‘Tikog’ weaving industry thrives in now conflict-free Negros’ community

BACOLOD CITY – Fabric weaving from threads derived from a reed grass, locally known as ‘tikog’ has become a thriving livelihood industry in a remote farming community in Negros Occidental, which was previously a rebel infested conflict area.

In the last two years, ‘tikog’ weaving has led to the development and production of  various household and lifestyle items, which have become a hit among buyers and a livelihood source for resident families in the area.

With the assistance of the Philippine Army and the Association of Negros Producers (ANP), weavers of Sitio Madaja, Barangay Buenavista in Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental, have been organized into the Madaja Hand Weavers Association (Mahawa) and registered with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to help promote their industry and products more systematically.

Maj. Gen. Marion Sison, commander of the Philippine Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, said the story of the Madaja weavers is inspiring. “It inspires us to intensify our efforts in empowering geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas by establishing people’s organizations, enabling them to become more resilient while transforming their areas into peaceful communities,” he said in a statement.

With its mainly indigenous Bukidnon Magahat tribe residents, Sitio Madaja was among the original areas in central Negros considered as hard-core New People’s Army territory until it was declared conflict-free in 2021, according to the 94th Infantry Battalion (IB).

“When I assumed my post in March 2022, we deployed modified community support program teams to revisit previously cleared communities, including Sitio Madaja. We discovered their potential in weaving sleeping mats. Since they have a limited market, we looked for partners to help them enhance the quality of their products and find a market for them,” Lt. Col. Van Donald Almonte, commander of 94IB, said.

In June 2022, a team led by Ms.  Sybel Nobleza, noted entrepreneurial manager and leaders of other partner organizations joined the 94IB in evaluating the potential of the sitio in producing handmade items and the availability of raw materials.

“We discovered that weaving sleeping mats after tending to their farms is their recreational activity. They were earning only P900 to P1,000 each month selling family-sized sleeping mats to neighboring communities,” Nobleza noted.

In July 2022, the ANP conducted an Entrepreneurial Mind-Setting Workshop for the residents, followed by a Product Development Training the following month, that was participated in by the elders or the “master weavers” and their children and grandchildren.

The 94IBsubsequently launched “Project Tikang” in September 2022 to empower the residents by providing the necessary resources, training, market access, and support to establish sustainable livelihoods through the support of concerned government agencies and non-government organizations.

The products of the Madaja “tikog” weavers were showcased during the ANP’s 36th Negros Trade Fair in Makati City on the same month, with the support of partners, particularly the Provincial Peace and Order Council of Negros Occidental.

They sold items such as sleeping mats, table runners, coin purses, hats, and fans made from tikog and with traditional patterns unique to Madaja.

The Mahawa generated P461,000 in bookings and sales and earned a quarterly income of P86,000 from their products displayed at the ANP Showroom in this city.

Mahawa chairman Wilme Garlet is thankful for the opportunity provided by the ANP and the 94IB for them to increase their income through the art of “tikog” weaving. Using “tikog,” artisans can also produce bags, pouches, storage boxes, and other handmade items.

Last month, a team from the ANP and troops of the 94IB visited Sitio Madaja to bring assistance from the city and provincial government and other various organizations to respond to their needs, like limited power supply, education, and agricultural resources.

The residents received solar lights with radios, hygiene kits, books, and farming supplies, and the ANP also purchased their products.

“This is an initiative for sustainable development and to ensure that no one is left behind in fostering a brighter future for Sitio Madaja and similar communities,” Almonte said. (PNA)