Quilting in Catanduanes: A Growing Source of Livelihood

Quilting is certainly an art – an art, a craft, a hobby, a pastime, an outlet for creativity, even a form of therapy.   But in today’s world it is also an industry – an industry that recently drew people together to see what’s new, what’s exciting and what’s going on in the world of quilting.

Eight years ago, quilting and appliqué craft started to have a foothold in the province of Catanduanes.

Catanduanes –  an island paradise in the Pacific, lying east of Bicol mainland offers much more than just exploring its unspoiled beaches or enjoying surfing at Puraran Beach located at the north.

This island province is rich in history, blending quaintly with the peaceful jutting mountains all over the island.

Island life is not as quiet as it seems until the quilting industry was introduced by Mr. Mark Teocson and his wife Pura  who both hailed from the island-province but are now established businessmen in Hawaii, USA.

Quilts are made from patches of fabric sewn together using tiny stitches to make finished products like bags, bed spreads, wall hangs, wallets, etc. which are themed using appliqués or patterned patches of fabrics. The designs applied in Catanduanes originate from the Teocsons and thus appeal to the Hawaiian market.

Quilting and appliqué can be done in two ways – by hand or by machine. Our local entrepreneurs do it using the hand sewn method making the industry really labor-intensive. On average, a micro-level company would require seventy (70)  workers – mostly on job orders.

Initially, there were three (3) companies that took interest in the craft after attending the demo conducted by Mr. and Mrs. Teocson. Nizzach Craft, Nicon Enterprises and RBM Collection started their production with the Teocsons providing the ready market in Hawaii.

The pioneering entrepreneurs realized that, as start ups, their production skills were not as efficient as they would want it to be. They produced good products but they were not effective overall. Knowing this, in 2003 they decided to embark on a study tour in Pampanga and Bulacan where quilting and appliqué is an established export industry.

Since then, the quilting industry flourished on its own, penetrating more barangays and even enticing students. Although there were periods of trial and uncertainty, as when one company owner decided to venture in another enterprise setting aside her quilting business, still the industry persisted.

Today, there are five (5) companies producing quilted products in Catanduanes, employing around three hundred fifty (350) workers mostly in Virac and some in Bato and Baras. How the products are made is somewhat interesting. The jobs are contracted out to households making it a community-based industry with a designated coordinator. It becomes a collaborative work for the families involved – a mother may start working on a product which may be continued by her children and sometimes finished by the husband depending on their availability and skill. The job then helps to glue the family closer together, contributing to better community building.

In her visit to Catanduanes in June 2011, RD Joy Blanco of DTI-V was able to observe how the small quilting industry in the province is making an impact in the communities. She saw its real potential thus immediately agreed to provide funding for skills training in quilting and appliqué.

From August to September 2011, a series of trainings  from the DTI SPIN funds, were conducted in six (6) barangays in Virac to boost production of quilted merchandise. Like any other industry, quilting and appliqué suffers from attrition of its workers. The series of trainings gave the industry an additional one hundred (159) new workers, fifty-five (55) of them immediately got job orders after the training.

Quilting and appliqué in Catanduanes is now a P5M industry providing significant income to some communities in the province.

The company who engaged in another business is being lured back with the good prospects of quilting. The owner’s interest is building up and hopeful, she would be back as one of the local quilting industry’s capitalists in 2012. “Quilting is a passion”, she said, and the stirring didn’t leave her heart. “The chance of being able to help a lot of families including students who persevere in their studies, give the best satisfaction of all.”

– Bong Alberto, DTI-Catanduanes & Bhem Berango, IO, DTI-5


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