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The Baje Weaving Culture


The Baje Weaving Culture


In the agricultural area of Brgy. Baje, in the Municipality of Leon. Iloilo, a group of women, mostly wives of local farmers dreamed of a better future for their children.  However, their source of income is not enough to sustain them and send their children to school.  Their husbands are marginal rice farmers who also grew background livestock to augment their everyday needs.  A better future seems farfetched for them.


Handicraft-making is the alternative livelihood source of the Barangay. Since time immemorial, old and young women know how to weave mats and baskets using indigenous materials abundant in the area and sells them to their local market as means to augment the household income.  However, their products cannot compete with commercial ones as lack of tools and equipment hinders the weavers to further enhance the quality of their products.



Pandan Mats and Eco Tourism


On September 3, 2016, the Municipality of Leon, Iloilo recognized the need to alleviate the economic status of Brgy. Baje.  The women of Brgy. Baje were organized to form the Baje Weavers Association with Ms. Susan Gadian as the president.  The project was undertaken by 15 Bag Weavers and 35 mat weavers of the Baje Women Weavers who were required to participate in the Training Cum Enhancement on Production and Labeling of Pandan Bag (Bayong) and Mat (Banig) Weaving. The said training was in partnership with the Department of Labor and Employment Region 6 (DOLE RO6) and the Local Government Unit of Brgy. Baje, Leon, Iloilo under the DOLE Integrated Livelihood and Emergency Employment (Kabuhayan) Program. The total project costs P510,920.00, wherein P434,120.00 of which was granted by DOLE.


The local government of Brgy. Baje led the implementation of the project in close coordination with the DOLE.  To ensure the sustainability of production, each beneficiary-weaver produced 5 items to ensure the availability of supplies to meet product demands. Each household also were to maintain and propagate the pandan plantation to ensure the abundance of raw material all year round.


An existing production center served as the production area for the pandan products and the target marketing area was the Bagsakan (Food Terminal) at the Poblacion and the Agro Eco Tourism Center in Brgy. Bucari, Leon.


On the other hand, the Municipality of Leon had gained reputation from the local tourists and earned the title “Vegetable Capital of the Region”.  This opened an opportunity for the Baje Weavers to showcase and market their products through local tourism.



The 2018 Kabuhayan Award


As part of the Labor Month Celebration, the 2018 DOLE Kabuhayan Awards was launched to give recognition to the different DOLE-assisted livelihood projects as well as the recipient-partners throughout the country.  The DOLE Region 6 submitted the Baje Project to be an Entry for the Regional Group Category.


On May 11, 2018, at the Heritage Hotel Manila, the Baje Project was proclaimed as the Regional Awardee (Group Category) Best DOLE-Assisted Livelihood Project.  Ms. Susan Gadian, president of the Baje Women’s Association received the Plaque of Recognition as well as a check amounting to P50,000.00. She was joined on stage by DOLE Region 6 Director Atty. Johnson G. Cañete, Iloilo Field Office Head Mr. Joselito G. dela Banda and Iloilo Field Office Livelihood Program Focal, Mr. Benigno Cabadon Jr.



Post Award


A week after the Kabuhayan Awards, Ms. Susan Gadian was interviewed on the reaction of the women weavers of Brgy. Baje. Ms. Gadian shared that “Syempre kami mga myembro sang amun asosasyon gakalipay nga gin bugayan man ang amon pinangabuhian nga kultura sa pagsasa sang banig. Salamat gid sa DOLE” (We, the members of the association are happy that our weaving livelihood and culture was recognized.  Thank you very much DOLE.)


Currently, the Weavers are receiving orders from local tourists.  Ms. Gadian also disclosed that the association have pending orders from a local congressman and an artist who would like to paint on their pandan bags.


“Ga halo akun kalipay kag kahadluk sa responsibilidad nga ipasanyog pa gid ang amon paghimo banig kag bag”, (I have mixed feelings of happiness and dread to innovate in weaving pandan mats and bags.) Ms. Gadian quips.  She also said that part of the cash prize will be spent for additional tools. She also proudly revealed that the weavers are busy coming up with another prototype.

Dir. Cyril L. Ticao
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