THE silk industry in Laguindingan is aiming to upgrade its resources and silk weaving skills among weavers as rise in local demand is seen in recent months.

Judy Aclan, development specialist of the Department of Trade and Industry in Misamis Oriental, said they are looking at recruiting more silk weavers and upgrade the skills of the regular weavers to cope with the demand.

To date, the Ayala Beneficiaries Association Incorporated (Abai) Weavers Multipurpose Cooperative has 20 weavers, of which, only 15 are active, and only two are considered "master weavers."

Aclan admitted that after President Rodrigo Duterte tapped Mimi Pimentel to design his inaugural barong weaved by the Abai weavers, the demand has suddenly spiked.

"Nikalit ug daghan ilang buyers (Their buyers suddenly increased) after people learned that the Laguindingan weavers weaved that pure silk barong. Ni-spread na ilahang market, daghay ga walk-in, ga-order, so niabot na sa point nga dili na nila maapas ang demand kay 20 lang baya sila kabuok (Their market spread, many walked in and ordered, so they reached the point where they can't keep up with the demand because they are only 20)," she said.

After the president's inauguration, a directive from the Office of the President was sent to the government line agencies in Cagayan de Oro City and was told to promote and prioritize the development of the silk industry in Misamis Oriental.

A technical working group was formed, headed by Misamis Oriental Governor Yevgeny Vincente Emano, to create a strategic planning to boost the silk industry.

The short-term goal is to train and add more weavers and upgrade the skills of the regular weavers in order to cope with the demand, Aclan said.

About 20 people have expressed interest for the 15-day basic training of weaving to be conducted by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda).

Aclan said they are also eyeing to expand weaving communities in other municipalities, not only in Laguindingan, but also in Claveria, Gingoog, Balingasag, particularly in the hinterland areas.

The long-term goal, she said, is to establish a complete value-chain in the silk industry in the city, which means the province, will acquire the machinery to supply for a bigger market

"We are looking for an establishment of a silkworm farm or a plant here, just like in Bago City, Negros. Unta puhon, equipped na ta diri (Hopefully someday, we are equipped here) to do the processes like moriculture, sericulture, then enhanced weaving," she said.

Financial support has also been poured out by local government officials to the Laguindigan weavers.

Governor Emano said one of the challenges of the cooperative in silk production is the lack of resources.

Initially, the Provincial Government has extended an initial of P50,000 as financial aid to the Abai weavers for additional capital and vowed to assist the group in the infrastructure projects in the future, particularly the purchase of filature machine that makes the production of wool easier and faster.

Vice governor Joey Pelaez has also given an amount as support for the Laguindingan weavers.

The Abai weavers are residents of the area who were displaced due to the construction of the Laguindingan airport.

From having no knowledge in silk weaving, 23 of 24 weavers trained and produced a total of 5,463.14 meters of silk cloth over 17 months, from July 2001 to November 2002.

A weaver now produces an average of two meters of 30-inch width silk cloth in a day.