the Marketing Network of WomenWorkers in the Informal Economy
Towards Advancing Fair, Just and Sustainable Trade
BASKET WEAVING IN BEGA, SAN CARLOS CITY, PANGASINAN
Bega is a 3rd class barangay located in San Carlos City, Pangasinan. It has 3 sitios: the rail side, Cabelen and Mamdog. The primary economic activity in the community is farming, with lowland vegetables as alternative farm crops. Animal raising which includes goats, native chicken, fowls and backyard piggery is also common. Trading activities such as sari-sari stores are very minimal.
Basket weaving is a secondary economic activity that has been the source of daily income for most people in the community. Production takes place the whole year round.
During the 1970s when cottage industries and export promotion were the country’s priority concern, orders for the community’s decorative baskets for export was high. There were other basket producers in the neighboring regions but Bega’s basketry held a competitive advantage over the rest in terms of quality, style and design. When the economic crisis resulted to a downside in export basket production, the community concentrated on producing bilao, wicks and tiklis for the local market.
The Product/s Kaing or tiklis is commonly produced in the community. These products are utilized by fruit vendors that serve as carrier handlers for transporting their produce.
Other functional items such as the laundry hampers, umbrella and magazine racks, spoon and fork containers, fruit trays and regular baskets are among the most saleable even in the local market. There are decorative items like the flower vases, wine holder, bread basket, fashion accessories, and boxes for small items which are custom made upon order.
The Producers The Bega-PATAMABA Chapter was organized in the early part of 1998 with a total membership of fifty-two (52) basket weavers and small farmers engaged in rice and corn production. Most of them have finished high school. The average income ranges from P2,500-P4,500 depending on the basket production and crops produced. Daily average expenses range from P150-300 for a family size of 4-7 members per household. Oftentimes, two family members work to earn income for the family.
During its early stage, the group was considered one of the best PATAMABA chapters. A loan assistance of P100,000.00 from the WEED fund of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) that was extended by the PATAMABA National was paid up in less than a year. The group’s organizational operations dipped soon after.
In February 2002, a field visit by PATAMABA officers did wonders in reactivating the group. Since then, meetings have been regularly held that also served as venue for discussing strategic issues of informal workers and for pushing advocacy campaigns.
Presently, there are eighteen (18) members who are into basket production. Eight (8) of them are women whose ages range from 35-50 years old, while ten (10) are men whose tasks involve the preparation of the assembly line and slicing the bamboo to be used as vine in basket weaving. Aside from the women and men in the community, the children with ages 8 to10 are also tapped in the basket production process. Children are usually tasked to weave the base or lower portion of the baskets.
Danny Penuliar is the overall supervisor who also
guides the group in the marketing of products and in bringing these
into the mainstream. He also assists members in product and quality
Product Development and Marketing The process of basket weaving is basically handcrafted. While many other crafts have become mechanized, there is no special machine that can substitute for the human hands in weaving baskets. And this is precisely one of the difficulties when it comes to producing baskets in bulk. There may have been equipments that can speed up the production process such as molders, electric saw and sander, and a multitude of “assembly line” processes, but still, the most basic techniques of basket- making remain.
The raw materials used in basket weaving are rattan, bamboo or abaca which are abundantly grown in Bega. Before going into the assembly stage, the very first thing that weavers do is to treat the raw materials (bamboo, rattan, abaca and vines) to avoid premature rotting or decay of the products.
The following are the tools used in basket weaving: 1) Awl - a tool resembling an ice pick, only shorter and not as sharply pointed, used for opening spaces and holes in reed, 2) Shaper - a small rasp or an instrument used for shaving away wood; 3) True – used for measuring the woven base to ascertain the correct length and width on all sides, adjusting if necessary, and also used for making corners; and the 4) Knife -used for cutting edges.
Quality wise, Bega PATAMABA weavers produce high quality baskets which are regularly sold in the local markets. Mr. Danny Penuliar’s handicraft store, which is located in front of the San Carlos City Market also serves as the group’s showroom.
Occasionally, there are buyers who bring these products outside of Bega and market them there - Isabela SM, Quiapo Handicraft Center in Echague, and the Guiguinto Bulacan Native Products. These buyers purchase in volumes and can therefore sell goods at low prices.
Since February 2002, the PATAMABA marketing enterprise had been buying Bega baskets for showcasing along with other PATAMABA products at their WOW Philippines booth. Recorded sales from this transaction from January 30 to January 6, 2004 amounted to P145,075.00.
Considered to be the group’s local competitor are the producers from Malasiqui, a nearby town located just a few kilometers away from San Carlos City. In that town, a producer has a capitalization amounting to millions of pesos with a workforce that can produce hundreds of baskets per day.
Special orders for functional and decorative baskets, usually for the high-end market, are placed through Danny Penuliar. Order of this nature rarely comes. Due to low orders, workers are not required to work on regular hours.
To date, there is no record of written agreement (between PATAMABA and Danny Penuliar) nor for the orders and delivery of the products. The only written record so far is that of deliveries made by PATAMABA producers for regular productions of Kaing or Tiklis.
Issues in the Industry
Occupational Safety & Health and Child Labor : Due to the nature of the production process, the outdoors are the most conducive areas for work, most particularly in the preparation and slicing of the bamboo into spoke or stake. The men who use a very sharp bolo for cutting the bamboo are the ones exposed to the danger of wounding their arms or fingers. Women and children, too, who do the weaving are in danger of getting their hands pricked, wounded or cut because the materials are sharp, pointed and rough. Back and neck pains are commonly experienced while working. In doing the base for example, one has to bend down to reach the ground where the pattern is spread out, while in a squatting or sitting position.
