Riches from rags

FOR most, rags sold in the streets are only disposable things for one-time use.

But for a group of 6,000 women in Talisay City, this is their bread and butter.

They call their group the Talisay Women’s Federation. They produce close to a thousand rags daily, and surprisingly, not a single piece of is left unsold.

“We just make rags but we have to make a lot of them,” said Myrna de los Reyes, president of the Talisay Women’s Federation. She is also the low-profile wife of outgoing City Mayor Johnny delos Reyes.

First founded in July 2013, the delos Reyes deployed two sewing machines at the Talisay City Hall where women could be trained to sew.

Talisay City, Myrna said, is popular for its seamstresses, who make affordable dresses and shorts. But seeing a demand in rags plus its easy sewing procedure, rag-making found its roots in Talisay.

They produce 700 pieces of rags on average in a day made out of cloth and fabric residuals with two sewing machines. With help from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) through its shared service facility (SSF) program, an additional 34 machines were given to them. The seamstresses also found an alternative two-storey location in Barangay Lagtang with a rental of P15,000 monthly, as production is expected to expand.

Sauna, labhan pa man ang trapo, pero karon kasagaran ilabay naman lang ditso. Mao nga sige gyud ang demand(Before, people used to wash their rags. Now they just throw them away. This is why the demand is high),” Myrna told Sun.Star Cebu.

Last Wednesday, DTI 7 provided the group with 20 manual sewing machines, 10 high-speed sewing machines, and four edging machines, all worth P628,000. Recently, however, two of the machines broke down, but DTI has not yet responded to the federation’s concern, said one of its directors Nimpha Hernando yesterday.

With a number of limited machines, not everyone can sew. Some, according to Myrna, are assigned to do the cutting and filing of rags at home. Each of the 22 barangays in Talisay have their respective Talisay Women’s Association (TAWA) with their own set of officers and set of activities. All together, they form the federation.

For every 100 pieces produced by a member, she has P15. Hernando said not all members are required to make rags. Some make pillows.

With the new set of sewing machines, annual production of rags is estimated to grow to two million pieces annually from the estimated 200,000 yearly production.

Consequently, sales from rags are expected to grow from P120,000 in a year to P1.2 million.

Some of the rags are sold in bulk to vendors at Carbon Public Market, and others to establishments. Even a Japanese car brand that has shops in Cebu, gasoline stations and some schools directly order rags from the federation.

The women have also started diversifying their products. They have gradually started making pillowcases and the plan is expand the line to curtains, uniforms, and shorts.

Someday, the federation hopes to put up its own building where they don’t need to pay rent. Hopefully, a bigger one, said Myrna, so they can accommodate more sewing machines as they look forward to even more wider sewing projects.

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