From tribal chief’s scarf to tapestry to beaded clothes, Mindanao products find niche in PH market

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Mary Ann Montemayor, multi-awarded entrepreneur championing traditional crafts of Mindanao's indigenous people. PHOTO FROM PHILSTAR.COM

DAVAO CITY – After several years of promotion, Mindanao products from handwoven cloths to handcrafted products have finally found a niche in the Philippine market.

These products made by different tribes are becoming more popular and are steadily being recognized by entrepreneurs for their intricate and indigenous materials.

Mary Ann Montemayor, owner of Kaayo, which popularizes the Mindanao weaves, said Mindanao products are now quite popular nationwide. Kaayo was among the 70 artisans picked by Arte Fino to showcase its products in the recently-concluded exhibition at the Penthouse 8 in Rockwell, Makati.

“Luckily our booth was one of the most popular and what was good about the show was that we were able to bring across our message of offering to them the products of our indigenous peoples (IPs), and at the same time help these IPs turn their crafts into livelihood,” she said.

She said Kaayo has continued to work on mainstreaming Mindanao products in the market, and the Arte Fino was one venue to introduce the crafts to a wider market.

Montemayor added Kaayo got good reviews when it joined the Asean Trade Showcase at the PICC last July. It was also hand-picked to represent the Philippine women entrepreneurs from 10 other countries to showcase the best products.

Montemayor is one of the three women awardees of the ASEAN Women Entrepreneurs 2017. The other two were Joji Ilagan Bian of the Joii Ilagan Career Center Foundation Inc. for the academe and Charita Puentespina of the Puenstespina Orchid and Tropical Plants, Inc. for agriculture.

“The recognition speaks of the strong affirmation that Davao is in the radar scheme of recognition and sharing the pie of women entrepreneurs in the Asian under the women entrepreneur sector,” said Montemayor.

Being an awardee carries a very strong statement “because we are recognized, accepted, and showcased.”

Montemayor said Kaayo, which means kindness and goodness, has this advocacy of bringing Mindanao to everyone by wearing Mindanao products. She said it becomes an opening door to introduce to the market through apparel and other related products.

Kaayo works closely with the T’boli tribe of Lake Sebu, consisting of five peoples’ organizations with different kinds of expertise from weaving tinalak, to beading to embroidery.

She said Kaayo tapped these groups according to their strengths and works with them on designs and guides them on product development, with emphasis on respecting their patterns.

“We modernize the material and turn the products that will give them a livelihood,” she said.

The Bagobo Tagabawa tribes, said Montemayor, are also into making scarves with the pattern of the chieftain headdress or the “tangkulo” after getting the permission to use the design.

Initially, the weavers can only make 12 scarves for a month but now they can complete 120 pieces for one month, as the tangkulo was sought after by buyers during the exhibit.The Tangkulo drew interests from patrons, Montemayor said.

In order to increase their production, she said the Bagobo Tagacaolo expanded their work force by training other members of the community, thus increasing the number of beneficiaries.

Montemayor said she is also working with the Mandayas of Davao Oriental and the Manobos of Caraga.