Handicraft makers lose livelihood after fire guts Pasig compound

Anjo Bagaoisan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 26 2017 05:45 PM

MANILA — About 250 women, most of them mothers, were left distraught seeing their livelihood go up in smoke after a fire burned down a compound that housed their recycled handicrafts in Barangay Ugong, Pasig City Thursday morning.

The building of the KILUS Foundation cooperative along C. Santos St. housed hundreds of recycled products such as eco-bags, ornaments, and accessories, as well as the tons of used plastic juice packs they were made from.

Ligaya Reundangga was among the women who rushed to the burnt facility. The blaze started at 3 a.m. and was put out 3 hours later.

A single mom, Reundangga supported her 3 children for 17 years by sewing together used juice packs and making them into bags.

"Nabigla, na-down po kami. Lahat po gumuho na. Nung nalaman namin tumakbo na kami rito kasi diyan lang bahay namin sa malapit," Ligaya said.

(I was shocked, we felt down since nothing was left. When we found out about the fire, we ran here since we lived nearby.)

Residents of the compound said the fire began at the second floor of the KILUS building.

The fire spread to the adjacent structure inside the compound: the ancestral house of Barangay Ugong chairman Jessie Santiago and Pasig City councilor Andy Santiago.

Some 20 fire trucks from the city and surrounding LGUs responded to the incident. But the firefighters found it difficult to reach the compound due to the narrow streets.

Pasig City Fire Marshal Supt. Arturo Marcos said there was no fire hydrant nearby and firefighters at the scene had to wait for more fire trucks to come in to help douse the blaze.

Residents helped out by passing buckets of water gathered from their homes.

The fire bureau is still investigating the cause of the fire, which investigators said could have been electrical-related.

The destruction cost an estimated P3 million, most of it associated with the handicrafts.

Hundreds of finished handicrafts were already waiting to be shipped to France and Japan this week, said Geraldine Santos, another mother employed at the 19-year-old foundation.

They were also in the middle of rushing eco-bags ordered by city hall.

About 150 cooperative members who made the handicrafts in-house earn about P300 a day. The others worked from their homes and were paid per item they finished.

Part of the building's wall was made of recycled packs.

Santos said the building, located near Pasig River, had endured severe floodwater brought about by typhoon Ondoy in 2009. 

"Yung Ondoy nakayanan namin, kahit binaha kami dinala namin dito sa taas. Pero ito ngayon, yung kabuhayan namin lahat diyan umaasa mga anak namin. Wala, wala na, paano kami mag-uumpisa ngayon?" Santos said.

(We weathered Ondoy by moving our materials and products to the second floor. But now, our source of livelihood is gone. Our children rely on it. How can we start again now?)

Santos said she is counting on faith and prayers for what happens and what they will do next.

But she added that they will need all the help they can get to continue earning a living.