Anahaw fans were a fixture at my grandmother’s house anahaw fans

Before there were electric fans and air-conditioners, there were fans. Hand-held. The most popular kind was made with anahaw leaves and shaped like anahaw leaves too. My grandmother always had half a dozen or so at any given time. She kept it on a shelf beside the bedroom door. The fans were of different sizes, some were plain and some were colored. anahaw fans

I can’t remember ever being without an electric fan at home so I never really acquired the habit of fanning myself. The times I did (during brownouts), I used old folders or a stack of paper folded together. But my grandmother, my mother and my aunt all had fans. One thing I noticed even as a child was that the fan was more than a piece of equipment to deal with the tropical heat. In more ways than one, the fan was a fashion accessory for the (older) women in my family. fan1

My mother had fans in different colors and when she went out of the house, she’d pick a fan that matched the color of her dress (her bag and shoes were always inevitably matching too). She favored ornate fans like the one above. fan2

My aunt (my father’s sister) who lived next door preferred more lightweight fans. The wooden ribs were carved which meant less wood and, therefore, less weight. fan5

When my grandmother went out, she didn’t bring her anahaw fans. She had fans like the one in the photo above. Lighter than the kind my mother liked but more ornate than the ones that my aunt used to carry around. sandalwood fans

By the time I was in high school, sandalwood fans became a popular gift item. I’d get at least one every Christmas. I liked them while they were new because the smell of the sandalwood was really nice. fan4

The resurgence of Filipiniana popularized embroidered fans and they became hot gift items too. When I got married, my mother gave me an embroidered off-white fan with ivory ribs. It was a gorgeous fashion accessory that would have been truly appreciated by someone who pays attention to those things. fan

But I’m no fan girl. If I were, I’d have chosen something really light and simple like the traditional Japanese fan made with paper and bamboo. If I were.

Maybe, it’s a generation thing. I’ve seen old, old movies where women used fans to hide a smile or to play the coquette and, well, it just wasn’t my style. So, no, there are no fans in the house. There never were. Well, until last Good Friday. The photos of the anahaw fans above? We bought three. Who knows? They might come in handy.

*Except for the photos of the anahaw fans, the rest are from Stock.Xchng.


  1. biyay says

    My lola used to favor fans that are made up of tiny, very fragrant roots. i just don’t know from what tree they came from. The smell lasts for months.