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What was supposed to be a livelihood program intended to simply provide additional income to the community of farm workers turned out to be a global business venture for Christina Gaston’s Hacienda Crafts Company in Manapla, Negros Occidental.

“We know we could not employ everyone [in the hacienda]. We looked for something they could do at home or on a per piece work basis, something they can work at their own pace,” she recalled.

Established in 1991, the business pioneered in the production of table top items such as candle holders, trays, placemats and table runners using locally sourced materials such as coconut twigs, buri midrib, capiz shells, handwoven fabrics, abaca, raffia fibers and bamboo, among others.

Gaston said that the farm workers are all capable of making beautiful things.

With their crafts, the company participated in trade fairs supported by the DTI.

“Market access is the most important thing,” she emphasized.

Gaston said that her company availed of any DTI trainings that were available.

“It is very important to learn from the expert, and learn from other companies. We developed our product and took advantage of the BMBE (Barangay Micro Business Enterprise) to become a community-based manufacturer,” she said.

She said that it is important to be sustainable to the environment the reason why her company uses locally sourced materials mostly abundant here and in other communities that they were able to connect to.

“We accessed the grassroots communities for materials because they are the one needing market access the most. They don’t have as much opportunity to reach the market, we make that our strength,” she said.

The company started with five and has now 300 weavers/ families in different communities.

“You have to be aware of who you are going to sell it... what the clients want to buy,” she said.

Dee Gelisanga, 36, who does weaving works in the company for the past four years, said the additional income she gets from the company augments her profits by selling rice cakes.

“If there are bulk orders, we also have bigger income,” she said.

Josefina Portillano, 56, said that the income she gets has helped her send her two daughters to school. Portillano is one of the pioneer workers in the business and had been with the company for 23 years.

From the initial table top items, Hacienda Crafts Company has expanded its crafts to furniture (including small accent furniture such as side tables, side chairs and tools) and furnishings. It also started using scraps of fabric in its product line.

The company now exports 30 percent of its products, with 70 percent being sold domestically.

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