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Saturday, July 13, 2024

Alayan weavers spin brighter future

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KASIBU, Nueva Vizcaya—The rhythmic click-clack of looms echoes through Sitio Alayan in Kasibu, proof that the vibrant legacy of loom weaving survives and thrives.

Here, the Alayan Pag-asa Abot-Palad Association (APAPA) is experiencing a resurgence, fueled by passionate dedication to preserving their cultural heritage and powerful partnership with OceanaGold Philippines.

“Weaving is not just a craft, it’s the heartbeat of our community,” said APAPA lead weaver and organizer Editha Belingon.

Livelihood woven with pride

APAPA’s story began in 2011 with 36 members. Overcoming obstacles like inconsistent participation and limited market reach, a core group remained steadfast in their commitment to weaving.

Today, loom weaving is not just a cherished tradition, but a vital source of income, particularly for mothers within the association. Their meticulously crafted shawls, priced at P700 each, generate income that empowers families and strengthens the local economy.

More than weavers, APAPA acts as custodians of Kasibu’s cultural heritage. Their vibrant shawls, adorned with intricate patterns inspired by nature’s bounty—citrus fruits and leaves and regal diadems—are a testament to the rich tapestry woven into the very fabric of Kasibu’s identity.

APAPA fosters the transmission of weaving knowledge to younger generations, ensuring the cherished tradition continues to thrive for years to come.

Sourcing for sustainability

The brilliance of APAPA’s creations hinges on quality materials. Traditionally, threads were painstakingly hand-spun. Today, the association relies on polyester threads sourced from Baguio.

Initially, OceanaGold provided materials for training sessions. To ensure long-term sustainability, APAPA forged a direct partnership with Baguio suppliers, securing a discounted rate of P250 per kilogram of thread.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has been a pillar in APAPA’s journey. Instrumental in their 2013 registration (the first of its kind in Sitio Alayan), the DTI further provided initial training on basic weaving and later supported advanced design workshops in 2017. Most significantly, they equipped APAPA with their foundational tools.

OceanaGold’s Mun-Abol project

While financial aid is important, OceanaGold’s investment in the community goes far deeper. Their aptly named project, MUN-ABOL (meaning “to weave” in Ifugao), signifies a four-pronged approach designed to revitalize Kasibu’s weaving industry from the ground up.

The project facilitated the construction of a central Loom Weaving and Training Center, where collaboration, training and production happen.

OceanaGold recognized the potential for growth and sponsored advanced design training for APAPA. This empowered the weavers to expand their repertoire beyond traditional shawls. The new designs not only increased their earning potential, but also subtly paid homage to Kasibu’s status as the Philippines’ citrus capital, incorporating citrus motifs or colors into the weavings.

Integration into the local tourism circuit is another focus. Through partnerships with the Department of Tourism, APAPA’s creations are showcased at events like the Citrus Festival. The exposure attracts new customers and positions Kasibu as a cultural and scenic destination.

Recognizing the need for market diversification, OceanaGold president and general manager for corporate and legal affairs of the Didipio Mine Joan Adaci-Cattiling encourages APAPA to explore new product lines like bags, phone cases and ID lace holders. The broader offering caters to a wider audience and increases income opportunities.

“We were not their first partners. When we resumed operations, we were looking for weavers. This is a part of the ancestral domain and our operations do not straddle these lands, but we do what we can to serve the community. They identified themselves as indigenous people. Not all are from here, but they carry with them their culture. There’s no judging whether they are the indigenous people (IP) native from this area or from other places. At the end of the day, it is the preservation of the culture,” she said.

Challenges, collaborative solutions

Despite the progress, challenges remain. The lack of modern edging machines, requiring APAPA to rely on a time-consuming manual closing process, is an obstacle.

OceanaGold is aware of this and is exploring solutions to improve efficiency. Attracting younger generations to weaving is crucial for long-term sustainability. APAPA, along with OceanaGold and government agencies, is actively finding ways to make weaving more appealing to the youth.


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