MANILA -- The coronavirus pandemic gave new meaning to a "must-have" accessory.
Amid the lockdown, authorities began requiring Filipinos to wear face masks as an additional health measure whenever they leave their homes to help slow the spread of the virus.
Meanwhile, House Bill 6623 or the proposed “New Normal for the Workplace and Public Spaces Act of 2020,” filed by ranking solons, will mandate Filipinos to wear masks in public and workplaces.
If passed, the proposed bill will span for three years upon effectivity or when the President declares the threat of COVID-19 contained or eradicated.
The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention’s current guidelines urged the public to use cloth coverings to limit the spread of COVID-19 in lieu of surgical masks or N-95 respirators, which are “critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders.”
To help address the unquenchable demand, several local clothing brands affected by the lockdown, such as Style Ana, pivoted to producing reusable face masks.
According to the owner Sheryl Ann Buenaventura, she decided to fashion face masks to sustain the livelihood of her seamstresses.
“When ECQ happened, just like everybody, I felt uncertain. Then there was a mask shortage in the market. So we thought to produce our version of reusable masks... We work with local seamstresses who work in the comfort of their homes,” she said.
According to Buenaventura, she set up shop with the aim of “empowering women.” As a mother of two, she said part of her advocacy is to give sustainable employment to her fellow mothers and help them earn additional income.
“Like any mother’s love, the brand is named after my two daughters, 13-year-old Ana Ysabel, and 6-year-old Ana Stella,” she said.
Due to the locked borders and travel restrictions, Buenaventura had difficulty sourcing the materials she needed to produce the face masks. This, however, birthed her the idea of using the leftover handmade materials made by weavers from Santiago, Ilocos Sur and La Paz, Abra for her previous clothing lines.
The rich and colorful traditional textile also puts a spotlight to the culture that exhibits the regions’ creativity and artistry that has been handed down from generation to generation.
Buenaventura said she chose to support the group of weavers for “their effort, skills, love and dedication that goes into making their work.”
“Through this, we were able to produce handwoven masks and sold them at a lesser price. We were also able to showcase our Philippine weave to a lot of people who purchased from us,” she said.
Style Ana was able to repurpose all the excess scraps, creating over 3,000 face masks — which have all been bought.
While the online shop no longer has up-cycled masks, Buenaventura said they will continue using the textile woven by local artisans for the next batch of face coverings.
“At the moment we’re are selling the mask at a regular price because we’re using the full fabric,” she said.
Although slightly pricier, using brand new materials will allow Style Ana’s costumers to choose from a variety of pre-set and fixed designs.
“From the very start, we wanted our customer to choose from the prints that we produce but since [the initial] was made from scraps, we did not guarantee the same prints. They preordered the quantity and once the masks are finished, we got in touch with them so they can choose the print,” Buenaventura said.
She continued: “By second week of May, we will release on hand prints of the handwoven masks so they can choose right away.”
Despite using new fabric, Buenaventura assured their production continues to aim for “zero to minimal waste.”
“Since materials are hard to come by, we see to it that every inch of the material is being used. We are also hoping to make more clothes in the days so we can use those scraps again,” she said.
Aside from providing the sewers a continuous livelihood, the initiative also enabled Buenaventura to help Filipinos most affected by the coronavirus.
“In trying times, we see people come together for greater good... Our handwoven masks were a hit! With that, we were able to donate more masks, feed our frontliners, essential workers, and those in need,” she said.
All handwoven masks have a three-ply layer and are reusable and washable. (The CDC advised cloth masks should be routinely washed depending on the frequency of use).
A compartment where a filter such as a tissue can be inserted is also provided.
Under the guidelines issued by the CDC, cloth coverings should “fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face, be secured with ties or ear loops, include multiple layers of fabric, allow breathing without restriction, and be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape.”
Buenaventura said they conducted tests to ensure the face masks follow the approved standards to help protect and prevent their customers from infecting others in the event they are carrying the virus.
“We made few revisions from our original design. We have listened to our customers' feedback whether good or bad. And now they even like it because it is garterized,” Buenaventura said.
The CDC advised the use of cloth face coverings to decrease the risk of spreading the virus, particularly from individuals who are unaware they had been infected by the coronavirus.
Several researches suggested a bulk of the COVID-19 cases was "silently" transmitted by persons who contracted the virus but were asymptomatic.
In the latest situationer issued by the Department of Health, data suggested about 80 percent of Filipino COVID-19 patients exhibited mild symptoms (67.7 percent) or none at all (12.3 percent).
Children below two years old, anyone with breathing difficulties, unconscious, incapacitated or persons unable to remove the mask without assistance, should not wear a cloth face covering, the CDC warned.
Each mask is sold at P300. For more information visit their Instagram page here.