NANAY NENEC’S coarse fingers deftly wove the hard leaves of the romblon plant as she and her fellow mat weaver, Shirly, demonstrated their skill inside a mall some five hours away from their home of Kinatarcan Island, Sta. Fe.
Nenec or Enriqueta Bacolod, has been weaving mats for almost 50 years.
“This is our main income. I learned this skill from my grandmother since I was seven years old,” she told SunStar Cebu.
Bacolod said that they were grateful for the La Vida Local, an activity of the Cebu Tourism Summit and Travel Fair, an event initiated by the Cebu Provincial Government to promote local products and tourist destinations to potential customers.
With a price range of P50 to P500, shoppers were able to purchase mats locally known as banig, fans, bags, purses, hats and other products made from romblon plants from the Sta. Fe booth.
Bacolod, a barangay councilor in Barangay Hagdan, is also the president of Hakilawa or Hagdan Kinatarcan Langub Workers Association, where more than a hundred mat weavers of the island make banig products that are often ordered in bulk.
“This fair is really helpful to us because it highlights that there are also quality products made by the mat weavers in our island,” she said.
Hagdan, Kinatarkan and Langub are the barangays that comprise the island.
Bacolod said that weaving is already a culture in their place, with seasoned weavers teaching their kids the art and skill.
“We want to make sure that it won’t die out because this is what our island represents,” she said.
According to Shirly Escalicas, 41, even if weaving requires time and patience, she assured that the finished products are of the highest quality.
First, they pick the leaves of the romblon plant and boil it in hot water. The leaves will then turn white and then it will be laid out to dry in the sun. After the leaves are dried, these will again be boiled, this time with coloring before they are ready for weaving.
Escalicas said that for mats or banigs, they have three sizes: single, double and family.
The single-sized banig mat is priced at P380. The double is sold for P470 and the family-sized ones for P550.
The weaving itself takes a day or two.
Aside from weaving, the island also thrives on planting corn, cassava and malunggay plants.
“Some of us are farmers by day and weavers in the afternoon. So when there are bulk orders, we see to it that at least some of the members of our association benefit from it,” Escalicas said.
Weavers, through the help of trainings from the government, also updated their products by producing bags and hats and even fans for variety.
Kimo Cea, events officer of Sugbu Turismo, said that the event aimed to make local products accessible and introduce tourist destinations in the province to mallgoers, both Filipinos and foreigners.
“What drove us to really promote the other towns of Cebu are other products and destinations that need to be discovered,” Cea said.
Other participating towns were Alegria, San Fernando, Boljoon, Carcar City, Liloan, Pinamungajan, Catmon, Tuburan, Argao, Badian, Dalaguete, Samboan, Cebu City, San Remegio, Moalboal, Santander, Oslob, Bogo City, Aloguinsan, Tudela, Pilar, San Francisco, Poro, Cordova, Daanbantayan, Tabogon and Sta. Fe.