IBAAN, Batangas — It’s fascinating to know that a group of women in a simple village in this town sustain a “totally dead” industry by themselves.
Samahan ng Kababaihan na Maghahabi (SKM), a group of 56 housewives, in Barangay Munting Tubig here is a clear manifest of the undying quest of women for self-empowerment.
Mila Quinay, 50, SKM president said their organization was formed in 2001 as a lending group that grants loan to each official member as a mean to sustain the daily needs of their families.
But now the SKM has gone far into a “proud moment” that they consider in two years time since they seriously took the challenge to keep the handweaving industry in alive and gain profit from it.
Quinay said former Ibaan Mayor Artemio Chua gave them grants in 2001 (P15, 000); 2002 (P30,000); 2003 (P30,00)0; 2004 (P30,000) that totaled to P105,000.
According to her, they did not get any assistance from Department of Trade and Industry and Department of Social Welfare and Development in making the industry afloat.
Quinay said they lend some of the P105,000 to their 56 members as loan.
“The return of interest accumulated to P344,000 as of December last year. In December 2010, we started to make this (handweaving) industry alive,” she said.
They used some of the organization’s savings deposited in a bank to buy threads in a ‘bagsakan’ in Rosario, Pasig City to start the business rolling.
“We buy affordable, but durable thread at P200 to P300 per kilo as a start.”
“We also started to join trade fairs since 2010 to introduce our products,” Quinay said.
In December 2010, they renamed their organization to Samahan ng Kababaihan na Maghahabi to put the significance that they are working for the purpose of sustaining the industry they inherited from their ancestors.
Handweaving may sound primitive, but Quinay said all of them are proud of it.
“We strongly believe that the crafts of our hands could highly be regarded as good as those produced with machines,” she said.
Quinay claimed handweaving is an old industry in their barangay and has been a source of additional income and distinction for them.
Three most senior members of the organization – siblings Erlinda Esguerra, 69 (born in 1973), Antonio Canosa, 73 (born in 1939), and Conchita Africa, 80 (born in 1932), – said handweaving blankets has been a practice in their barangay even before the residents started to weave ‘kulambo.’
“Salinlahi” as they describe the blanket handweaving industry, they said they have been weaving since they were young.
With the joy recalling their younger years, Esguerra said in Batangueno tone, “Ala, minana ng aming ina sa kanyang ina ang paghahabi.”
“Matagal na ito, mga 1900s pa,” she said.
“Handweaving blankets here (Barangay Munting Tubig) has been around even before our ancestors learned to weaved ‘kulambo’, Canosa said.
When ‘matiyas’, a kind of thread, which the locals used as raw materials used in weaving a cotton-mosquito net went scarce in their locality, people went back to weaving blankets.
Quinay also said the high demand for other products against mosquito made the clamor for mosquito net subside.
This town is said to be the “kulambo” capital of Batangas, as its tourism tagline says.
Blanket is the main handweaved product in Barangay Munting Tubig way back long time ago, and eventually was sustained by Samahan ng Kababaihan na Maghahabi. Quinay said “when the demand for blankets fell, we realized that we should venture to weaving other crafts.”
Since December 2010, they started to weave throw pillow cases, table runner, shopping bags and even coin purse.
According to Quinay, they standardized the size of blanket for marketability when they became serious on making the industry alive. The size of the blanket is 60″x85″ for direct consumers. There are times, she said, when the buyers like office personnel specify the size they want. The sizes of the throw pillow case are 16″x14″ and 16″x16″. The table runner’s sizes also depends on the order but for direct consumers, Quinay said the size it is 2 yards x 14″ and 1 yard x 14″. Quinay said the design for each craft is the call of the weaver.
According to Quinay, the number of finished products depends on the strength of the weavers. For blanket, the maximum is three. For throw pillow case, the maximum is about seven including sewing. For table runners, the maximum is seven, also.
Quinay said most of their buyers are ordinary people like office personnel, peddlers, and direct consumers. Office personnel call or visit them to make order. Peddlers get products from them – some come on weekly and monthly basis. Peddlers call them and make their order prior to their visit. Quinay said some peddlers pay upon acquiring the products, some pay when all the products have been sold out. Quinay said they also drop their products in the public markets of Ibaan and Rosario towns in Batangas.
One prime reason why the group remains on weaving crafts using their hands is due to financial incapacity.
The high cost of machine is a factor that has always been a challenge for them to mass produce their fabrics.
For Quinay and the rest of the mothers, a top priority of their everyday struggle is the food for every mouth of their children.
Working as a Day Care worker, Quinay said weaving in part time basis helps her husband to support the family’s needs.
She said the little compensation of her husband who earns from a little honorarium as barangay kagawad (councilman) is not enough to support the needs of their children, especially those who still attend schooling.
She has seven children; the eldest has now a family, the second and third are already working while the the other four are still schooling (2 in college, 1 in high school, and 1 in elementary).
Quinay said none among the members earn from the profit they gain in selling the handweaved products. The profit, she said, goes to the organization’s money deposited in the bank. The advantage they gain from the profit is that they could make loan from the organization payable with interest.
Quinay thinks their financial incapacity to get machines is an opportunity and likewise a challenge for them to maintain the distinction that their town has established over the years. Thereby, they strive to keep the handweaving industry alive.
Heritage as they call it, they treasure handweaving and are willing to hand it down to next generations.
“We want to keep this afloat so the younger generation remembers that we lived and produced crafts with our hands. Something that they can truly be proud of.”
Quinay prides that their hand-weaved crafts could stand time and have reached beyond Philippine shores.
“Above all, this crafts remind the end-user that it was produced in an industry that has been existing for a long time now,” she said.
Though cannot be mass-produced, Quinay said their crafts could be produced in different forms and with sophisticated designs.
Quinay said Filipinos took blankets and table runners in Paris, Spain, and Canada.
Patis Tesoro, a noted fashion designer, brought the weaved blankets in Paris and used them for her apparells, Quinay shared.
The group celebrated its 11th year on March 5. Quinay has been leading the group since 2004.