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Molding Hope

In the realm of arts and crafts, creativity is not just what an artist needs to excel. Resourcefulness, or learning to work with what you have is equally integral to give birth to a masterpiece. Aurelia Bernardo, a resident of Paete, Laguna, the carving capital of the Philippines, seems to know this by heart. From being a small papier mache vendor, Aurelia now leads a successful association producing and selling papier mache, the Magtataka sa Bayan ng Paete SLP Association.

Roots

Aurelia Lee Bernardo, a beneficiary of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), provides for her family through the arts and crafts. Widowed early, Aurelia did not succumb to grief and instead focused on giving her children a normal life on her own. Aurelia sells papier mache products and takes sidelines such as catering and food vending wherever and whenever she can to save up for her children’s future.

“Dati nakakaabot pa ako sa Lipa tsaka sa Parañaque sa pagtitinda ng mga taka. Aalis ako ng alas singko, uuwi ako ng alas nwebe na ubos ang paninda. Sulit ang pamumuhunan ko ng pamsahe sa aking tiyahin.”

Through her sidelines and the 4Ps, Aurelia met parents like her who are into the papier mache business. Soon enough, they came together and dreamt of having a business of their own while promoting the art of papier mache in Paete.

“Bata pa lang po kami, nakagisnan na namin ang mga takang kabayo at iba pang takang produkto. Kaya naman napili namin itong pagkakitaan upang buhayin muli ang aming kulturang nakagisnan dito sa Paete.” Aurelia shares.

Fortunately, an opportunity came for Aurelia and her friends from the Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP) of the DSWD. Through the SLP, Aurelia’s group were provisioned with a seed capital fund and were equipped with basic livelihood skills to maintain their livelihood. From a small group, Aurelia has now 20 members for the association. In 2017, they formed the Magtataka sa Bayan ng Paete (SMBP) SLP Association.

‘Resourceful’

Being the most vocal member, Aurelia was hailed as the president of their association. The association received 200,000 pesos seed capital fund. SMBP’s product prices range from 150 pesos to 3,500 pesos. Peak season for their products are during the holidays especially Christmas season. Through their earnings, they are now able to deposit more than 10,000 pesos on average to their bank account.

Investing in creativity, SMBP struggled at first in selling their products. Before, they are only able to sell products during the holidays. But through trainings from DSWD IV-A that enhanced their knowledge and experiences, SMBP innovated and produced new products to sell products all throughout the year. From horses, carabaos, religious figures, SMBP is now crafting home décor and cellphone accessories to cater to the “millennial” generation.

“Nag-aadjust na rin kami sa mga uso ngayon, ‘yung millennial. Bukod sa mga kabayo, gumagawa na rin kami ng mga case ng cellphone para sa mga millennial.”

For their materials, Aurelia encourages her members to collect waste materials especially paper. This is to lessen production costs and also help reduce waste in the environment.

‘Investments’

For Aurelia and her members, active participation in the program and the community is a very important investment for the growth of their livelihood. In every activity they take part on, they don’t mind if they get paid or not. For the association, harmonious relationship with the community help their business grow as people from Paete patronize their products.

In the municipality, SMBP takes part in the Anilag Festival in Paete. To promote tourism and economic activities in the municipality, the local government often invites the association to showcase their products on such events. On September 24, 2018, they were featured on GMA’s live coverage of the festival for Unang Hirit.

Apart from this, SMBP was also invited by other businesses to display their products and demonstrate how their papier maches are made. SMBP did these for free.

“Wala man pong bayad ‘yung demonstration namin, natutulungan naman po kaming magbenta ng aming produkto sa kanilang mga customer.” Aurelia shares.

SMBP also helps in continuing the creative culture in Paete. Last 2018, Luis C. Obial Senior High School and SMBP signed a memorandum of agreement to teach the youth of Paete on making papier mache products. This is also for free.

“Wala rin pong bayad ‘yung turo. Maganda po kasi ito para mapagpatuloy ang pagtataka dito sa Paete at para malayo ang kabataan sa pakikipagbarkada, paglalakwatsa, bisyo.” Aurelia explains.

To secure their finances in case of emergencies, SMBP joined the Cash for Work Program by the Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation Program. Apart from cleaning the upland areas, the association collected waste materials in the area for their products.

‘Milestones’

In just one year upon their establishment, SMBP was accredited by the local government of Paete as a non-government organization. They have been partnering with the local government unit in serving the community especially on social welfare and development aspects. Last 2018, SMBP partnered with the MSWD in donating used clothes and books to the fire victims of Brgy. Ibaba del Sur in Paete.

In 2019, SMBP became a finalist for the Sulong Kabuhayan, a national competition spearheaded by the Sustainable Livelihood Program National Program Management Office. Aurelia, along with SMBP treasurer Elena Navarro actively participated in the event and became inspired in making their business more competitive among other SLP associations all over the country. Aurelia reflects on her experience:

“Nakakakaba pero masaya naman. Dahil nga siguro kami’y baguhan pa, kelangan pa lalo naming magsumikap. Pero hindi po kami nalulungkot kahit kami ay hindi nag-uwi at least, nakita po namin na kahit kami ay baguhan ay nakaganap sa dapat kong gampanan. Ngayon sa nakita ko po, naging hamon ito para mapalawakan namin ‘yung aming hanapbuhay na maging negosyo at magsikap pa kami lalo. At kami, sabi nga, hindi dapat susuko kasi ang sumusuko ay hindi nagwawagi.”

Currently, SMBP changes their focus to the management of their finances. At the moment, they are settling documents at the Department of Trade and Industry to formalize their business transactions. Their co-participant in Sulong Kabuhayan, the Maragondon Dragon Grass SLP Association offered to help them in managing resources and finances. SMBP is also seeking partnership with the private sector to improve their income.

Despite their current struggles, the MSWDO of Paete, Geronimo Palmero believes that Aurelia can help SMBP flourish as a SLP association because of her hands-on and positive attitude. Maximizing every opportunity, Aurelia exhibited resourcefulness in leading her association. They were once small papier mache vendors, but through their remarkable participation in the program and the community, SMBP is now brimming with potential to become a champion of Paete’s papier mache industry.

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