NO ONE visits Paete without being awed by the artistry and industry of its people. Even Jose Rizal’s Noli Mi Tangere mentioned the town’s woodcarving shops and the masterpieces created in these.
“Maraming malalandi ang kamay rito dahil maliit ang espasyo ng aming bayan (Our town is so small people have learned how to be creative with their hands),” says woodcarver Justino ‘Paloy’ Cagayat Jr. says, explaining why he and his townmates are artistically inclined.
PAETE, Laguna — Woodcarver Justino ‘Paloy’ Cagayat Jr. still remembers a time when the kabaret (honky-tonk joint) directly across his shop had some 200 “entertainers.” At that time, too, he recalls, numerous fires hit many carving shops because workers were just too busy to sweep wood shavings off floors and have proper cigarette breaks. To Cagayat, this town’s then new, racy form of entertainment and the fires were indicators of Paete’s wealth — and of the insatiable demand for its products.
SINGAPORE — Twelve years ago, Francisco ‘Kiko’ Escora was already happy when a painting of his fetched P3,000 at an exhibit in Manila. But today Escora must be ecstatic; his works are being snapped up not only in his home country, where they now average P70,000 a piece, but also in places like Singapore, where Escora paintings are bought for S$4,000 each, or a cool hundred grand based on a P30:S$1 conversion.