South East Asia Cottage Industries (Part 4 of 5) : Philippines


A Good Start

The Philippines is a country in the Far East blessed with tropical wonders such as blissful beaches and gorgeous greeneries. Like many big Southeast Asian countries, the types of people range from cosmopolitan city dwellers on one end and humble villagers on the other. People who have been living close to nature for generations are innately accustomed to making use of the nature surrounding them to make a living. Things that the Philippines is famous for is Sinamay crafts and Seashells handworks.

Although some crafts may have developed naturally, however, in some sub-rural areas certain activities are introduced to them from a local or foreign manufacturing company. A story told by a Pinoy goes that it is a common sight in the neighborhood to see housewives play Bingo in the mid-afternoons, while others engage in dress making. One fine day a guy from a manufacturing company came to their community and thought them how to do tatted laces for table linens. The housewives got paid for labor, and within months they have successfully produced the whole laced table linens and sell them to the company. That’s just an example of how cottage industry was initialized in certain areas.

Many cottage industries – made up of a group of housewives working at home – in the Philippines started small and yet grew economically with time, especially with the aid of the internet. Today, there is even Cottage Industry Technology Center (CITC) located in SSS Village, Marikina that provides skills training, technical consultancy, and common facilities services to micro, small and medium enterprises.


From Abaca to Sinamay

Like many Southeast Asian countries, the Philippines too has rich soil abounds with cash crops and renewable fiber resources. In Kiamba, Sarangani in the southern part of the country is where one can find Abaca, a species of Banana tree, whose fiber is treated and weaved into products that are called Sinamay. The community that has their hands on these resources is Tboli “Sinamay” makers in Maligang. The sinamay makers are mostly women, and some of them are trained by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to upgrade their skills and to be provided with proper equipment.

Similar to all indigenous tribes, Tboli sinamay makers regard their profession to be sacred. They strongly believe in preserving the old tradition that has contributed exorbitantly to their families.  It has been like a religious ritual for them to pray to the tree, the wind, the soil, and the water for guidance in producing beautiful sinamay every time before starting their work. To be precise, they pray before inserting the first three very fine fiber threads in the “sulod”. Most of them have remarkable patience and perseverance to complete a product that usually takes the whole day. Other barangays (villages) that produce sinamay are Lomuyon, Tambilil, Tamadang, Falel and Tablao, and the DTI has declared it Kiamba’s One Town One Product (OTOP).


Seashell collectors

From the highlands of the forests to the white sandy beaches, the Philippines is rich with money-making resources. Not surprisingly these resources have long been exploited for local and export handicraft products that have significant contribution to the tourism industry and the nation’s economy. Balicasag Island, Panglao, Bohol is one of the prime sea shells collection sites in the Philippines. There is no wonder that the world regard the Philippines as the “Pearl of the Orient Seas” because of its abundance and the entire nation’s attachment with sea shells.

Most of the export products from cottage industries are registered under National Cottage Industry Development Authority (NACIDA) supervision. The place with the most shell/shellcraft establishments is Mactan Island, Cebu, at the heart of the Visayas. Strategic location, topped with peaceful surroundings encouraged the shell collectors to attain shells manually or from the fishermen. Among the prominent shell traders in Punta Engano were the Pagabo and Dungog families. From a mere cottage industry in the seventies, the sea shells industry has evolved to an international business with world-wide recognition.

Nevertheless, there are still small families with little capital that survive on seashell backyard entrepreneurship. The men are generally fishermen, thus they collect their own sources, either for food or for handicrafts. Although they may seem poor, most of the villagers are happy and friendly people. The life is ‘hard’, therefore most of them work harder. Their usual daily routine will start at 4 am and by 7 in the morning, the entire family is busy sorting through their catch and their businesses. Common pastimes include talking (sometimes without any concern for the time passing), singing, and of course, eating. Their diets are hazardous to the health-conscious, with rice as the staple food. However, they usually balance it off with plenty of fruits and mineral water.


 Continue to Part 5:Indonesia

About The Author


Leave a Reply