The Arts and Crafts of Visayas You Should Know When Traveling

21 January, 2021

The Visayas is a region popular for its breathtaking natural landscapes, from unspoiled beaches and dome-shaped hills to vast oceans with backdrops of majestic sunrises and sunsets. But while nature reflects this stunning creativity, the region’s respective communities boast of sophisticated artistry as well. In every province, you’ll find a vibrant traditional arts and crafts scene. In fact, it’s one of the best things tourists love to see when they visit the Visayas.

Perhaps you’re eyeing to see the region this year to help in your own little way in reviving the local tourism and economy. Here’s a proposal: make it a priority to see the famous arts and crafts of Visayas. It’s not a secret that one of the industries hit hard by the health crisis is indigenous products. Supporting local has never been more important now than ever, not only to lend economic relief but also preserve native culture.

Use this guide to take note of the traditional arts and crafts of Visayas you shouldn’t miss out on:


Western Visayas

Famous for its indigenous fiber production, Region VI is the place to be when you’re looking for high-quality textiles. They come in different colors and patterns, making them ideal travel souvenirs and home decors. Going to the local neighborhoods, you’ll not only find these goods, but also the very weaving communities that help preserve the vibrancy of the arts and crafts in Visayas.

Some of the provinces organize different festivals to showcase products. That’s why when visiting the region, it’s best to time it on days when districts come together for a celebration. Here are the specific arts and crafts items you’ll find in different Western Visayan provinces:

1. Panay

One of the popular woven products you’ll find in Antique is the patadyong. Usually made from cotton and abaca, this tube-like wraparound garment can be worn in different ways, much like the malong. It can be a stylish skirt or a big shawl. It usually bears a checkered design crafted with bright hues.

Meanwhile, in Iloilo, locals take pride in their hablon, a plain weave that has a plaid design. While it’s used in patadyong, it’s also common in locally-made panuelo or handkerchiefs.

Photo courtesy of Rod Long via Unsplash

On the other hand, the most popular arts and crafts of Aklan typically use piña. Pineapple leaves have two kinds of fibers: the bastos (rough portion) and the liniwan (smooth one). Artisans use a shard of Chinese porcelain to expose the bastos and then a coconut shell to bring out the liniwan. Piña is commonly used in barong tagalog. If you’re planning to see Aklan this year, book your trip in April to catch the province’s celebration of the Piña and Fiber Festival.

Where to buy traditional crafts: Patadyong Weavers of Bugasong in Antique (P700 - P4,000), Obra Ilonggo in Iloilo, and One Aklan Store in Aklan (P2,000 - P3,500).

2. Negros

Sinamay, a material woven from abaca fiber, has long been a popular textile in Visayas, specifically the Negros island. This cloth can be used in different products, from outfit accessories such as hats and home decor items, like storage boxes and placemats. In each of the provinces on the island, however, you’ll discover unique handicrafts.

For instance, in Dumaguete, there’s a group of artisans focusing on crafting rocks and stones into vases, wall art, jewelry boxes, dining ware, and picture frames, among other home ornaments. The Negros Oriental Arts and Heritage carves mosaic-like patterns into these rocks before polishing.

Photo courtesy of Karolina Grabowska via Pexels

In Bacolod, the festive masks represent the arts of Visayas. These are a hit especially during the Masskara Festival held during the fourth Sunday of October. The masks typically have smiling faces, true to the city’s nickname: City of Smiles. Buy the festive masks when you join the celebration this year. There may be some variations in social gatherings as part of the new travel trends this year, and you may not be able to show off your mask to crowds, but at least, you’ll be able to bring home a piece of the festival when you return from vacation.

Where to buy traditional crafts: Negros Oriental Arts and Heritage in Dumaguete and Heritage and Jojo Vito Designs Gallery in Bacolod (P150 to P300)


Eastern Visayas

An agricultural region, Eastern Visayas produces different kinds of crops, from rice to coconut to sugarcane. But the fertile soil and vast greenery not only feed communities but also help locals enrich the traditional arts of Visayas. From mats weaved from plant materials to ceramic products made from certain types of clay, you’ll discover native goods worth taking with you after your trip to each of the three islands of Region VIII.

1. Samar

A grass called tikog is abundant in this province. You may not be familiar with this raw material, but you surely know its popular by-product: banig or sleeping mat. When you go to Samar, especially in September, you'll catch the Banigan Festival (also known as Kawayan-Banigan Festival) at Basey, a celebration of the province’s dynamic mat-weaving industry.

