By HENRY EMPEÑO
PALAUIG, Zambales — About 30 families belonging to the indigenous Ayta tribe in this province are now setting their sights on selling handcrafted native products in high-end retail stores after completing a government-sponsored livelihood training program.
The Ayta folks, who live at the Dampay Resettlement Area in this town, had mainly lived off the land by tilling upland farms and by foraging ever since they relocated here in 1992 after the Mount Pinatubo eruption.
Now, armed with a new skills set, as well as modern tools, from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), they are starting to make furniture and novelty items from the bamboo trees that abound in the upland community.
According to Pastor Joseph Badar, the 57-year old chieftain of the Ayta Tribes in Palauig (ATIP), his people previously made barbeque sticks and skewers from bamboo in order to earn a living, but this gave them so little income.
And aside from the root crops and banana they harvest from their farms, the tribesmen did not have any other local raw material that they can put to commercial production.
“Kaya nais talaga naming maragdagan ang kaalaman sa paggawa ng mga bamboo craft. Kailangan namin ito upang umunlad ang buhay naming mga Ayta (That is why we really need to increase our knowledge in bamboo craft making. We need this to improve the lives of the Ayta people),” Bandar said.
“Tamang-tama ito dahil ang materyales naman ay marami at hindi na kailangang bilhin (This suits us perfectly because the raw materials are abundant here and we don’t have to buy them),” he added.
It took five days for the DTI trainors from the Manila office to teach the Aytas bamboo craft making—three days for bamboo furniture and two days for bamboo novelty items.
“This was because we have to orient them first on the basics, like the varieties of bamboo, maturity and harvesting, treatment and preservation, as well as machine operation, assembly, and maintenance,” said John Neil Fabay, DTI project officer for the ATIP community.
“What is also important is that after the training, they should be able to demonstrate proper working attitude, which will be very important, as well as discipline and interest for the workshop,” he added.
After the lectures, the participants were grouped together according to their best possible roles in the production line, and then given hands-on training.
Most of the menfolk were assigned to cutting the bamboo poles, and putting holes and designs on them with the use of electric tools, while most of the women did sanding and polishing, as well as decorating.
At this point, the participants were expected to be able to demonstrate competence in safe machine operation and maintenance, perform proper materials selection, perform appropriate preservation, and perform assembly.
Fabay said that the participants would eventually settle into specialized tasks down the production line, while others would shift to related projects like coconut shell products.
Aside from teaching them bamboo craft production, the DTI would also help the Ayta tribesmen market and distribute their products.
Fabay said the DTI is eyeing a tie-up with major retail establishments like Kultura Filipino at SM malls to carry the line of bamboo furniture and novelty items to be produced by the ATIP members.
Kultura Filipino carries a wide range of furniture, houseware, home decors and souvenir items made mostly of indigenous products.