What in tarnation!?
It’s what I was thinking as I took the photo above.
A pile of clippers, pokers, cutters, and measuring tapes.
What in tarnation!?
What are we doing? Lolol.
No worries. There’s a good explanation behind the collection of utensils. They are part of our ongoing efforts to help poor people survive the pandemic — and hopefully, thrive thereafter.
Of course, our work is taking place in the rice fields of the Philippines. Specifically in Malay, Aklan, on the island of Panay — where we’ve paused our early-retired, world wandering to wait out the coronavirus crisis.
These photos show the small hand tools being used to meticulously weave baskets, bowls, coasters, place mats, pot-holders, picture frames… anything imaginable that can be sold to tourists and help local families get thru the ongoing coronavirus economic fallout.
The weaving was not our idea – but we are happy to help.
Actually, the native weaving skills were taught at a recent two-day seminar presented by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), which is a part of our local government unit (LGU).
The weaving students were a couple dozen members of the impoverished, indigenous Ati tribe — a disadvantaged group numbering over 500 who live in the inland hills near our temporary seaside rental apartment.
With the help of generous overseas donors, we have sponsored a plethora of projects to help the Ati during the COVID crisis. The native weaving is another such effort.
Ati self-sustainability investment
In the end, we Earth Vagabonds don’t care who’s idea or vision sparks a positive project or payday. We are more than willing to provide some capital to any cause that encourages Ati self-sustainability.
In this case, our total outlay was $70. That sum provided 25 individual sets of weaving utensils (seen below) to be distributed amongst Ati tribe members who wish to perfect the traditional weaving craft.
Plus, our small investment included a stipend for another group of Ati who went deep into the jungle to collect the weaving material itself – known as ‘nito’ (neé-toh).
Nito is a distinctive cord-like vine sometimes found along shaded creek beds in rural areas of the Philippines.
The pic above shows one of the main Ati weavers, Ilay, posing with a bundle of nito.
Ilay tells me the nito must be carefully separated, cleaned, and soaked in water before it can be fastidiously fashioned into beautiful decorative and utilitarian items highlighting it’s naturally contrasting black and brown tones.
Ilay and other Ati – including numerous teen-age girls – have already begun to practice and perfect the time-consuming art that can yield salable pieces.
Ati plan to sell products
The plan is to produce a supply of various nito creations which can be offered to tourists on nearby Boracay Island as it (hopefully) reopens to vaccinated sun seekers from around the world. We already know a Boracay wholesaler/distributor of tourist souvenirs.
Honestly, I don’t know how lucrative nito weaving can be. We personally have no ability to collect and carry souvenirs on our endless international adventure, but hopefully other visitors will purchase enough artsy nito knickknacks to allow the Ati weavers to make a few pesos.
In fact, we have seen and supported other tribal peoples who rely on traditional handcrafts and tourism to survive. The Kuna Yala of Panama and Tzotzil and Tzeltal Maya peoples of Chiapas in southern Mexico come to mind.
I’ve inspected some of the first artisan nito pieces produced by our Ati friends; they are truly beautiful! We can only assume their skills and products will improve with time and practice — and hopefully generate funds to help sustain the Ati tribe and culture going forward.
As always, be thankful and generous, happy trails & more beer. Life is NOW!
Thanks for reading, “Extraordinary Ati weaving projects underway.”
Check out the special Ati page. It has details on the many Ati self-sustainability projects by Earth Vagabonds.