About 19 kilometers from the capital city of Tagbilaran in Bohol is the town of Antequera where agriculture is the primary source of livelihood. But while the men are busy tilling the fields, the housewives are at home weaving baskets, bags, hats, fruit trays, and other home accessories. The women do this while looking after their kids or when they’re done with the day’s household chores.
This cottage industry in Antequera began in 1911, tourism officer Maria Lorna Jadulco tells us. Initially, the Antequeranons only made baskets for their own use but as years went by, their basket-making skills improved and orders started to pour in. The women learned to make different products, trying to please clients who provided them with designs to copy. Soon, they realized basketry has the potential to give them a good source of income.
Jadulco says basketry has continued to be a main source of livelihood for the townsfolk. In fact, there are currently about 600 weavers spread throughout the town’s 21 barangays, with women making the crafts in their respective homes.
ANCX was in a familiarization tour recently sponsored by airasia Super App where we met the weavers of Antequera. Among the best are members of the Renoblas family from Barangay Danao, led by the 75-year-old Concepcion Renoblas and her two daughters Ricarda Hermosisima and Maria Bongcayo.
The matriarch told us she’s been making handwoven crafts for 50 years now, and Ricarda, 51, learned basketry from her Nanay when she was in Grade 1. “Tumitingin lang ako kapag gumagawa ang nanay ko,” she said while weaving strands of buri, nito and rattan with her bare hands, making the art of basket-weaving look easy.
While Ricarda’s husband earns his keep being a driver, basket-weaving has helped send their six children to school. In fact, one is already a chemist, she tells us while proudly pointing to the graduation photos and medals hanging on the wall.
Skilled weavers like Ricarda could finish up to four items a day and earn anywhere from P200 to P350 per piece depending on the kind or size of the product. The reason why the sisters are so good at it, said Jadulco, is because they started learning it when they were still young. This is also why both Ricarda and Maria made sure their children learn the ropes of basketry at a young age. “Kung nag-aaral man sila, pag-uwi nila galing sa school, gagawa sila ng basket,” Maria tells us.
Jadulco says the early training makes a lot of difference in the quality of products produced by Antequeranons. “Kung late ka na natuto, it’s not the same e. Iba talaga ang kalidad.”
Many of the items the weavers make are exported to different countries, so they make sure the quality of their products are topnotch. “Sobrang strict ng mga exporters. Pag mag-exceed ng kaunti or medyo tabingi, rejected na yan,” the tourism officer says.
Helping the weavers get a steady inflow of clients and score good deals is the town’s tourism department. Jadulco mans a souvenir shop in Poblacion Compound that tourists can check out. Whatever orders she gets are forwarded to the weavers. She also holds educational tours for tourists who would like to learn basket-making tricks.
Jadulco says what allowed basket weaving to continuously flourish in their town is the Antequeranons’ passion to keep this uniquely Filipino tradition alive for the generations to come. Even the pandemic wasn’t able to put a stop to it. “Sa awa ng Diyos, meron namang nag-order,” says Maria, smiling. “Nakaraos din kami.”