Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Lanuza's agsam: A fashion statement

Women in Barangay Nurcia, Lanuza make use of their free time in hand weaving. (Contributed photo)

ALONG the town of Lanuza in Surigao del Sur is an indigenous product that has been starting to gain recognition as a fashion accessory not only in the Philippines but abroad.

Yet the uniqueness of this fashion brand is it being made out of a plant; an indigenous fern known to many as “Nito or Agsam.”

The Nito plant with the scientific name of Lygodium circinnatum is a large fern locally known as Agsam and grows abundantly in Lanuza town and other parts of Surigao del Sur.

The Agsam strips from the ferns long stem is the material used for the making of the accessories the indigenous Mamanwa tribe had been using in weaving and crafting for more than a century.

From the traditional tribal hand and ankle bracelets and necklaces; the product has evolved in its designs to compete with the growing market and utilizes newly added stones and even gems to further enhance the beauty of the native craftsmanship.

Agsam fibers
Agsam fibers with one of the simplest single layer designs for bracelets and necklaces.

The heart of the industry in Lanuza is in Barangay Nurcia, where a private business sustains the livelihood of around 100 households.

Giving extra income to other families from other barangays in Lanuza as well as its neighboring towns bringing intricate handwoven products to Lanuza, which are marketed and sold in bulk to other parts of the Philippines.

“I’ve never imagined the product and our small business will grow to be what it is today. We started here with a small cooperative back in 2000, after that the cooperative slowly died and then I realized take it on my own and had the product and business licensed in 2003. It was a very hard start and I’ve learned a lot from our experience,” said Norma R. De Lara, proprietor of De Lara Agsam Novelties.

Agsam handwoven
A traditional Agsam handwoven product with a modern designed necklace.

De Lara pointed out that the community and other women from nearby villages and towns are now earning from the woven products that have been a huge source of livelihood.

“The most popular and cheapest product would be the 4-line bracelet which I buy from them with a total quota of 20,000 pieces a month paying around 120 thousand pesos. That’s just one of the products brought to my shop from different parts of Lanuza and Surigao del Sur by mothers who earn at the comfort of their own homes. The other products which require more details and designed are made here in the barangay with my neighbors,” she said.

Synthetic stones
Synthetic or precious stones can be used to create and enhance the design and quality of the Agsam products.

Rosalyn Montero, a 36 year-old mother of four children expressed her appreciation from the product which she weaves.

“Agsam weaving had been a huge help to me and my family, I have sent my children to school because of it. It’s been essential in our daily expenses since my husband is just working as a labor in a construction,” said Montero, who has been hand weaving the Agsam sheets since 2000.

At present, the products have reached other parts of the Philippines and have been showcased in fashion shows, trade fairs and orders have been coming from Italy and other parts of Asia.

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