It is likely that the basketry tradition far antedates the manufacture of ceramics in the Philippines, if only because of the abundance of raw materials. Bamboo, rattan, pandanus, nito, and innumerable tropical grasses are all excellent resources for making basketry items, and the only tool required is a sharp knife. The extraordinary proliferation and divergence of styles from group to group testifies to the longevity of the tradition and the centrality of basketmaking to Filipino life.

Baskets are made by plaiting, twisting, coiling, and weaving. Most materials must be softened up by soaking, craping, stripping, or caning prior to use. Multicolored materials for embroidery may be natural or dyed by soaking or boiling with fruits, barks, and other materials. Finished items such as hats, handbags, and decorative mats are often decorated with beads, tassels, feathers, shell, or bone.

Basketry articles are used for a vast array of purposes. Large, relatively plain baskets are generally used for storing rice and other foodstuffs. Backpacks are ubiquitous and used for transporting foods, market goods, and children. Rectangular mats are used to sleep on or for wrapping the dead, while other shapes are used as wall decorations or for religious purposes. Items such as fish traps are made in an abundance of shapes, the main design consideration being the prevention of escape.