Lowly ‘Sarakat” no more

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From the picturesque rolling verdant hills of Northwestern Cagayan to local haute couture is a long way for the Sarakat (Pandanus spp.) of Sta. Praxedes, Cagayan.

Sarakat has been eyed as a globally competitive hand woven and earth-friendly product that promotes climate change awareness, proper utilization of natural resources and an alternate livelihood source among stakeholders.

When Mayor Esterlina Aguinaldo came to power in 2007, the Sarakat Movers, an organized group of 15 women- weaver members, were reorganized which saw the birth of the Sta. Praxedes Sarakat Weavers Association. Immediately, Aguinaldo strengthened and sustained the members through trainings and capacity- building activities on the various aspects of the highly- competitive weaving industry.

The plant is sometimes called the ‘screw pines” due to its spiny leaves that is similar to the leaves of the pineapple which arise from the stems in cork screw fashion. Five of the 40 known pandan species in the Philippines can be found in Sta. Praxedes namely sarakat, pataga, lingu-lingo, nisi and bodak.

But weaving the leaves has been a tradition, in fact a cultural practice among Filipinos for as long as one can remember. Residents of Sta. Praxedes, dubbed the “greenest garden of the north,” are no different. Like their forebears, Praxedenians continue to this day the tradition of weaving mats, hats and bags from the leaves of the plant.

To ensure sustainability of the raw material, the local government unit has identified a 10 hectare potential area to augment production from the wilds, aside from an existing 10 hectare earlier utilized. Farmers and even fishers have likewise been encourage to establish their own sarakat areas as part of the local government’s four-year strategic development plan for the industry.

“There is a noted increase of demand for our sarakat products and we have to be competitive,” Aguinaldo said.

As an industry, it demands manpower resources from gathering of the plant, stripping, bleaching and dyeing and weaving which involve 32, 72, 5 and 97 individuals, respectively.

Aguinaldo’s administration was serious in this endeavor that she caused the provision of various training and seminars to capacitate the association, thus upgrading their knowledge and skills in the process.

As a promotional strategy, the Mayor attended overseas sales missions and benchmarking on weaving in countries like Thailand and South Korea.

“We started to expose our products as early as 2008 through the various trade exhibits in Northern Luzon and Metro Manila,” the proud Local Chief Executive, said.

In fact, new product designs, courtesy of the Design Center of the Philippines, have been gracing the displays areas in town and at the OTOP Pavilion of the Tuguegarao Airport.

Aguinaldo, chosen as one of the Most Outstanding Mayor in the Philippines this year by a prestigious private group also said she is encouraging virtually all abled residents of her municipality to involved themselves into the local weaving industry.

“While we are rich in natural resources, we are insufficient on technical and financial assistance,” she admitted as she appealed for the continued support of government agencies like DOST, DILG, DTI, DA, DOT, DOLE, DENR and the provincial government of Cagayan.

On hindsight, the sarakat industry, guided by the local government unit, is on the right track. Safety nets like Ordinance No. 2009-097 which regulates the industry has been passed. A resolution requesting the DepEd to include sarakat weaving as school curricula in both elementary and secondary level, have likewise been passed and approved.

With such moves to ensure the sustainability of an industry, Sarakat products may soon hit the jackpot.

So next time you see bag or a hat beautifully woven with intricate designs and colors, chances are, that’s Sarakat of Sta. Pradexes in Cagayan.

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