CARCAR City might have experienced a slowdown in the shoe industry but a new venture of a Japanese artist is reviving the craftsmanship of the townsfolk.

Satomi Sekiya, the person behind Sulci Inc., is making popular in Japan raffia bags and corsage handmade by women in Carcar. From having to crochet espadrilles shoes at less than P20 per pair, Sekiya is paying them at a ten-fold price, or P200 up to P900, depending on the bag’s design.

In an interview with local proprietor Lucil A. Barbieros, she said Sekiya had been to different parts of Cebu and Bohol to conduct trainings among women, but it was only in Carcar where the investor saw the potential and sustainability of producing raffia bags. The enterprise was established in June 2011 in Perelos, Carcar, with 30 women involved in the production.

“In one week, kung mag concentrate lang jud sila sa paghimo, they can produce three bags,” Barbieros said. This means, women, who are doing the crochet inside their homes, can get around P2,000 in a week.

Raffia, known locally as “buli,” is abundant in the town of Inabanga in Bohol, where Sulci Inc is also getting its raw materials. The design for Sulci’s raffia bags are personally done by Sekiya herself, being an expert and a hobbyist in crochet.

The design is then forwarded to the Philippines and manufactured in Carcar and are shipped back to Japan. The bags are distributed by Sekiya to different retail establishments and even inside cruise ships. The bags are sold at about 20,000 yen each.

As summer in Japan draws near, the demand for raffia bags is also increasing. From the average demand of 150 bags per month, Barbiero said the number is expected to grow in the months of April to July.

To meet the requirement, 75 women are currently being grained. 25 of them come from Carcar, 25 from Bogo City, and 25 from the town of Aloguinsan.

Barbiero shared that Carcar, at times, fail to meet the 150 pieces of bag requirement per month.

“There are times when we can only produce 120 bags in a month,” she said.

Sulci Inc. is also gearing up to tap the Philippine market, particularly hotels, resorts, and souvenir shops.

Barbiero said they have received several inquiries from hotels that have expressed interest on the use of raffia bags as souvenirs, but they still have to coordinate on the pricing.

At present, Sulci bags are priced at P3,000 to P7,125 per bag. If buyers purchase the bag at the Sulci Booth in the Sinulog Trade Fair at the lower ground floor of SM City Cebu, they will be getting a P500 discount. One corsage is sold at P500 to P700.