WOMEN EMPOWERMENT AND PUBLIC SURVIVAL SERVICE THROUGH HANDICRAFT BUSINESS, A ZEALOUS HEART OF AQUILINA PADRE
Having a compassionate heart of a public servant and with a vision to alleviate her constituents from poverty as well as the residents of their neighboring barangays, Aquilina Padre, a native of Brgy. Pangpang, Pilar, Sorsogon, started her handicraft business in April 17, 2009 with an initial capital of PhP5, 000. She used buri palm and bangkuan (seagrass) which was considered as major available raw materials in their community – Brgy. Pangpang, and in other neighboring barangays. She saw it as an opportunity and potential source of income. When she was asked regarding her choice of business, Aquilina says, “Yun po kasi ang alam gawin ng mga tao dito sa aming barangay at sa aming mga karatig na barangay. Gusto ko silang mabigyan ng sustainable livelihood. Gusto kong mabawasan ang kahirapan sa pamamagitan ng pagbibigay sa kanila ng hanapbuhay.” (That was the only thing that they knew here in our barangay and in our neighboring barangays. I want to give them sustainable livelihood. I want to alleviate them from poverty through livelihood.) She delivers the raw materials to be hand-twined by her women-constituents in her respective barangay and to the residents of their neighboring barangays. She do house-to-house delivery every Sunday to her local network of 14 women-dealers of barangays Pineda, Pangpang, Bantayan, Lungib and San Rafael in Municipality of Pilar. She also delivers in Municipality of Castilla particularly in barangays Caburacan, Loreto and Cumadcad. Her 14 women dealers are responsible for the house-to-house delivery of raw materials to be braided and weaved.
Aquilina Padre graduated as mentee in DTI and Go Negosyo’s Kapatid Mentor Me Program where she was trained, coached and counseled for 3 months to be a successful entrepreneur and to scale up her business. It gave her a gate for a bigger opportunities to scale up her business, innovate products made of indigenous materials and promote her business. Her skills in handling business and designing handicraft products were enhanced. She had vision,mission and goals for her business. She joined many trade fairs locally and outside Bicol Region where her market scope expanded due to increase of number of buyers and or customers. Due to popular demand of baskets, trays, home decors and other decorative items, Aquilina’s business became up-scaled into a full-blown enterprise. She became a well-known handicraft manufacturer rather than a public official.
Unfortunately, in 2020, handicraft industry was challenged by COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent occurrence of typhoons in the Bicol region. With determination to thrive and positive-thinking, she do not want her business to be in vain. Aquilina Padre saw it as an opportunity to enhance her creativity. She innovates and introduces different kinds of finished products made of indigenous materials such as bangkuan (seagrass), buri (palm), anahaw (fan palm) and coconut stem. Among her additional products which are trending online are the planters made of bangkuan and anahaw leaves because of the passion of the people for plants called “plantitos and plantitas”. She also saw it as an opportunity of the increase of supply of seagrass because this perennial plants usually grows in the flood-prone areas of the Bicol Region. When it grows, for example in farmlands, it is useless but it could be an income-generating source of farmers during land preparation (includes weeding) because after the harvest, it will be sold to bangkuan handicraft manufacturers.
She became active in online marketing of her products through her Facebook Page – Orlyn’s Handicrafts which is also a big help to her this pandemic to reach potential buyers/customers. As an active member of Sorsogon’s Producers Association, she became an exhibitor and supplier of DTI Sorsogon OTOP hub. All of her finished products were displayed and sold at the said government-owned establishment.
As she wants to continue her service and help her constituents even the time comes when she will be an ordinary citizen at her barangay, she wants to share her knowledge and expertise in handling handicraft business, and to help her constituents to develop or enhance their skills in handicraft making. In able to survive with the negative effects of COVID-19 pandemic and to alleviate her constituents and other fellow Pilareñas from poverty, Aquilina Padre shared her knowledge and skills in handicraft manufacturing through the conduct of trainings and hiring of trained residents of Pilar, Sorsogon particularly women. She focused on helping women by empowering them economically so that they would be financially-independent from their husband. The Local Government of Pilar in partnership with DSWD’s Sustainable Livelihood Program conducted Livelihood Training on Seagrass Basket Making for Women’s Organization. Aquilina became the trainor of the said training. Because of this, the women-beneficiaries of 8 barangays in Pilar, who are members of Women Organization became her additional dealers and household workers. Among these barangays are Bantayan, Dapdap, Palanas, Calpi, Malbog, Pineda, Lungib and San Rafael. These are neighboring barangays of Brgy. Pangpang. “Nakipagpartner ako sa Women’s Organization ng Pilar upang mabigyan ng hanapbuhay ang mga kababaihan. Kaya ngayon sila ay aking additional workers. Sa bawat barangay na hawak ko, mayroon akong tatlong women na sinusuplayan ng raw materials at sila ang mamamahagi upang ipatrabaho sa mga women house workers sa kanilang barangay. Ganun na kasi ang ginagawa ko kasi gusto ko organisado.” (I partnered with Women’s Organization of Pilar in able to give livelihood for women. Each of my handled barangay, I have three (3) women whom I supply with raw materials and they distribute it to the women house workers. I am doing this because I want it to be organized.)
The effects of COVID-19 pandemic and typhoon did not hinder her to stop her business because of its economic opportunity to her and to all Pilareñas. Seagrass-craft making is now considered as one of the promising income-generating opportunity to the local women of Pilar, Sorsogon.
At present, she focused on production of raw materials for handicraft customizing such as dried braided buri, buri midrib, braided bangkuan and bangkuan rope. “Dahil humina ang order ng mga basket, ito muna ang aming naisip na alternative, yung salapid at lubid. ’Yun kasi ang order na hindi nahihinto, kaya sabi ko sa kanila ito muna ang gagawin namin habang wala pang nag-u-order ng mga basket. (Because of the low demand of basket, we thought this as an alternative – the twined material and rope. The demand of this raw materials never stops, thus I advised them that we will focus temporarily on the twined material and rope.)
Her husband, as her business partner, established a glass and aluminum supply business as an additional source of income of their family. This business also aims to help her jobless constituents specifically men.
Aquilina and her husband – Orlino Padre established businesses not just for self-interest. They want their business to be beneficial to their community as well as to the environment. “Ito din kasi ang inaasahan ng lahat dahil nabibili nila ang kanilang mga pangangailangan.” (They are dependent with this business because it sustains their basic needs) As one of the most empowered women in Pilar, she also wants to influence her strength, self-discipline, resourcefulness, perseverance and being a positive thinker to other Pilareñas.