Say capiz and the first thing that comes to most people’s mind is the aswang — that winged monster that eats fetuses in Philippine folklore. According to stories, there are many in Capiz, a province in Western Visayas. Capiz was named for the Placuna placenta, or windowpane oyster, that thrives in abundance in the area.
Yes, the capiz used for making lamp shades and a thousand other Philippine products manufactured for the tourism industry comes from oysters. Once upon a time, before the Americans colonized the Philippines, before there was air-conditioning, galvanized iron roofs and glass windows, houses had capiz window panes. I lived in one. The problem is I have no memories of those early days. I was an infant and I only know about the capiz window panes from photos. It was my grandparents’ old house. I have photos of my grandfather, grandmother, father, mother and aunt — with me in their arms — taken at various parts of the house and garden. And the windows were lovely.
But that’s not my grandparents’ old house in the photo above. That Gregorio Agoncillo’s house in Taal, Batangas.
And that’s not my grandparents’ old house in the second photo either. I don’t know who owns it but that house is along Calle Crisologo in Vigan.
Based on the photos I have of my grandparents’ old house, it was not nearly as large nor as grand as the houses in the two photos above but it did have capiz window panes too. My brother was born a year after I was and shortly after his birth, we moved to our own house. Newly-built, it has frosted glass windows with intricate etchings of vines and flowers. My grandparents built a new house too, right next door to us and, like ours, it had frosted glass windows too.
Too bad that my parents and my grandparents opted for glass. I would have loved growing up in a house with capiz window panes. I like the rustic feel of capiz. I like its luminous translucence and how no two pieces are ever exactly alike. I like how it allows just enough light to filter into a room but not flood it. I especially love the combination of capiz and hardwood. So homey. So comforting. I remember walking along Calle Crisologo and spotting a huge coffee table for sale. A window, actually, with capiz panes probably from an old house that had been torn down. Someone had attached feet to the four corners and covered the top with glass. If there had been space at the back of the pick-up, I would have brought that coffee table home.
Someday, we’ll build a house with huge sliding windows with capiz panes — something like this. For now, we have to content ourselves with the capiz lamps in the mango tree and the capiz wind chimes in the gazebo.
If you are a fan of capiz lamps, know that modern designs are no longer limited to the usual capiz pieces with metal frames although the old designs are still very much around.
Just look at the gorgeous pendant globe lamps on the right side of the photo above. Gorgeous capiz!