I HAVE written this piece in 2011, but let me rewrite this here now.
IN the early centuries, Basey is nothing but swampy-grassy coastal municipality and a famous hideaway of the Pulahanes that fought the invading foreign forces.
But in today’s trend, local residents are now a proud suppliers and manufacturers of world-class products made of indigenous materials such as wild grass.
With the help of some local entrepreneurs, and of course, some internationally-based organizations and government agencies, the town is now being recognized in the global map in terms of mat-weaving particularly of handcrafting native materials such as mats turning them into a classic bags and slippers.
As I previously wrote, the mat industry here in Basey, Samar, Philippines begun in the 1950’s, and from a humble beginning, it grown impressively and gained recognition as one of the country’s best and recommended mat industry.
During the old times, mats, or locally known as “banig” are being used only as floor covering used by the natives to sleep on. Today, “banig” which is made of “tikog” are now used for so many for other purposes, such as for decoration or accessories.
Products of “banig,” widely known as “a truly waraynon” product, includes wall mats, slippers, traveling bags, floor mats, wallets, clothes, among other decorations materials.
Among these products, customized banigs and slippers are the “best sellers” says Ms. Liezl Ortigosa Bautista, a former Basey tourism employee now engaging into exporting of banig slippers.
“Our foreign contacts want us to ship them native mats with their designs.”
“Since 2011, we have been sending native products to as far as India, China, London, Germany and America,” she said. (And) this is aside from our local clients which are based in Manila, Cebu and Tagaytay.
Slippers in Basey town underwent a tedious process before it became a fully attractive item to buyers. The raw material is the tikog, a grass that grows profusely in swampy places. Cut in various and sexy designs dyed it and use combination of colors suitable for the women’s taste as the common users.
The product from Samar has been featured over nationally-broadcast TV and magazines and even the international audience has captured gifted talent of mat weavers.
Mat-weaving is the primary livelihood in Basey, a little town situated in the southwestern part of the province of Samar hit by the world’s deadliest storm in history.
Reports said that around 200 people perished in November 2013 when super typhoon Yolanda ruined the place and the rest of central Philippines. In Tacloban City alone, there were at least 6,000 people killed and thousands were displaced without homes and livelihood.
Today, almost three years after the typhoon, the people of Basey, especially the women were trying to rise up, reviving their once lost livelihood – the mat weaving.
Some private groups assisted them by organizing them into a cooperatives, giving them technical know-how and gave them proper training on wild grass (Tikog) propagation.
Mat-weaving has been handed down from generation to generation. Each generation introduce new innovations of weaving to meet the increasing demand for mats in the global market.
Most often, mat-makers basically has a border design and a central motif which often is a stylized rendition of floral designs such as sampaguita, gumamela, American rose and the like.
Most of the time, the motif is always done in a contrasting color or just plain natural tikog color. The more complicated ones come in multicolored tones and correspondingly cost more.
Once in a while, a mat showing the excellent likeness of a major and highly recognizable public figure, whether local or foreign, would appear. One particular practitioner in the area does this “portrait mat” – a highly specialized artistic skill which is difficult to pass on down the younger generation.