Burnay are earthen jars with small openings while those with bigger mouths are called wangging. In the early years, the burnay, locally known as tapayan or banga, was used for storage of water, rice grains, basi (sugarcane wine) and condiments like salt and bagoong (fish paste). Burnay jars are also used in the fermentation of vinegar that comes from the sweet sap of the Arenga Pinnata, a sugar palm tree more commonly known as “kaong.” According to locals, Arengga vinegar tastes better if stored in burnay jars than in plastic or metal containers.
For huge jars, the molder creates the lower and upper parts separately. Then, another helper combines the two parts. The jars are then left to dry for a day and then placed in the oven or dragon kiln, which is 50 meters long and more than four feet high. Made of bricks, its roof is designed with dragon’s scales. The jars are cooked in 1200°C heat, vitrifying the sand and clay to form a metal glass-like surface that resonates like a bell when struck by stone. After three days in the kiln, it takes another 20-22 hours for the jars to sufficiently harden.
Unfortunately, not all jars come out perfect. Out of the 500 jars that a dragon kiln can bake at a time, more than 50 usually become deformed due to “over firing.” These “melted” jars however are still used by landscape artists to bring a touch of Ilocos to their houses. Some deformed jars are sold at half, or even less, than the usual price.
One of the tourist spots in Ilocos Sur is “Pagburnayan” located in Vigan City Ilocos Sur. The root word “burnay” is an earthenware jar crafted by a potter’s hands with the aid of a potter’s wheel. It uses fine sand (anay) as a tempering material and fired at a high temperature in a huge brick-and-clay ground kiln that makes it is harder and more durable than other terra cotta.
Today’s Barangay VII is still more popularly known as “Pagburnayan”, which literally means “place where “burnay” is made”. At present, a variety of “burnay” products are made, mostly for decorative functions. These are jars of different shapes, sizes and designs, plant pots, ashtrays and others.