Crystal Seas: Preserving Mindanao's rich culture

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Sunday, June 8, 2014


IT WAS her utmost interest to have a home-based work that suited her talents and skills that prompted this Davao City-based entrepreneur to establish Crystal Seas Handwoven and Handcrafted Products eight years ago.

And it's very evident in the company's product lines the owner's regard to preserve Mindanao's rich culture while consistently contributing to economic development.

In doing this, Mae Florence Braceros-Alcantara, Crystal Seas owner, keeps the indigenous craft of handloom weaving alive in the minds and hearts of people. She has been assisted by her daughter Carmaela, who finished Clothing Technology from the University of the Philippines-Diliman, in designing various products for Crystal Seas.

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"Crystal Seas is actually a fulfillment of a dream and much prayer. It has always been my dream to have a business that makes me earn with the things I love doing," Mae narrated.

"It was really fulfilling when she decided to help me put up our own business instead of her accepting offers from some big companies in Manila," she added.

Carmaela, for her part, said they want their products to show that weaving is an intricate, meticulous, and proud tradition preserved by the indigenous people for generations.

She believes entrepreneurs should give respect to this tradition by creating products that give justice to native people’s craftsmanship while being fashionable and suitable for the modern times.

As the mother-and-daughter tandem would put it, hand-weaving is a cherished tradition in Mindanao. Every thread is harmoniously woven like the coexistence of the ancestral tribes of Bagobo, Manobo, Mandaya, Maguindanao and T’boli, and migrants of the present. Each fabric is bursting with life and color, reflecting the diverse cultural facets of its people.

Abaca, pandan, silk, and bamboo fibers are carefully processed into strips and yarns and colored with natural dyes from barks, roots, and leaves of trees. T'nalak is made from highland abaca, which grows in the cool mountain regions of Mindanao while banis is woven from pandan strips. Inaul, on the other hand, is a silk cloth produced in handlooms while bamboo strips are formed into baskets or bayong.

"We want to create hand-woven products that will be cherished by our clients for their superior quality and not as plain souvenir items only," Mae explained, adding that since weaving is a preserved tradition of Mindanao IPs, and it is the responsibility of entrepreneurs to come up with products that will give justice to the native people's craftsmanship.

Crystal Seas promotes Mindanao's fine handloom weaving and beadwork. Its artistry and craftsmanship are showcased in products like bags, shawls and fashion accessories. Traditional expertise is integrated with contemporary design to create each meticulously handcrafted piece.

Mae said that joining trade fairs has been their strategy in getting institutional buyers. The local, national, and international trade shows organized by DTI and its attached agency, the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM), have been the conducive venues for widening market reach.

Furthermore, Mae's son, Leo Carlo and his wife, Kathy, who are both based in Makati City, also help them attend to matters in Metro Manila.

Though only started their operation in 2006, Crystal Seas had already been placed in the Davao Region's directory of exporters.

Mae added that DTI 11 has been helping Crystal Seas as well in sourcing out raw materials.

The Alcantaras’ efforts of promoting their products have caught the attention of the creative market. High-end department store chain Rustan's in Manila was their first client.

Today, Crystal Seas’ products are also sold at Rustan’s branches in Makati, Shangri-la, EDSA, Gateway, Alabang Town Center, Robinson's Place, and Cebu. SM City’s Kultura Store likewise carries their products while Urban Nomad is their link to their buyers in Japan. They also have buyers in the US, Malaysia, and Switzerland.

In Davao City, they are available at the Apo View Hotel, M. Tanoy Concepts Showroom, and Chimes Specialty Store.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on June 09, 2014.

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