More than its crystal-clear blue waters and protected wildlife parks, the municipality of Busuanga in the northern part of Palawan is home to a community of skilled women weavers. 

When Super Typhoon Yolanda hit the province of Palawan in 2013, Maribel Grezo of the Bambuhay Handicrafts turned to bamboo for a new meaning of life. Bambuhay comes from the words “bamboo”, also known locally as buho, and “buhay”, the literal Filipino translation of the word life. For the members of the association, their renewed meaning of life is going back to their roots to create contemporary designs using traditional techniques.  

Weaving, for the indigenous people (IP) communities in the province, is an art that binds their past, present, and future. For the same reason, the Bambuhay Handicrafts’ bamboo by-products such as baskets, bags, lampshades, and planters are rooted in culture. This is where Grezo’s entrepreneurial instincts and love for the island meet. Her goal in mind was not only to sell bamboo products to bigger markets, but she also envisions reviving the heritage of IP communities in modern and timeless pieces. 

Members of the Bambuhay Handicrafts weave bags, baskets, and other pasalubong items made from bamboo in Busuanga, Palawan.

Grezo recalls how her social endeavors started, “Bata pa lamang ako, gusto ko ng magsilbi sa komunidad, kaya’t naisip ko na madami kami dito sa lugar na pwedeng gawing handicraft.” 

Just like bamboo, Grezo embodies resiliency, strength, and flexibility as an entrepreneur. In 2020, she joined the first batch of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) -MIMAROPA Region’s virtual Kapatid Mentor ME (KMME) program. 

“Gusto ko po kasing matutunan pano pa mapapalawak ang aming market at kung pano pa po pwedeng maimprove ang aming production and operation,” Grezo answered on why she joined the KMME. 

Realizing the new opportunities she could pick up while recovering from the adverse effects of the COVID-19 global pandemic, Grezo was one of the few entrepreneurs who responded quickly to get the Bambuhay Handicrafts back on track. 

Before joining the KMME program, Grezo carries with her the values of synergy and respect, which she perfectly describes in the local language as, “Synergy- sa panahon ng kahirapan, lahat ay magtutulungan; Respect- lahat ay pantay pantay ang pagtingin sa bawat miyembro”. With this, she recognizes the role of DTI as a purveyor of entrepreneurial development to boost her skills. 

Throughout the 10-week extensive program with business industry leaders and experts, the KMME-mentee graduate cited three key modules that significantly helped in the rebuilding of their enterprise: (1) Operations Management, (2) Marketing, and (3) Digitalization. 

As part of the pioneer batch of the virtual KMME, Grezo credits the mentorship program with the successful transition of the enterprise into the digital landscape. DTI MIMAROPA also assisted the Bambuhay Handicrafts in acquiring an IP Trademark Registration with the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines.