Filipinos living or have tried living in the countryside can attest to the transformations of bamboo – from house construction materials, household wares, furniture, farm and fishing tools and even fuel for cooking.
It may be regarded by some as the poor man’s material but, in regions where it thrives, it sure gives a wide array of benefits to those who see value in them.
Now, its popularity between social classes is on the rise, thanks to a myriad of proven practical uses and aesthetic features that many deem sophisticated.
In Antique, more attention is being turned towards this resource due to its reforestation capacity and business potential.
To secure sufficient supply, more farmers are encouraged to plant bamboo to address the demand for novelty items and engineered bamboo products which attract both local and international clientele.
In fact, a Memorandum of Agreement or MOA was signed to establish a 10-hectare communal bamboo plantation at Barangay Alvaniz in Patnongon town with the aim of covering idle or empty patches of land and providing livelihood opportunities to the project beneficiary Alvaniz Upland Farmers’ Association (AUFA).
AUFA member Miame Grullo hopes that the turnout becomes successful for them to have a sustainable source of living and to receive more projects from the government in the future.
Over 70 members of the AUFA are expected to benefit from the propagation of some 2,300 rooted bamboo saplings that will be planted during the wet season of next year, 2023.
The bamboo plantation is a joint venture of the Provincial Government of Antique through the Environment and Natural Resources Office (ENRO), private firms, and national government agencies including the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Region 6.
Although a type of grass, Duran confirmed that bamboo qualifies as a substitute for greening initiatives, especially with its fast growth and high biomass that allow large yields.
As a matter of fact, DENR is promoting bamboo planting as a climate change mitigation strategy due to its carbon-absorbing capability.
Duran noted also that the island of Panay, with Antique’s contribution, has great potential in becoming the bamboo capital of the country.
To help support Antique and its booming bamboo, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) turned over state-of-the-art and multi-million worth of equipment for Antique’s bamboo center located at the University of Antique (UA) Main Campus in Sibalom town and is one of DTI’s Shared Service Facilities (SSF) nationwide, which aims to improve the productivity and efficiency of small businesses through improved technologies.
Antique's bamboo center was funded through the office of Antique Representative and House Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda, who has always been supportive to her province in the pursuit of alleviating the lives of her fellow Antiqueños.
Legarda understands the plight of the common people, thus, her tireless work in the House of Representatives and soon in the Senate after she has gained the mandate of the people last May 9 national and local polls.
With her presence in the Senate, the future looks bright for Antique's bamboo center that intends to ease the burden of manual bamboo processing and production.
While UA sees the bamboo center for engineered bamboo production, academic, and research and development purposes, UA Campus Director and Project Component Leader Dr. Nelly Mistio emphasized during its opening that the facility is open for the entire Antiqueño community to assist micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) that have ventured to and will expand business opportunities through bamboo.
Mistio added that this will satisfy UA’s commitment to Antique’s socio-economic development.
However, just as the bamboo sector continues to grow each day for enterprises, small family businesses and farmers’ associations hope that they will not be left behind.
In rural villages where bamboo crafting has been around since time immemorial, many consider this as a means to provide for their everyday lives but their little revenue seems short to expand and make ends meet.
Farmer and president of a bamboo crafters’ association in San Remigio town Irele Mahimpit acknowledged the government support through various training and capacity-building initiatives but says that their organization does not have the capital to build and maintain a strong business.
Mahimpit noted that she is only able to keep the bamboo crafts production going because of funds raised from selling peanuts.
She believes in the marketability of bamboo items like her own basketry, native luggage, and decorative articles but emphasized that she and other bamboo crafters will be far from achieving business sustainability without enough funding.
While the bamboo center Shared Service Facility (SSF) in the University of Antique is of big help to them, Irele wishes for her association to have its own tools so they can defray transportation expenses to the town center and nearby municipalities where DTI-provided equipment and machinery are situated.
With their own tools, she added that they can test and create bamboo items around the clock for continuous product development, particularly those with specialized and intricate designs.
Despite her current struggles as a farmer and bamboo crafter, Irele still perseveres and even trains young folks in the art of bamboo crafting, noting that this practice must be continued being an integral part of the Antiqueño culture and heritage.
“Natudlu-an ko sanda (mga kabataan) para indi mauntat ang pagrara (I teach the young people so to preserve bamboo weaving),” she noted.
Irele also expressed her gratitude to both the provincial and national governments for all the laid-out assistance to small-scale farmers and entrepreneurs, although she yearns for continuous support and inclusivity to enable Antiqueños from all walks of life to reap the success of the province’s booming bamboo. (AAL/BPS/PIA Antique)