A young Iraya-Mangyan woman ‘beads’ her way to her dreams

Airene Tollo is a quiet young lady from an Iraya-Mangyan family living in Sitio Talipanan, Barangay Aninuan, Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro. She is the fifth child among nine siblings; her mother is part of the Ayala Foundation weaving program for the Iraya-Mangyan of Puerto Galera, while her father died in 2012.

 

She is also smart, having been a recipient of a scholarship for Iraya-Mangyan youth, as administered by Ayala Foundation. Unfortunately, she had to temporarily stop going to school; she found the setup of being in a mainstream school a little overwhelming.

 

Still, she never abandoned her dream of completing her education. She enrolled in the Department of Education’s Alternative Learning System. In March earlier this year, she took her comprehensive exams, and passed her course. Now 17 years old, Airene will enter college this October.

 

While waiting for school to start, she became part of Ayala Foundation’s beading program. In this program, Airene painstakingly beaded beautiful bags and other accessories, featuring the fusion of traditional and modern design. By participating in this program, she has gained a unique skill that can help her continue earning a living. Part of her earnings goes to household expenses; the rest she has started saving. 

 

Over the past few years, members of the Iraya-Mangyan community of Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro, have gained a reputation as master artisans. Their tradition of basket-making—using a forest vine called nito—has become a significant source of livelihood for them. At present, the work of the hands of our Iraya-Mangyan brothers and sisters are available in three stores (Greenbelt 5, Glorietta, and Alabang Town Center), and the Iraya-Mangyan Village in Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro.

 

Today, a number of Iraya-Mangyan artisans have also become skilled at beadwork. With the help of designer and entrepreneur Zarah de Jesus Juan and under the guidance of Doña Bea Zobel, Iraya-Mangyan women are helping create elegant beaded accessories, such as bags, clutches, necklaces, and earrings.

 

By supporting the work of our indigenous artisans, not only are we helping preserve facets of their culture and traditions—we are also helping them gain access to sustainable sources of income for their families.

 

The story of Airene is proof of this: by supporting the products lovingly made by Ayala Foundation’s Iraya-Mangyan community, not only are we helping them hone their skills as artisans, we are also supporting their dream of moving their families out of poverty while also preserving their culture.

 

The nito items, woven bags, and beaded accessories are regular features of bazaars such as the Maarte Fair (August 26 to 28, at Rockwell), Likhang Habi Fair (October 14 to 16, Glorietta Activity Center), and the Designers’ Holiday Bazaar (November 16 to December 15, at Greenbelt 5). For more details, please contact: Susaneth Apollo at 0916-454-7893.

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