When the Yakan Weavers Albarakkattu Multi-Purpose Cooperative decided to be part of the One Town, One Product (OTOP) program in the recently concluded 63rd Manila FAME at the World Trade Center (WTC), they knew that they were off to a good start.
The multi-purpose cooperative’s OTOP booth, which displayed a wide array of authentic Yakan handwoven souvenir items — from wall décor, table runners, place mats, and shawls to slippers, purses, bags, espadrilles, and travel kits — was a sure hit among local and international buyers and visitors.
The Yakan Weavers Albarakkattu Multi-Purpose Cooperative carries out the responsibility to provide quality handwoven products for sustaining the development of the Yakan community, both locally and internationally.
“Each product we have here is a labor of love. It entails a slow and steady process. A one-meter cloth material with intricate and beautiful motifs, for instance, takes around five days to finish,” said Angie Ilul, a multi-purpose cooperative member who actively champions the cause of the local weavers in Zamboanga and Basilan.
The Yakans, who are exquisitely known for the vibrancy of color in their cloth and their exceptional weaving techniques, exert so much effort and consume days in every fiber they weave to create a vibrant and colorful single handmade cloth. It is said that almost every Yakan fabric can be described as ‘unique’ since the finished products are not exactly identical. There will always be differences that can be seen in the pattern, design, or distribution of colors.
Ilul, who has a village shop in Zamboanga and who has 20 weavers under her helm, shared that the cooperative was able to generate approximately Php100,000.00 in sales during the four-day trade show. “This is already good. If only we have the capacity to increase our production, we can meet the demands of the foreign buyers we meet here at Manila FAME. Right now, we’re just using the mano mano style,” said Ilul who also participates in other local trade shows in Metro Manila and in the provinces.
Weaving, she added, is the only form of livelihood of the Yakan women in the Yakan Village in Zamboanga City and in Basilan. It is a tradition carefully passed down from one generation to another – from the lola to the nanay up to the granddaughter. It has become an after-school pastime for quite a number of school girls who, as young as seven, would engage in textile weaving done on a back strap loom so they could earn some extra income for their school allowance.
For her part, Ilul would like to delve into product development that would allow her and her team of local weavers to cater to the needs and demands of the global market. She currently envisions to have more Yakan handwoven products with simple color combinations which trade buyers from Japan, Korea, and some European countries find more appealing. “We might have these products for the October 2016 edition of Manila FAME,” she said.
Their participation in Manila FAME afforded the Yakan Weavers Albarakkattu Multi-Purpose Cooperative a considerable amount of market exposure which, in turn, would benefit the weaving communities in Zamboanga and Basilan. The multi-purpose cooperative also promotes its Yakan products through social media outlets like Facebook and Instagram.
“We are extremely grateful to the Bureau of Domestic Trade Promotion for allowing us to join Manila FAME where we can promote and sell our products as well as help the small entrepreneurs…the weavers back in Basilan,” said Ilul.
The OTOP program of the Department of Trade and Industry’s Bureau of Domestic Trade Promotion (DTI-BDTP) is a priority program of the government that aims to promote entrepreneurship and job creation in the country’s various regions.
Manila FAME is a bi-annual showcase of craftsmanship, design innovation, and artisanship in Philippine products. Organized by the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM), the export promotions arm of the DTI, it features finely selected furniture and home furnishings, holiday gifts and décor, and fashion accessories designed and crafted in the Philippines for the global market.
For the 63rd show edition, Manila FAME returned to its April season to bring the global trade buyers to the optimal buying cycle. It was envisioned to be a specialized one-stop source of high-concept products and an exclusive platform for business matching between choice exporters and buyers.