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Abaca: Albay’s moral ‘fiber’

SourceL Julius P. Vicente |

Abaca, commonly known as Manila hemp, is considered to be one of the major sources of income in the province of Bicol that helps boost small-scale industries especially in the rural areas.

Since Albay province became famous for its Mayon volcano, festivals, and other local products such as pili nuts and other spicy dishes, the local government has somehow overlooked the significance of abaca in the province.

Dr. Marissa N. Estrella, dean of Bicol University College of Agriculture and Forestry bared that abaca is one of the top dollar earners in the country, in terms of exportation. She also stated that in 2009, the Bicol region was noted for being the highest producer of Manila hemp followed only by Eastern Visayas and Davao. The reason behind the high demand for abaca, here and abroad, is its flexibility as a raw material for handbags, baskets, and storage containers.

The making of abaca fiber or pinukpok in the form of woven cloth as sinamay has been existent hundreds of years ago. “It was only in 2001 when pinukpok came into large production in Albay. The victims of the Mayon volcano eruption in 1992 were the first beneficiaries of the abaca making in Sitio Banquerohan, Legazpi City. They were provided with abaca silk technology as a regular source of livelihood,” says Myrna Pereyra, coordinator of Bicol University Tobacco Campus Extension Service Center.

Aside from their skills in weaving, Albay residents also underwent a series of trainings for handloom weaving, dyeing, and processing to upgrade their skills in the production of high-value exportable abaca textile products, under the guidance of Bicol University and Department of Science and Technology.

With assistance from the Department of Labor and Employment through the Bicol Small Business Institute Foundation, Inc. (BSBI), the weavers were provided 20 units of steel handloom, one mechanized steel fiber rotary press, a plastic press being introduced by the Philippine Textile and Research Institute, as well as tools and materials for the mass production of pinukpok.

Since then, pinukpok has evolved into a fine high-end fabric.

Albay Governor Joey Salceda has expressed optimism that local designers would produce high-quality barongs and fashion gowns for the continuous promotion and demand of abaca in the province.

Recently, the Pinukpok festival was held in the province to further enhance the presence and use of abaca in the fashion market.

“I want to promote pinukpok dresses as part of our culture in Albay. The government is still providing training and funds to replant and rehabilitate abaca plantations. This, in turn, will help Bicolanos promote and be part of the living culture of Albay,” he concludes.

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