Tips and Guides

Building 101: Types of Philippine Hardwood

Buying furniture or building a house? Learn more about Philippine hardwood with our handy guide

Original Article: Kathleen Valle Photography: Rene Mejia

Read the original article ("Knock on Wood") in the January 2009 issue of Real Living Magazine. Download your digital copy of Real Living on the Real Living App now! Log on to for more details. 

Furniture designer Benji Reyes's "Iklok" sculpture of wooden eggs is actually a learning tool for identifying local wood types.

(Left to right): Kamagong, dungon, ipil, dao, tindalo, molave, guijo, narra, langka, saplungan, and yakal


Also known as Philippine Ebony, kamagong is a wood unique to the country. With a black heartwood (inner region) and gray sapwood, this produces really dramatic, dark timber hence the name. The grain is often grayish and has strong, dark brown streaks. "It's good to use on accent pieces lang, but [it] may not be good idea to make a whole furniture piece out of it," says Benji.

Ideal for: Small, decorative pieces and combat tools like arnis sticks and eskrima


One of the hardest local woods, molave has a fine texture that makes it smooth to the touch. It's available in pale yellow to pinkish-brownish tone with a lighter sapwood (outer region), and mostly straight grain. It has no distinct odor.  

Ideal for: window frames, shipbuilding, structural posts, railroad tracks, and other outdoor applications


This very popular tropical wood has tones that range from yellow to red. The grain (texture and alignment of wood fiber) is often interlocked and wavy, which creates interesting flame and ribbon figures when quartersawn or flat sawn, which makes it a beautiful finishing material. Texture can be anywhere from average-fine to average-coarse. The wood itself is lustrous and has an attractive odor. Narra is classified as endangered and vulnerable here, and in Malaysia.

Ideal for: furnishings, floor planks, wall panels


A moderately hard reddish wood, tanguile is one of the seven local woods often referred to as Philippine Mahogany. This abundant wood type boasts of fine ribbon or straight grain. It's relatively soft and easy to work on, but resilient enough for outdoor construction.

Ideal for: interior finishes, cabinets, boat building


This resinous wood with yellow to golden-red tones is another local mahogany type. A high-grade timber, yakal can tolerate harsh hot and cold weathers.

Ideal for: furniture, surface finishes, small weapons, and outdoor constructions


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