We annually celebrate Independence Day to commemorate our liberty from Spanish rule since June 12, 1898. For many of us this 2017 it is a welcoming extended holiday since it falls on a Monday. While there are many reasons and heroes to celebrate today, this could also be a fitting time to celebrate Filipinos who are contributing to our economy silently in the background.
Filipino craftsmen and micro-entrepreneurs slowly get their time in the spotlight in this period when social media updates are the new norm. They showcase their craftsmanship and create cottage industries online and in effect inspire people who are looking for things to believe in. Many of them work from home making Philippine souvenirs, snacks, novelties and handmade crafts but their reach are nationwide and sometimes global. They are encouraged by a buoyant economy and rising spending power. What they do have in constancy are values of persistence, hard work and guts.
Filipinos are always eager to find their identity, to ground them, to make them feel whole as a people. Philippine souvenirs, Filipino food and unique crafts resonate even more with the connected world of today. Filipinos take pride when they say ‘I’m Pinoy’ or “Made in the Philippines.” The patriotism has sustained the local Philippine crafts and produce in the past decades, it is a reason for many to view this as a business opportunity; for some it is also about contributing something for the country.
There is the Tubigon Woven Raffia of Bohol, a group of women who decided to take charge of their future. Their story is undoubtedly inspiring and the narrative is carried through the loomwoven fabrics that their weavers produce. The fabrics carry their own brand of handmade quality and culture. The last 28 years have seen their group evolve from humble beginnings to a preeminent weaving house that is in the radar screen of major local and foreign buyers.
Marvin Viagedor decided to quit his job at a multi-national company and took a shot with his Silly Boy Hot Sauce in Cebu. His decision might sound silly but he pursued his passion and topped it up with hard work and top-class online marketing. He now sells thousands of bottles monthly and nothing now seems silly with the leap of faith he took.
Marina Andrade produces and markets handmade paper and other items using cogon grass, a weed that interferes with local farming, and natural fibers. Through experimentation, she developed her trademark handmade paper and through local and online marketing, Marina created a micro economy for her neighborhood in Amlan, Negros Oriental.
These are just a few exploits and feats of micro entrepreneurs, cooperatives and craftsmen who are among the most dynamic and productive catalysts of the Philippine economic, social and cultural progress. Entrepreneurs empower the craftsmen, craftsmen provide jobs to family members and neighbors, who in turn yield income to farmers through trade, matching resources with technologies, creating wealth with raw materials or untapped opportunities. They are shaping a future that is hopeful by battling the deluge of products that make our country a dumping ground of cheap goods and smuggled imports. They inspire others that anyone can play at the national level and even be competitive and world-class. They are the privateers who soldier on to battle it out with our economic competitors around the world.
The skilled artisans, micro entrepreneurs and cooperatives who rough it out day in and day out to contribute to the economy through the food sector, Philippine souvenirs, handmade crafts and novelties are truly modern heroes worthy of emulation and admiration.