Philippine Handicraft Industry: Their Benefits and Importance
Almost every family in the Philippines owns one or more handicraft products like baskets, brooms, feather dusters, bamboo sofa set, cabinets, and other furniture. Accessories like earrings, bracelets, necklaces, and other clothing apparel which young people today are fond of wearing are also made from native products like beads, shells, seeds, and others. This is a clear indication that our handicraft industry is enjoying the patronage of Filipinos nationwide.
Philippines is blessed with rich natural resources that are scattered throughout its 7,107 islands. These God-given natural wonders are the sources of people's food, shelter, and other basic needs. After some time, people acquired many skills that enabled them to tinker with nature. They used the raw materials from trees, plants, and other natural resources that are very abundant and turned them into simple, yet useful tools or instruments.
Today, many Filipinos are engaged in handicraft businesses. Handicraft-making has become a means of livelihood for them, especially now that many handicraft owners are exporting their products to Japan, United states, Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, and other countries around the world.
The Philippines is the second largest world producer of handicrafts, mainly baskets out of indigenous materials. This industry continues to provide a respectable contribution to foreign exchange earning of the country (US$71.9M in 2000) while many handicraft items are also sold on the local market. All together, the sector is providing livelihood to more than 1 million Filipinos. Although the industry has experienced some setbacks over the last ten years, it has kept the respect of the high-end markets in the United States, European Union, and Japan and has only lost a great part of the low-end market to China, our main competitor.
Despite this, Filipino craftsmen have indigenously overcome scarcity and increasing prices of raw materials by constantly producing new designs for their products. Over the years, Philippine handicrafts have evolved through innovative changes in designs reinforced by exciting choices and combination of indigenous materials. There is, however still ample room for improvement, particularly in remote upland communities with little access to market information, brokering services, capital, and technologies for value addition.
Aside from these, the handicraft industry is important because of the following reasons:
- It promotes our cultural heritage through the use of indigenous materials.
- Handicraft products show an individual's creativity and lofty imagination.
- Producers of raw materials will be encouraged to produce more.
- Employment is generated especially for the undergraduates.
- Values of perseverance and industry are developed.
The tools commonly used in handicraft are of two types - the hand tools and the power tools. Hand tools are the tools for processing the article which are used manually or by hands. Power tools are tools for processing materials that are operated by machine. The tools commonly used in handicrafts are the following:
- coping saw
- hand drill
- smoothing plane
- folding rule, zigzag rule, steel rule
- soldering iron
In order to create new handicraft products which can be sold locally or exported abroad, different raw materials which are available in the market are needed. Handicraft makers fashion them into baskets, bags, clothing accessories, cabinets, lamp shades, wall décor, bamboo sofa sets, cabinets, clothes, and others that one can think of using the indigenous materials.
Below are the indigenous materials (with images and descriptions) used for making the products mentioned above.
Known worldwide as Manila hemp. Abaca fiber is obtained from the leaf sheaths of the abaca (Musa textilis Nee) and is considered as the strongest among natural fibers. The length of the fiber varies from 3 to 9 ft or more, depending on the height of the plant and the age of the leafsheath. The color of the fiber ranges from ivory white to light and dark brown.
Superficially similar to bamboo, but distinct in that the stems are solid, rather than hollow, and also in their need for some sort of support. While bamboo can grow on its own, rattan cannot. Some genera (example Metroxylon, Pigafetta, Raphia) are however more like typical palms, with stouter, erect trunks. Many rattans are also spiny, the spines acting as hooks to aid climbing over other plants, and also to deter herbivores. Rattans have been known to grow up to hundreds of meters long.
Stems of bamboo plants are stronger and flexible. Bamboo grows in all parts of the country - in plains, forests, hills and mountains.
Among the varieties of bamboo are the spiny bamboo, kawayan China, kawayan kiling, bikal and buho.
Coconut trees are abundant in the Philippines. Coconut shells vary in thickness and color depending on the age of the nut. They are used for fuel and for manufacturing articles such as buttons, pins, coin banks, lamp shades, and flower vases.
A palm from which three kinds of fibers, namely buri, raffia, and buntal, are obtained. The buri palm has large fan-shaped leaves with stout petioles ranging from 2 to 3 m in length. The palm reaches a height of 20 to 40 m and its trunk attains a diameter of 1 to 1.5 m. Of the buri fiber, buntal is the one with the most impact in the market.
A material created through the tanning of hides, skins and kips of animals. Hides are skins from large animals like horses and carabaos. Skins come from such animals like alligators and goats. Kips are obtained from undersized animals like lizards. The tanning process converts the putrescible skin into a durable, long-lasting, and versatile natural material for various uses.
Fibers from Other Plants
They come from plants where fibers or threadlike substances are extracted. Fibers from coconut husks, buri, maguey, pineapple, abaca, and banana are used in making mattresses, carpet, and seat pads.