Photo courtesy of Kelly Lacy via Pexels

The dance parade features performers adorned in different banig-inspired costumes, a blend of two different folk arts of Visayas in one event. There are also pocket events showcasing artisans’ banig creations. When you do check them out, remember the safe travel tips to avoid COVID-19.

Where to buy traditional crafts: BANIG Shop (Basey Association of Native Industry Growth) in Basey (P1,300 to P2,500)

2. Leyte

Similar to Samar, you can expect tikog crafts in this province. If ever you miss buying the famous banig in Samar, you can shop around in Leyte. But aside from sleeping mats, you can buy uniquely-designed rattan and bamboo goods here. What makes them extra special is that they’re crafted by the hardworking hands of indigenous people, such as the Mamanwa tribe in Southern Leyte. These IPs are one of the pillars of the arts and crafts in Visayas.

Photo courtesy of Markus Winkler via Pexels

There are also native goods that reflect the resilience of the community in Leyte. When the province was struck by Yolanda, the worst typhoon in the country’s history, artisans nonetheless found strength and inspiration for their art. For instance, there were Yolanterns (Yolanda lanterns), hand-cut, hand-carved coconut shell adornments, as well as rosary beads crafted from wood debris left by the typhoon.

Where to buy traditional crafts: TAP’s Handicrafts in Tanauan

3. Biliran

The town of Naval in Biliran is famous for its vibrant mat-weaving industry, led by the Higatangan Mat Weavers. Visit Biliran in May, in time for the Higatangan Island Festival, so you can catch these colorful mats in fairs and fully appreciate this piece of art of Visayas. In 2019, 5,000 people joined the celebration and witnessed the mat weaving expertise of the artisans.

Aside from mats, the province also has skilled craftsmen who make different kinds of ceramic products. The entire island of Maripipi, for instance, has an abundance of kaolin, a type of clay ideal for pots. For this reason, many communities on the island produce clay pots, flowerpots, and jars, among other ceramic goods.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay via Pexels

Where to buy traditional crafts: Higatangan Mat Weavers and Maripipi Crafters Association


Central Visayas

This region may be marked by highly urbanized cities, but the heritage of handicrafts remains vibrant in communities in Central Visayas. From bamboo to coconut products, there are plenty of traditional crafts from these areas.

Small towns especially stay true to the tradition of educating younger generations about folk arts, so these are the ones worth including in your trip if you want to score good native finds and get an idea of how it’s made. There are some sold in popular markets, too, so you shouldn’t have trouble finding the arts and crafts even when you’re traveling alone.

1. Cebu

What else are the traditional arts and crafts of Visayas? Well, Cebuanos have their own version of weaved baskets, locally known as bakat. Made of bamboo strips, the native craft is put together by hand, forming lattice patterns. Uniquely designed, it boasts of a hexagonal shape.

Photo courtesy of lucas mendes via Unsplash

Believe it or not, bakat baskets have been in Cebu even during pre-colonial times. Natives and Chinese traders use it to store farm produce during harvest. From then to now, it’s part and parcel of Cebuano culture.

Where to buy traditional crafts: Freedom Park in Carbon

2. Siquijor

If you're on the lookout for coconut handicrafts to add to your home decor or perhaps, cutlery set, then Siquijor is the place to be. The province has several artisans specializing in carving coconut wood.

Photo courtesy of Aphiwat chuangchoem via Pexels

The raw material has played such a big role in the traditional arts and crafts scene that one town in the province called Maria celebrates the Lubi (coconut) Festival, a thanksgiving feast in honor of the patron saint, Our Lady of Divine Providence. The festival dances depict the importance of the crop to the life of the townspeople.

Where to buy traditional crafts: Siquijor Local Souvenirs in Maite, San Juan

3. Bohol

Aside from the Chocolate Hills, Bohol is famous for its expertly-weaved baskets, which are notably from different raw materials. Bamboo, rattan, wicker, sig-id, or buri, you name it, they have it, specifically the municipality of Antequera. The town isn’t named the “Basket Capital of Bohol” for no reason. The traditional art of weaving is passed from generation to generation in the communities here.

Photo courtesy of ZACHARY STAINES via Unsplash

Antequera celebrates the Basket Festival every March. Visit Bohol around this time, so you can catch a momentous celebration of the vibrant arts and crafts of Visayas.

Where to buy traditional crafts: Antequera

As travel restrictions ease this year and more tourist hotspots reopen in the country, consider going on an arts and culture trip. Plan your itinerary in such a way that you’ll discover the vibrance of the folk arts scene in top local destinations. Refer to this blog as a guide. Of course, don’t forget: bring trinkets from your vacation so you can bring a part of Visayas home.