Supporting our local weavers

Weaving is not only an important source of livelihood for many Filipinos in the countryside; it is also an essential part of our culture. It has a unifying factor for communities bound by living tradition and ingenuity. Unfortunately, the practice of weaving in the Philippines is dying. Lack of raw materials such as cotton, and the decreasing number of local weavers are some of the most urgent concerns today.

Last November, I had the chance to talk with Cielito Honeylet Avanceña on her initiatives to support our MSMEs, especially local textile weavers, during an exploratory meeting for an inclusive and sustainable business program for the weaving industry in the Philippines. We were joined by Go Negosyo senior advisers Josephine Romero and Merly Cruz, Clarke Nebrao, Asec. Demphna Du-Naga, Jefferson Cheng, Dr. Joven Cuanang and director Reynan Librador. Honeylet has been actively supporting our local weavers in the country such as the Inabel weavers in the northern provinces, particularly by helping them get the proper price for their products.

Inabel is a traditional handwoven fabric done on ancient looms by the women in the Ilocos region. Through the efforts of the government as well as the private sector, the practice of Inabel weaving is now thriving.

Our goal is to provide an enabling environment for our local weavers by helping improve their access to money, market and mentorship opportunities. The combined efforts of the Department of Tourism and the Department of Trade and Industry, together with the private sector such as Dr. Joven Cuanang of Pinto Art Museum, have already resulted in various opportunities this year for our local artisan weavers.

Last Nov. 25, the Go Negosyo team went to Ilocos and met one of the oldest weavers in the region, Magdalena Gamayo. Magdalena, now 95 years old, was bestowed the National Living Treasure in 2012. Magdalena first learned how to weave at the age of 16. Weaving served as her family’s primary source of income, sustaining her through marriage and motherhood.

Go Negosyo aims to empower local weavers like Magdalena. We hope to help create an enabling ecosystem so that our weavers and private and public sector enablers can work together to help further transform the Philippine weaving industry. On March 2, I will be welcoming some of the world’s leading women entrepreneurs in a conference and dinner, before joining them in our biggest summit for women entrepreneurs the following day. We have invited Bangladeshi fashion designer, Bibi Russell in our summit entitled, Women 2020 Entrepreneurship Summit: Perspectives of a Global Woman of Impact, on March 3 at the World Trade Center.  Bibi has been at the forefront of creative developmental initiatives in her country. She has launched Bibi Productions, a brand that allowed the revival of weaving and crafts in Bangladesh.

She has also helped thousands of local weavers by providing jobs to 39,000 weavers, artists, and artisans to be part of her fashion line. Inviting the local enablers, both from the private and public sector, we hope to learn from a successful case study such as Bibi on how to further preserve and promote the weaving industry in the country. We are inviting Lola Magdalena so she can also share her experience along with the numerous other entrepreneurs who have made a significant impact in their respective fields.

Women 2020 is aimed at gathering the biggest number of women entrepreneurs and introduce them to various opportunities in the beauty and wellness, agriculture, tourism, and digitalization and technology sectors. Alongside the summit is a curated expo, featuring successful women-led enterprises from varying industries across the country. Following the success of our Sign Up Summit last September 2018, Women 2020 will also feature a Sign Up for women wherein companies will specifically cater to women who want to enlist on the different digital platforms. Exceptional women entrepreneurs who have made remarkable achievements and contributions to the ASEAN and global economy will also be recognized through the Women of Impact Awards.

In order for our women entrepreneurs, including local weavers, to prosper, they need an environment that will help them scale up. This is what we aim to help them with at Go Negosyo. Our thrust has always been to enhance the capacity and competencies of our micro, small, and medium-sized entrepreneurs, the majority of which are women, so they can have a better chance in life. This is what we aim to continue this year, and in the decades ahead.