New-found Identity in Abaca
Abaca or Manila hemp is a plant of the family Musaceae. This plant, which mostly grows in tropical countries, can be found and cultivated here in the Philippines. Abaca grows best in loamy, rich, and loose soil that has good drainage.
Abaca is one of the topmost exported resources of the Philippines up to date. Additionally, the country is reported as the top exporter of this raw fiber world-wide. According to the Philippine abaca industry road map 2018-2022, the country generated an average of $97.1 million per year in the last 10 years from this commodity. But what has been the impact of abaca beyond its economic contributions?
In the Island of Catanduanes, Bicol, Philippines, where this fiber is also locally cultivated, celebrates an annual Abaca Festival since 2016 to recognize the importance of abaca in the local economy, its role as a source of livelihood for the locals, and the impact in the culture and daily life of the locals.
The week-long celebration of the festival starts at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral to bless the celebration, participants, and give thanks for the abundant harvest of the fiber. This is then followed by the opening of the Tourism and Trade Fair in the Capitol ground that showcases the versatility of the fiber in various industries such as fashion, handicrafts, furniture, specialty paper, and even engineering.
Afterward, a parade of street dance performers and floats fill the streets with vibrant colors where locally manufactured abaca handicrafts are showcased to the people. This segment does not just do a fine job in elevating the joy and excitement of locals and visitors, but also displays the many faces that abaca can be made into through the talents and skills of the people.
During the 2019 Abaca Festival Celebration, the locality conducted a summit that tackled the abaca industry both in a local and international settings, and the proposed Provincial Ordinance on quality abaca fiber sustainability discussed by the Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority.
Aside from the fun-filled activities and events, this festival also gave job opportunities to the community through their job fairs.
It was clear that this festival was not just about the celebration of abaca, but also for the recognition of its people. It is emphasized that through the efforts of the abaca farmers and the rest of the locality, their defeats, success, stories, and resilience will be forever reflected in these abaca-made products we see today: that the new identity of Catanduanes is found in abaca.
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 (n.d.). Abaca Festival | Travel to the Philippines. Retrieved June 29, 2020, from http://www.traveltothephilippines.info/tag/abaca-festival/