Vigan, Ilocos Sur
Kamagong (Diospyros philippinensis), a type of ebony, has always been highly prized, not only because of the hardness and beauty of its wood, but also because of its rarity. Several varieties, like the Mabolo (Diospyros blancoi) with its black heartwood and the Bulong Aeta with pinkish streaks running through the blackwood, are found in the Philippines.
Kamagong was ideal for making carved furniture, since the density of its grain enabled the carvings to be made as crisp and thin as possible. Its hardness, however, made it very difficult to work with and required frequent sharpening of plane blades and chisels. This made its production time-consuming and thus more expensive. Furthermore, artisans did not enjoy working with it, as the fine sawdust not only irritated the eyes, but also went into the pores of the skin and made it very itchy.
This two-door comoda, made entirely of kamagong, including the back panels and the shelves, was the work of a master craftsman who had to make do with narrow pieces of the wood. He joined the pieces in such a way that they seem to be entirely of one piece.
The piece has rounded corners in front and stands on four bun feet supporting a turned cup topped with rings. The aprons, like the feet, are on pinkish kamagong, with the sides plain, but the front one in the form of an inverted pediment with a truncated central portion, all edged at the bottom with half-round molding. The carcass base and the sides are entirely of black kamagong, the former decorated with a convex molding on the upper edge of the front and the sides.
The comoda has a pair of doors with the frames of pale pinkish kamagong wood without black streaks, the inner edges of which are carved with quarter-round molding. The door panels consist of several pieces of black-streaked kamagong skillfully joined together to look like they are of one piece and carved with an oblong panel with joined tiny quadrants at each corner. Each panel is bordered by a line inlay of pale kamagong emanating from a stylized bat at each corner in the same material. The bat is a symbol of longevity, prosperity, happiness, and good fortune. The door has a brass keyhole shield with a brass ring pull. When opened, the inside has three shelves with a pair of drawers beneath the top shelf.
The top of the comoda, consisting of several panels of black-grained kamagong, is miter-framed by dark kamagong, with rounded edges in front and at the sides and carved with an ogee molding at the bottom.