bamboo finished walls, doors and floor tiles; bamboo tables, beds, cabinets and chairs; bamboo chandeliers, candle holders and dinnerware; bamboo-made paper, decorative fabrics and curtains - well it’s endless. I may need some good fire protection mechanism though hahaha! (I’m curious, we have Coconut Palace in the Metro, how come nobody is building a Bamboo Palace.. umm).

Wood versus Bamboo

Generally, up-scale market prefers hardwood for furniture or home needs (think narra, mahogany, dao, etc.) – in today’s eco-conscious world, this is no longer recommended. Why? High demand means more supply of old trees, sometimes century-old, needing to be cut down and timbered. Old forest is dying out (we have 3% old growth forest remaining in the Philippines, and barely 18% forest cover in total).

Softwood gained a bit of popularity (soft acacia, gemilina) replacing many hardwood-made furniture. It’s also cheaper, but compared to bamboo, softwood is still less sustainable and way more expensive. Sustainability (in simple terms – ability to reproduce supply quickly and continually) is obvious given that grass grows faster than a tree. :) And bamboo, having several hundred types of it- can grow in many areas and can easily be farmed. I’ve seen bamboos in dry lowlands near or beside ricefields, in wet lowland forests, and even in cold places like Mt. Pulag grassland (most grass plants that visitors see are actually dwarf bamboos).

You don’t like squeaking bamboo for your bed or sofa? Fair enough, a good mix of softwood and bamboo products should make your living, dining and kitchen rooms a gallery of fine ‘wood’ art. But small items such as serving spoon and fork, chopsticks, utensil holder, dinner set and the like can easily be “bamboofied” to add that traditional or even patriotic feel in one’s home.

So, the next time you see bamboo-made products – try to appreciate why they made such things and even reconsider your options on what to buy.

Bamboo products - “Beauty with a Conscience”.

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