In observance of the National Zero Waste Month in the country this January, Iba ‘Yan featured in its latest episode last Sunday (January 24) the group of pandan weavers in Cavinti, Laguna who advocate using biodegradable packaging instead of the single-use plastics prevalent in various business establishments through their handicrafts.
As the country has long been suffering from the effects of improper and irresponsible solid waste management, this does not only encourage people to practice healthy ways in taking care of the environment, but it also promotes arts and culture.
Host Angel Locsin got to meet Henry Racoma, a 52-year-old pandan weaver who makes hand-woven all-purpose tampipi boxes, sambalilo, and bags along with his wife Agnes and daughter Aira Joy. He shared that the process involved in making these hand-woven products can be really challenging – from harvesting and processing the pandan leaves up to weaving it into different products.
Even though she’s not seemingly obliged by her parents to join them, Aira Joy shared that she enjoys weaving because she really wants to help them to earn money. Currently in her third year in college, she believes that taking up a degree in Business Administration could help their family to further grow and expand their weaving business.
However, their family’s income has also been terribly affected by the pandemic. Henry related that since the community lockdown started, their income was lessened as they could not go to the city to sell their finished products. Fortunately, an opportunity knocked on them as BrickOven Café owners Dennise and Don Jhon Porca from Rizal reached out to them to ask them to be their supplier of alternative and eco-friendly packaging for their pizzas. The siblings liked the tampipis they created, so their partnership continued that definitely helped their family survive the pandemic.
To further help the family of Henry, Iba ‘Yan gave them a tablet for the online schooling of Aira Joy, groceries, and a motorcycle with sidecar which they can use in delivering their products to their clients.
Another weaver that Angel met was Lowelyn Quilapio, who has been in the weaving industry for 46 years now. She learned how to do the traditional craft from her parents who were also weavers. Like the Racomas, weaving has also helped her and her family survive during this pandemic since it has been their only source of income. According to her, it all started when she saw Henry’s finished products and asked him if she could also help in weaving. She continues to work hard in order to provide a good life for her family, a good future for her children.
After willingly imparting her story and even teaching Angel how to weave, Iba ‘Yan gave Lowelyn a capital for the sari-sari store that she been dreaming to put up, a cellphone with pocket Wi-Fi that can be used by her children for online school, as well as maintenance medicines and groceries for her family.
Afterwards, the team went on to visit BrickOven Café owners Dennise and Jhon to know more about them. Dennise is an architect by profession, but when the pandemic started, she thought of a food business that could cater to a lot of people – and that’s when she considered pizza. They initially began selling pizzas online before they transitioned to having a dine-in space for the cafe.
There was a time when they ran out of cardboard boxes for their pizzas, which they had to source out from Manila. Thus, they decided to find an alternative packaging and considered trying “something native” that can be found nearby town. In one of their trips to Laguna, they found out that pandan leaves were abundant there, so she looked for weavers in the area and was introduced to Henry.
At first, Henry was hesitant to accept Dennise business proposal, worrying that he might not be able to deliver. But with her incessant prodding, he was encouraged to do it and later on impressed her with the finished products.
According to her, using locally-sourced and eco-friendly materials has been advantageous for them as doing so enables them to help in eliminating the waste produced by the food industry every day and in the livelihood of those in the weaving industry. Besides, it has also been beneficial for them as their sales amazingly increased because of this unique sustainable idea that their customers accepted very well. In fact, other enterprises have been contacting them to ask if they could adapt the use of reusable tampipi and if they could help them reach out to the weavers.
She imparted as well that this consciousness is actually inspired by their father who refused to cut trees and the use of new wood and chose to upcycle old stuff in their gallery and events place business instead. And in their own pursuit of encouraging other people to recycle, they introduced the “palit-tampipi system”, wherein customers have the chance to have their old tampipis replaced with new ones without having to pay an additional amount.
Dennise also gave tips on how everyone could have a sustainable lifestyle, such as proper waste segregation, refusal to use plastic straws, and coming up with ways on how to reuse organic materials found in our area.
Thus, in order to support their business and advocacy, Iba ‘Yan pledged to pay for the one-month promotional costs of The BrickOven Café on Facebook and Instagram, as well as provided sanitation kits, including foot taps and alcohol, for their restaurant.
The episode wrapped up with Angel gathering the Racoma Family and Lowelyn to give them more surprises. Both of them were given weaving paraphernalia and equipment and new tables and chairs to help in their production.
Furthermore, Angel told them that Iba ‘Yan will purchase bulk orders from them to help them earn more and that the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Go Lokal and Design Center of the Philippines vowed to assist them in the development and marketing of the hand-woven products of Laguna, as well as in putting up a cooperative in their community.
Indeed, just like the hand-woven masterpieces produced by the pandan weavers of Laguna, our lives are interconnected because in every action that we’ll do, it will certainly affect other people without us realizing it. So, isn’t it better to always do good and be compassionate in order for us to spread love and kindness wherever we go?
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