Visitors from the UK government try their hand at embroidering a design on a mat (banig) made from the processed fibres of tikog and buri, plants native to Basey in Samar, with the help of a female artisan in this picture taken in early July.
The foreign visitors travelled to Basey, considered the Philippines’ mat-making capital, to meet up with the beneficiaries of the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Skills for Prosperity Programme in the Philippines (SfP-Philippines), which is funded by the UK government.
At the height of the COVID-19 lockdowns in 2022, the programme partnered with the Basey Association of Native Industry Growth (BANIG Inc.), a women-led umbrella organization affiliated with 30 groups across Samar with a total of 1,000 members.
SfP-Philippines and BANIG Inc. have worked together to review, improve and standardize processes of making mats, adding value to what was then considered a menial, low-income activity.
By improving its processes in planting, harvesting, cutting, drying, dyeing, and weaving tikog fibres, and reflecting these into competency standards, BANIG Inc. members are now able to produce high-quality mats, bags, and decor that fetch better prices, both here and abroad.
In turn, the workers are assured of higher salaries and productive employment which have never been enjoyed before by artisan mat makers in the province.
Recently, BANIG Inc. has moved into its own building which features a showroom displaying its high-quality, world-class products. The building in Basey was donated by the provincial government of Samar while the lot was given by a non-government organization.
Besides focusing on women, out-of-school youth, and members of indigenous communities, the Skills for Prosperity Programme also seeks to reduce the job mismatch in the country through support for skills upgrading and lifelong learning initiatives in communities.
To this end, the programme enables beneficiaries to upgrade their skills on the one hand and helps standardize and professionalize the processes of informal industries on the other. It also supports policies to further strengthen programmes under the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) of the Technical Educational Skills Development Authority (TESDA).