Children with ages 8-10 are commonly tapped to assist older persons in preparing the base of the baskets. The children in this age group are fast workers as confirmed by parents themselves. Aside from the labor issue of utilizing children for this kind of work, they are at high risk of accidentally being wounded by the sharp and pointed edges of the bamboo. There is an apparent lack of concern for the importance of using safety protective gears for the hands, face and body for both the old and young workers.
There are generally five types of basketry:
1) Coiled - basketry tends to use grasses and rushes
2) Plaiting - uses materials that are wide and ribbon-like, such as palms or yucca
3) Twining - uses materials from roots and tree bark
4) Wicker - basket use reed, cane, willow, oak and ask
5) Splint - also uses reed, cane, willow, oak and ash
There is always some controversy about the origins of the name of baskets. It times past, baskets were usually named for their uses, the location in which they were made, the people who made them or occasionally objects that the baskets resembled. The shaker Cat Head basket, for instance, is so called because the basket resembles a cat’s head when it is held upside down, and because it was made in Shaker communities. Although a square “market type” basket called a kentucky Egg Basket can be found, the most universally known basket is the “flat” or twined-bottomed” basket associated with the mountain areas of the southeastern United States. It was probably used for gathering eggs because the eggs didn’t roll in the gizzard-shaped bottom. Evidently, more people gathered potatoes in a round, side-handled basket than any other; hence the potato basket. Sometime along the way, someone realized that a shallow basket with a tall handle was perfect for gathering flowers, so today we have a flower or provender baskets. The oriole basket only looks like an oriole’s nest—it is not meant for birds. When it comes to basket names, either a particular name “caught on” and lasted through the ages or it didn’t, and was called something different by everyone that used it.
An interesting fact about the age-old craft of basket is that, while many other crafts have become mechanized, no one has ever invented a machine that can make baskets. They are still handmade, even in Taiwan, It’s not even an easy task to mass-produce baskets with the aid if molds, electric saws and sanders, and a multitude of “assembly line” processes. In fact, no one has ever improved upon the earliest and most basic techniques of basket making.
During the Marcos Era when cottage industries were promoted and handicraft export was high, the community was once a big producer of decorative baskets in Region I and nearby Region. Though the competition was so high, the quality, style and design was their plus factor that made their business boomed.
Because of the economic crisis that the Philippines has experienced, the basket industry slowed down, the people then turned to producing baskets for local but mostly concentrating on Bilao, wicks and the teklis.
Today, basket makers range from the purist who still fells the trees to make the traditional utilitarian baskets, to the artist-basket maker, whose interest is primarily aesthetic and who uses and every material imaginable. Typically, beginning basket makers experiment with many techniques and eventually settle ion one or two preferred styles or methods.
Step 1. Making the base. All splints should be well soaked. Lay two 24” spokes side by side wither ends even. Weave in two 26” spokes at right angles. Leave ¼ space between the spokes. The “wrong” side f the reed should be facing up
Step 2. Continue laying 24” and 26” spokes alternately until there are nine spokes in one direction and 7 spokes in the other direction. Make sure all the ends are even. The first four spokes should be at the center of the base
Step 3. Spray the edges of the base to soak the reed well. If you wish, use a utility knife to score the reed using the crossing spoke as a guide. Gently bend each spoke upwards.
Step 4. Turning up the sides. Insert a cane weaver through one of the holes near a corner, tuck it’s end between splints. Weave around the base clockwise, pull firmly to raise the spokes upright.
Step 5. Continue weaver past it’s starting point to the third spoke from the corner. Cut it and hold it temporarily in place with a clothespin. Start the second weaver one quarter turn around the base at the next corner.
Step 6. At the third corner begin using a half-width splint weaver. Straingthen the spokes with your arm and hand. Hold the ends of the weaver with a clothespin until the next row is done. To end the row, weave three spokes past the spoke where you started, overlapping the splint. Continue weaving until you have three rows of half-splint, 9 rows of cane, three to rows of half-splint, 5 rows of cane. End with one row of half-splint at the top.
Step 7. Making the border. Pack down weaving. Soak basket upside down until the spokes are pliable. Cut off every other spoke that is on the inside of the basket so that it is flush with the top half-splint weaver. Cut remaining spokes that are on the outside of the basket to be 3” tall above the top half-splint weaver.
Step 8. Cut halfway across the protruding spokes along the line of the top weaver and strip the splints upwards- splitting them in half lengthwise. Trim the ends almost to points.
Step 9. With an awl, open the weaving inside the basket below the protruding, split spokes. Bend each spoke down and push it down behind the weavers. If the spokes splinter when bent, trim them with scissors.
Step 10. Cut three half-width splint to be the same length as the perimeter of the basket’s top plus 4”. Midway on the long side, attach two inside and one outside with a clothespin. Insert a long piece of cane 2” down behind the splint.
Step 11. Lash the splints to the basket using the cane weaver, passing it over the top and them through the holes between the spokes working from the outside to the inside of the basket.
Step 12. When you reach the starting point, weave once back around ion the opposite direction to make a crisscross pattern. Tuck end of the cane down insde the basket’s weavers and cut it off.