By Alexander Villafania
TIAONG, QUEZON – Augusto “Ugu” Bigyan is famous for his artistic pottery and culinary skills. Literally hundreds, including writers and itinerant bloggers, have walked into his garden and thereafter raved about the food and earthenware.
It would be too much of an injustice to repeat what has been written about Ugu Bigyan, who has been in the business for over 15 years.
Instead, one has to wonder what motivates him to involve his pottery skills with culinary arts – two seemingly distinct talents.
Ugu says that the most distinguishable aspects of both his cooking and pottery skills are the use of the leaf and roots.
A closer look at his pottery actually shows some leaf designs, especially with the dinnerware. For instance, the flat side of the clay ladle (sandok) is designed like a leaf, with the handle being made of wood. Some of his plates have leaves as main designs. Vases often have leaves of different shapes and sizes placed into them.
His use of the root is evident in his mugs, some of which have handles that are actually made of some thick root, attached by pieces of either rattan or thin bamboo ropes. Serving trays are made of entire branches but are made to look like roots.
Of course, these pieces of wood have been cured against repeated washing and soaking and are thus able to withstand rotting that is typical among wood products.
Ugu simply explains that plants are among the living things that both touch the earth and the sky for sustenance. This inspires him to create clay artwork. And just as each plant is distinct in its own way, all of his earthenware are different from each other – no two items are the same.
As for the food, Ugu manages to use organic ingredients for his cooking. He has a good mix of meat, fish and vegetable meals, most if not all have been dashed with some herbs and spices. However, his menu continues to change and is updated based on the taste of his visitors.
“I don’t want them to get bored with the food,” he says.
Ugu recalls his flair for cooking started right after he became a potter. He credits Jaime De Guzman for introducing him to pottery when he was still a student in Lucena City.
One technique that he says is common in both cooking and pottery is glazing. In pottery, it is coating earthenware with a non-porous liquid that shines after it dries. Meanwhile, glazing in food is simply placing additional ingredients to enhance palatability.
While not taking up any actual course in cooking, he used his pottery techniques – that is knowing how to handle his ingredients just as he would with his base clay – to create his food. He says there is nothing special with the food that he serves except that he chooses his ingredients wisely and thinks first of the panlasang Pinoy (Filipino taste).
He himself does the cooking for all guests to his garden, which is why he requires advanced reservation of at least three days and with a minimum of 10 people. His “restaurant” is actually several gazebos, garden pavilions, and bricked kiosks, which gives groups of people a place to enjoy while eating.
After sumptuous lunch for his guests, Ugu shows his skills by creating several items on his potter’s wheel, a custom-built electric device. From a huge piece of clay, perhaps about the kilograms, he is able to create at least three pieces, each one distinct from the other.
“I’d like to show people how to appreciate what they have and they can find it in even the simplest of things,” he says.
Get more information about Ugu Bigyan Potter’s Garden
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