MALILIPOT, ALBAY – In response to President Ferdinand R. Marcos’ directive to provide livelihood opportunities to the evacuees of Albay who were affected by the Mayon Volcano’s erratic activity, the DA Bicol started the conduct of training on abaca twining and eco bag making at an evacuation center in this town on July 12-13, 2023.

Seven families were initially identified by the DA Planning Monitoring and Evaluation Division and Gender and Development (GAD) led by Aloha Gigi I. Banaria, to be beneficiaries of the project. Three members from each family were selected to undergo a two-day training under the tutelage of Marieta Balaguer, a local abaca processor. Each farm family trainee received twining devices and starter kit with abaca fibers and other tools.

The training was in coordination with Phil. Fiber Industry Development Authority (PhilFIDA 5). The same training was also conducted on July 13 to 14 in Tabaco City with the same number of beneficiaries.

Mediatrix Villanueva, the owner of Shelmed Cottage Treasures, one of the country’s pioneer abaca exporters, now celebrating their 50 years in the industry, committed to buy the evacuees’ handwoven products. “An saindong mauukudan sa paggibo nin lubid, it’s a treasure na walang makakakuha sainyo kahit na ano pang gawin sainyo,” she said. (What you will learn in twine making is a treasure which cannot be taken away from you no matter what they do to you.)

Meanwhile, Ma. Daisy G. Geolin, Chairperson of Bikolana’s Agriculture Coop and Chairperson of Regional Agriculture and Fishery Council (RAFC) Women Sectoral Committee discussed “Farm Family Resiliency.” “Nahihiling an karakter kan sarong tawo kun siya nag-aatubang sa problema. Alagad an mga naabot na krisis sa buhay, iyo man minsan an nadara nin oportunidad, arog kaining magayon na oportunidad na itinao kan DA,” she enthused. (The character of a person can be seen in the face of disasters. Crisis that comes in our lives sometimes also brings with it opportunities like this training and starter kit from DA). Ma. Daisy Geolin is also a member of the RAFC Bicol Speakers Bureau.

Daryll John Buenconsejo, Assistant Provincial Agriculturist of Albay in his speech said that the training is timely as Malilipot is presently celebrating its weeklong Lubid (rope) Festival from July 12 to 16, 2023. This festival showcases abaca which is a very important product in the town due to its many uses and importance as a major source of livelihood in the community.

Abaca is the most perfect and toughest fiber in the Philippines, the raw material is harvested from a tree in the banana family, then beaten until it’s soft and spun to form a coarse, but incredibly tough thread. It is also historically called ‘Manila hemp’ after the Philippine capital, where ships would visit to purchase the fiber for rigging and ropes.

A great number of the households in Malilipot town are directly involved in handicraft production, particularly the abaca twine. (LOVELLA P. GUARIN – DA – RAFIS 5)