Balamban locals earn from seagrass baskets
Grace Melanie L. Lacamiento (Banat) - September 23, 2013 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines - What used to be useless in the municipality of Balamban has now become an alternative source of income among its townspeople who have recently learned how to weave baskets through seagrass or the so-called “lampakanay”.

It was last September 18 to 20 that the Department of Trade and Industry Cebu Provincial Office (DTI-Cebu) conducted the skills development training on “lampakanay” basket weaving for exports in Balamban, Cebu in partnership with the local government unit and All Homes Designs, Inc.

This was considered to be the first 2013 Bottom-Up Budgeting (BUB) training on livelihood for the agrarian reform beneficiaries in line with the national government’s strategy in poverty reduction.

The BUB approach is envisioned help the government meet one of its millennium development goals to decrease the poverty rate from 26.5 percent in 2009 to 16.6 percent by 2015.

In an on-site interview with the DTI-Cebu business development division chief Elias Tecson, he said that “lampakanay” has been naturally known as something of no use and no value. It is often thrown away or left alone to decay.

He shared that most companies especially exporters approach the trade department to seek assistance on sources of raw materials.

Among those who consulted DTI-Cebu was All Homes Designs, Inc. who needed support on the supply of raw materials for lampakanay weaving and the production of finished products.

All Homes Designs, Inc. that is based in Tabok, Mandaue City is a manufacturer of baskets, housewares,toys, souvenirs, gifts, jewelry and decors. It exports its products to other countries such as Hong Kong and California.

Seagrass are often used by companies in replace of rattan.

“Lampakanay” are mostly found in swampy areas in Balamban particularly in Barangay Arpili, thus holding the skills development training in the municipality. Camotes and Toledo are also rich in seagrass.

Tecson said that they could also conduct the same training in those provinces.

All finished products will be supplied to All Homes Designs, Inc. through purchase order. Production materials can either be provided by the exporter or the community itself.

“Those who attend our trainings need not to worry since there is already an existing market for their products. We assure them of a ready market access whenever we conduct trainings,” Tecson pointed out.

After the training, he suggested to the local government unit to put up a production center to support the weavers and the community has to identify a quality control officer to monitor the production and assess the product quality.

“If people do not know the value of seagrass, it will remain useless to the community. But now that they realized its importance and learned the skills to weave baskets, they will not be idle while waiting for their harvest. Instead, they could earn extra income for their families,” he stated.

The labor cost for a weaver is pegged at P135 for one set. A set is composed of three baskets.

Balamban municipal agriculturist Felojyn Sundo echoed the statements of Tecson, saying that the “lampakanay” weaving could greatly help the residents to earn additional income particularly those plain housewives while waiting for the harvest.

The townspeople depend on farming and shipbuilding as the primary livelihood means in the municipality.

He even shared now that the residents have realized the opportunity in “lampakanay” weaving and acquired the necessary skills; they have shown diligence and dedication to their work.

“Grabe sila motrabaho. Wala’y undang. Bisag break nila, padayon sila sa ilang gibuhat. Eight hours gud na ilang training kada adlaw,” he said.

There were a total of 30 trainees who participated during the skills development training. Majority of which are women and are residents of Barangay Biasong in Balamban.

The skills development training that was held last week in the social hall in Balamban, Cebu involved the basic knowledge of “lampakanay” weaving and orientation from the semi-processed weaving through braids and twists to the final processing of weaving the whole basket. Each trainee had to accomplish three pieces of “lampakanay” basket during the first phase of the training.

The upgrading skills training which will be the second phase of the program shall cover the improvement of the competency of the weaver that will ensure higher product quality, efficiency of the worker and faster production. It is scheduled on October 21 to 23. For this phase, trainees have to finish five to six baskets in a day.

The third phase of the training program that will be conducted on November 4 to 6 will focus more on product development and new designs creation to enable the weavers to come up with unique designs to be offered to the market.

According to Benjie Monicit who has been a sample maker in All Homes Designs, Inc. for four years already, a weaving expert that already has 15 years of experience could finish five pieces in a day while a beginner or a learner can weave two pieces in a day.

Monicit was also one of the trainers assigned during the three-day skills development training in Balamban. There were four company trainers who handled four groups of weavers. Each group has seven to eight members.

All Homes Designs, Inc. also conducts company-initiated trainings in the northern part of Cebu.

Under the National Expenditure Program, the national government has allocated P8.397 billion for the BUB project implementation among the 565 local government units.

For this training in Balamban, Tecson said that there was an allotted budget of  P100,000.

After the skills development training on “lampakanay” basket weaving in Balamban, DTI-Cebu shall conduct the “bayong” development project in San Remegio for the production of utility and fashionable “bayongs” which will start on September 24. It will have a budget share of P250,000 from the government. /JMD (FREEMAN)

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