By Freddie Velez
BALIUAG, Bulacan— Buntal hats are once again in the spotlight as this town celebrates the weeklong Buntal Hat Festival.
One of the festival’s highlights was a fashion show last Saturday at SM City in which the models wore the famous headwear.
The mall’s public relations officer, Veronica Cunan, said SM City Baliwag paid tribute to the buntal hat in response to appeals from elderly citizens to help keep the art of hat weaving from dying.
Cunan said she learned that while there are hundreds of buntal weavers, most of them work only are part-time.
The book “Baliwag Then and Now” written by Rolando Villacorte, traces the beginning of hat weaving to 1907, when Mariano Deveza from Lucban, Quezon, brought bundles of buntal fiber when he visited the town.
At that time Lucban was the only place that made the hats. But when Lucban could not cope with the large demand for the hats, Deveza went to Baliuag, which was already famous for making bamboo hats, hoping to convince the townsfolk to also weave buntal hats.
Today, Buntal hat manufacturers are trying their best to transfer the skill and technology to young workers through workshops and seminars because they could not meet the large export demand.
Aside from the Buntal Hat Festival, SM City Baliwag also hosted a celebration of exotic local flavors. The project is in cooperation with the Department of Tourism to celebrate the diverse flavors and exciting fusion of the town’s signature dishes and delicacies.