Sto. Tomas’ pottery
    Small town revives big product


    The art of making pots. Photos by Ric

    STO. TOMAS, Pampanga — This small Pampanga town hogged the limelight earlier this year when its primary product – coffins – made it to the front pages of major newspapers in the country.

    Upon the initiative of Gov. Lilia G. Pineda, and coordination of Candaba Mayor Jerry Pelayo who is also president of the Pampanga Mayors League, Mayor Lito Naguit mobilized the casket makers of his town to deliver hundreds of their produce to Mindanao in the wake of the death and devastation wrought by typhoon Sendong and its consequent massive floodings.

    Sto. Tomas accounts for some 70 percent of the total coffin production in the country, said Naguit.

    Aside from coffins though, Sto. Tomas is also known for the pottery-making industry largely concentrated in Barangay Sto. Nino, also known as “Sapa.”

    Naguit said that the 20 percent of their population rely on the industry started “about 40 to 50 years ago.”

    According to the 2007 census, there are at least 37,000 residents in the fourth-class municipality.

    Paul Nicdao, who manages his father-in-law’s pottery business, said they have at least 10 workers in San Matias and Sto. Nino.

    He added that their personnel are paid from P250 to P350 each daily. Their display store is at San Matias, while their production is at Sto. Nino.

    Nicdao said the industry “is okey overall but sales are low at this time of the year.”

    “We have sales as high as P9,000 in one day. But for the last three days, we have no sales at all. It’s really like this at this time of the year,” said Nicdao in the dialect.

    This was shared by the Bonus family, owner of the Jajar pottery, who added that “sales are indeed low in the last few years,” caused primarily by the increase in the number of the same businesses operating not just in Sto. Tomas but other towns in Pampanga.

     The lahar flows spawned by Mt. Pinatubo’s eruption in 1991 affected Sto. Nino, forcing other pottery makers to transfer their production to Telapayong, Arayat.

    A supervisor at Jajar known before as Arabica, said the industry “was at its peak in terms of profit 15 years ago.”

    “The reason is that we were only few then,” he said, disclosing that there were less than 10 major pottery businesses in the ‘80s and ‘90s.

    Naguit said there are at least 50 pottery-making firms registered with the municipal government. He added that “a few others are backyard operators.”

    Naguit blamed “globalization and massive production” in other countries where labor cost is “very cheap” for the drop in profit among his town’s pottery makers.

    But the two-term mayor said his government had helped promote the industry.

    “We don’t give them hard time getting permits. We help them promote their products as well,” said Naguit, who also ventured into the same industry a few years ago.

    Naguit said a few firms based in Sto. Tomas have exported their products to other countries for the past several years.

    The others, he added, supply the local demand, including stores in Pangasinan, Central Luzon and Metro Manila.

    The pot makers usually get their supply of the materials for their products from from the clay dug out fishponds in nearby Minalin and other Pampanga towns.


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