February 9, 2023

There is always something to learn, if you really want to. Of late, it is most important to find means to earn a living.

A partnership between the Rotary Clubs of Paranaque South and Baguio North brought discarded materials from the Calamba Export Processing Zone to Baguio City with the purpose of converting the materials into a livelihood similar to what was given to women in the National Capital Region. The silver material was perfect for weaving into bags and other useful items. So, the Department of Trade and Industry – Cordillera helped provide the masters who have been weaving recyclables into baskets, bags, wallets, and other accessories.

The beneficiaries of the livelihood program were the members of the Breakfast Feeding for Learning, Inc. (BFLI) under Pacita Panaguiton. The first 15 women and teenagers began their training. Rovilyn Mayat-an, Lota Bacani, David Dullao, and Basanio Ngittit were contacted by Rhea Palaez of DTI to show the group what could be done with the spool of insulation strips. David and Basanio were experts in rattan and bamboo basket weaving. Rovilyn is a master of recycled paper products while Lota is a trainer for the recycled plastic foil from junk food. The group was divided into three, ideally for each group to learn how to do one craft and teach the next group of women to do the same.

The first day was spent by the trainers themselves learning how to use the material. The strips were varied in widths, the widest was about an inch to the narrowest of a fourth of an inch. Most started with the widest to be able to manipulate it and set it to patterns with Rovilyn to make into placemats and coasters. The length used was almost two feet. The pattern used here is an alternate one-on-one weave like the knit and purl of knitting. Simple enough, then the women wanted to know how to use that to make bags.

The narrowest went to David and Basanio who began with the pattern for making small baskets. The length used was almost 18 inches per strand. The two men had to use their feet to hold the strips in place while they completed the 40 strips to make a basket. What seemed simple for them saw the ladies give up on the first day and instead gravitate towards the other groups. It was Jasmin who decided to stick it out because basket weaving was a family skill that she neglected to learn. Out of curiosity, I joined them on the second day of training to find out what was difficult about basketry. I discovered there was a pattern that was kept in the manipulation of the strips. Like a rhythm, one wove the strips together alternately in twos. Before the end of the afternoon, I learned how to do it.

The group that made wallets cut strips into four inches and folded these and inserted them to create a zigzag pattern. This pattern could make a sleeve for a pot or planter. By the next meeting, Lota showed the ladies how to make wallets and how to sew the zippers on. Even an eight-year-old son of one of the mothers, Almer, learned how to fold and tuck the strips.

Unknown to us, the women really wanted to learn how to do the crafts but never had the reason to begin. Besides, Lota said that the foil wrappers from chips and candies had to be soaked in water and wiped dry before making them into the items, while, the silver strands were ready to cut and assemble.

Perhaps, in time for gift giving on Christmas, these mother’s may be able to sell some of their products for extra income while tending their children. Rovilyn encourages them to keep their fingers busy while watching television once they learn the craft. Basanio says, maybe a “pasiking” or native backpack can be made once the women figure out the patterns in basket weaving.

I have learned from the masters, I can now weave my own imperfect basket. As Rhea says, I must have an output too, as a participant in the training.