“Ito na ang kabuhayan na nakalakihan namin na minana na rin namin sa aming mga tatay at lolo,” said Roger Aguat.
Aguat, 52, is the president of the Cares Indigenous People Association – Woodcarvers (CIPAW) in Cares village from the town of Pugo, La Union.
The CIPAW association, which is composed of 80 furniture makers, has been registered with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) since 2019.
The group’s craftsmanship has helped Pugo in securing a spot in the world market for producing high quality wood products.
Furniture and wood carvings have also become Pugo's One-Town One-Product.
To support the members in their livelihood, the association was granted with approximately P1 million by the labor department, through the DOLE Integrated Livelihood Program (DILP), for the procurement of tools and equipment.
Specifically, the group received high-powered equipment which helped intensify their wood carving and furniture production such as electric motors, planer, router, aim compressor, grinder and other tools.
“Malaking tulong itong mga kagamitan na binigay ng DOLE. Tuloy-tuloy pa rin ang aming production kahit may pandemya dahil mataas pa rin naman ang demand,” Aguat shared.
He added, “Lumaki ang kita ng mga miyembro dahil sa tulong ng DOLE.”
DOLE in Ilocos Regional Director Evelyn R. Ramos said the DILP or KABUHAYAN is a grant assistance for capacity-building on livelihood for the working poor, vulnerable and marginalized workers, either for individual or group livelihood projects.
“The DOLE endeavors to help in reducing poverty and vulnerability among poor and marginalized workers by providing them access to enhanced livelihood undertakings,” Ramos said.
The local government unit (LGU) of Pugo led by Mayor Priscilla Martin also provided support to the association by sponsoring P250,000 used for the construction of the tools’ storage facility, and the workers’ enrolment to micro-insurance.
The CIPAW members were also given a training which equipped them with the formal knowledge on business development and bookkeeping.
To keep their business thriving amid the coronavirus pandemic, the association has shifted online to market their products from sala sets to cabinets, and other household needs.
Price varies depending on the size and design but mostly, their products are being sold from P17,000 to P25,000.
With the intervention given by the government through the DOLE and the LGU, combined with hard work, skillfulness, and resourcefulness among the members, the association hopes that their livelihood will keep afloat in order for the members to provide better lives for their family and community. (JCR/AMB/JPD, PIA La Union with reports from DOLE Region 1)