Teofilo Garcia: A National Living Treasure Awardee from Abra

Teofilo Garcia and his art of Tabungaw Making

Teofilo Garcia - National Living Treasure
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Teofilo Garcia: “tabúngaw” Maker from Abra

After spending overnight in Vigan, we continued our PHILTOA Grand North Luzon Fun Caravan by proceeding to a road less traveled destination — Abra. From Vigan, it took us an hour and a half to reach the town of Bangued.

Tangadan Tunnel in Abra Province
Tangadan Tunnel in Abra Province

Our first stop was at the humble home of Teofilo Garcia – one of the country’s National Living Treasure and we were able to have in-depth information on his personal life and timeless craft.

About Teofilo Garcia

In case you’re wondering what Tabungaw is, it’s an Ilocano term for “Upo”, also known as Bottle Gourd or White Pumpkin. Teofila Garcia, on the other hand, is known to be the last of the Tabungaw hat makers, a traditional headgear made of tabungaw or gourd.

Kattukong or Tabungaw hat from Abra
Kattukong or Tabungaw hat from Abra

Born on March 27, 1941, Teofilo, an Abra local started the art of Kattukong or Tabungaw hat making from his grandfather Hipolito at the age of 15.

Teofilo Garcia and his art of Tabungaw Making
Teofilo Garcia and his art of Tabungaw Making

He dedicated most of his life working as a farmer to send his five children to school. He also devoted his time planting “upo”, his main material in producing the traditional tabungaw. It’s said that it takes at least seven days to finish one tabungaw hat, as he uses only simple hand tools that he designed himself for producing his final product.

Local variety of gourd used for making Tabungaw Hat
Local variety of gourd used for making Tabungaw Hat

Currently, Teofilo is invited to give talks and demonstrations locally and abroad. He even opened up his home so people can see some of his unique creations, and also genuinely teaches local school children the art of Tabungaw making. Up until now, he’s innovating on his traditional designs based on inspirations recent travels. He has also developed unique patterns he learned when he was young.

What is a National Living Treasure?

A person can be called a National Living Treasure or “Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan” if he/she preserved some of the Philippines’ most important indigenous traditions. They are selected by the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and one must possess a dedication to craftsmanship, excellence, and the ability to pass down their craft to the youth.

National Treasure Awardee Marker
National Treasure Awardee Marker

Other than the dedication, one must also possess technical, creative skills with ties to community and folk art traditions, and admiration of their people.

Tiofilo Garcia
Teofilo Garcia

Some of our National Living Treasure includes Alonzo Saclag (a traditional dancer and musician), Haja Amina Appi (pandan mat weaver), and Magdalena Gamayo (a textile weaver).

How to get to Bangued, Abra

  • From Manila, it takes about 8 hours to reach Abra via land travel. You can choose from Partas or Viron bus operators to take you to your destination.
  • Alight at the highway intersection to Abra and wait for another bus there going to Bangued, Abra.

Searching for the best Abra hotels, resorts, and affordable flights in the nearby Cities? Check out our list of affordable hotels and resorts via Agoda, or you may also see available Airbnb properties in the city.

Want more updates about new tourist attractions in Abra Province? Follow #TeamOutofTown, on Facebook, and TwitterInstagram, and Pinterest for more travel ideas.

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