Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Resurrecting Abaca in Tugos

In the late 19th century Philippine abaca, popularly known as Manila hemp, which was then considered the best material for ropes and cordage, alternated in importance with sugar as the islands’ most important export. Principal regions that produced abaca were the Bicol areas and the eastern portions of the Visayan Islands.

In Marinduque, Luis Hidalgo, a local entrepreneur at that time, was buying abaca and copra in Boac, Mogpog and Gasan for shipment to Manila. Of Marinduque abaca, Marche once wrote boastfully (in 1881), thus: “Abaca, cultivated on the side of the mountains, is the finest, the longest in all of the Philippines."

Somewhere along the way, abaca production here died when it was plagued by the dreaded abaca disease. All Musa textilis in Marinduque were completely wiped out.

In recent years, however, the Fiber Industry Development Authority (FIDA), resurrected the abaca development program with components that include the development of genetically modified abaca, development of virus-resistant abaca and alternative livelihood.

Slowly but surely abaca production in Marinduque is making a comeback. In Barangay Tugos, a farmers cooperative, Tanikala ng Pagkakaisa, is engaged in copra-buying, lending and now, the production of abaca products.

In 2009, the Department of Trade (DTI), Marinduque office, knowing that some 8-10 hectares of land have been planted to abaca in a FIDA-assisted project, invited some members of the cooperative to attend a skills-training program for abaca slippers and bags making, together with those from other selected barangays.

The Cottage Industry Technology Center (CITC), together with the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), and DTI soon came up with a series of workshops on bleaching and dyeing, new products and designs, the making of macramé bags, etc.

The project was also tied up with government efforts to promote the production of biodegradable products.

The various stages of abaca fiber processing.

And just look at what some farming families of Tugos are producing now!

Cool, colorful and trendy abaca slippers for everyone.

Alongside these slippers are macrame bags and scrunch bags.

As pasalubongs, give-away gifts, souvenir of something from Tugos where Kabugsakan Falls also awaits you...

Your turn. Buy na agad to promote this livelihood!