On a modest street, almost indistinguishable from others, is a busy working place. No loud sound, just the steady hum of a weaving machine moving at a measured tempo. In between the rhythm comes the swish of inserting dyed grass of various colors – green, purple, red, brown, blue, others. Behind this movement are expert hands expertly pushing, aligning and weaving to make a 29-meter masterpiece. Soon it will be cut, sewn either by hand or machine, or both, and designed to be a placemat, bag, wallet, notebook cover or even curtain, sometimes an elegant native gown.
This is what happens at Binuatan Creations every day. Eva Valledor, its owner, used to be a regular government employee. Eva, who finished civil engineering, had no formal business training. But she wanted to make use of materials around her and contribute her share of creating jobs for the growing city of Puerto Princesa. Sixteen years later, she has trained numerous men and women to sit behind a weaving machine, expertly cut, sew and piece together to create a functional material and display it to amaze her customers.
Having worked at the Department of Trade and Industry, Eva Valledor learned how to train people in building a small industry. She would come to a community, study the possibilities of using available materials into an income generating project, train the people to learn the skills, link their materials to possible business partners and move on to another new community..
Eva has an innate ability to engage a community and encourage them to a greater pursuit. She was such a positive influence that even reluctant members of a community would soon follow her lead. In due course, the majority of the community becomes active in the income generating project.
But working simultaneously on different projects, regularly visiting several communities, the long term travels and facing and solving various challenges took a toll to Eva. She decided to leave her work to form the Binuatan Creations.
“Sa dami ng ginagawa ko, napagod ako. Sabi ko itigil ko na ito. Pipili na lang ako ng isa, ito na lang ang gagawin ko. Gawin ko na lang itong paghahabi. Naisip ko na sayang naman yung potential buyer kasi sincere naman siya na gawin talaga ang business.”
“Nagkataon din na noong panahong iyon, walang masyadong hanapbuhay sa atin kasi kakatapos lang ng Dos Palmas incident. Wala pang masyadong turista. Patay ang tourism industry. Tapos nakikita ko sa weaving industry may potential ito. Kung may problema, alam ko na gagawin. Ayusin ko lang ito, kaya ko ‘tong gawin. Kung hindi maging successful ito, ako lang ‘yon…kung maging successful ito, ang daming tao akong matutulungan. Sobrang motivated ako. Sobrang naniniwala ako na kaya ko to.”
Eva was not at all regretful for all the trials she faced while starting the Binuatan Creations.
“Looking back, tinitingnan ko siya na ;yung mga naging problema sa community, kahit yung mga inggitan at ibang attitudes ng mga tao sa community, kahit yung mga tumulong sa akin kahit sa maliit na bagay, padala yun ni God para matuto ako. Ultimo yung mga van driver na nakakakwentuhan ko, nakatulong sa transportation ng mga materials ko.”
With the experience that she had, she started the weaving factory, tapping on the people in a nearby community to do the weaving. She also reconnected with the businessman, fully confident that now she can focus on this one enterprise.
“Ang ginawa kong bodega at factory yung bahay ng uncle ko na tinitirhan ko noon. Ginamit ko lahat ng space ng bahay namin. From there nagtuloy-tuloy na. Yung export kasi lumaki, imagine after six months may order na kami. So hindi lang yung mga nagwi-weave ang nabigyan ng hanapbuhay, pati yung mga nagha-harvest ng damo. Yun ‘yung backyard linkage namin na hindi nakikita dito sa showroom.”
Their product portfolio eventually grew and expanded to bags, table runners, wallets and other things that the buyers require. There are 16 varieties of grass that they use for weaving. And they order it straight from the farmer. Some of it, Eva said, she discovered during visits to various places.
“Ang una kong tinitingnan kapag may nakita akong variety ng damo is kung ito is sustainable. Kasi minsan mag oorder ako ng P10 thousand worth ng damo, pero minsan kapag mahaba ang tag-init nagkukulang ang supply. Kaya maghahanap ako kung saan pa mayroon ng damong iyon. So kung saan saan ko hahanapin ‘yun. Nakatulong ang aking pagiging wild spirit ko na tao. Ako mismo ang naghahanap at nakikipag usap sa mga farmers,” she said.
What is also interesting at the Binuatan Creations showroom is that every product is named after a person. “Lahat ng materials namin dito ay nakapangalan sa tao. Halimbawa, itong green pouches na ito, they come by three’s, nakapangalan kay Karla, na manager sa isang hotel sa Coron. Si Karla ay very organized sa bag niya. Gusto n’ya ‘yung gamit nya nakalagay sa bawat pouches. Nagpasadya s’ya ng pouches, kaya ipinangalan ko sa kanya ‘yan. Kasi yung idea nagsimula sa kanya,” Eva explained.
“Sa dami na rin ng mga nagawa namin, ‘yung iba ipinangalan na namin sa mga nagtatrabaho dito, ‘yung iba ipinangalan nila sa mga anak nila. Para may pangalan na ‘yung finished product. Kung minsan ‘yung mga nagreregalo sa akin, ginagawa din namin ‘yung design tapos ibebenta na namin. Nakapangalan din sa kanila.”
She gets her creativity from the things around her. She will then make a design, work it out and produce it. She admits that sometimes she duplicates the design of other products but using her own native materials.
“Dati nakita ko yung suot ni Pia Wurtzbach (The 2016 Miss Universe) sa TV, so pinicturan ko yung TV, two weeks after yung kulay ng damit n’ya, may kulay na ganon na dito. Uupuan ko na yan.”
The Binuatan Creations doesn’t have a specific creative group. Aside from her own creativity, Eva uses the creativity of her workers and compensates them accordingly.
“Kapag medyo lean season o walang masyadong malaking order, ang ginagawa ko, hahayaan ko silang mag-isip nang bagong magagawa nila. Hinahayaan ko silang lumikha. Binibigyan ko sila ng kalayaan ng mag-isip ng design na gusto nila. Tapos pepremyuhan ko ‘yan o kaya kapag nadisplay na namin ‘yung gawa nila, nagkaroon ng order o nabibili ‘yan, may percentage sila. So lahat ng creativity nila lumalabas at inilalabas nila,” she said.
She said even van drivers and tourist guides make additional income from the sale they generate from tourists.
The Binuatan Creations take pride in creating jobs for different people. In their showroom, there are women and students who display how they weave. In their other work place are mostly mothers who methodically sew and package materials for display.
Sometimes, there are students who want to learn and earn a little to support their studies. So they are coached on diligently weaving grass materials or taught to do dyeing. It takes hours and days, even weeks, to be able to make the required 29 meters of weaved materials from where every handicraft are cut and taken.
“Itong mga workers dito, marami na sa mga anak nila nakatapos. Marami nang nakatapos dito habang nagtatrabaho dito. Yung iba nanghihiram ng pambayad ng tuition fee, nababayaran din nila bago magtapos ang sem. Sobrang honored ako na nangyayari yung ganito.”
Eva is no stranger with all the hard work. She takes inspiration from her father who, despite not being able to study, toiled hard as a carpenter, fisherman, and salt maker.
“Sobrang struggle. Mas maappreciate mo ‘yung bawat grasyang mayroon ka sa araw-araw kasi dati wala ka nun,” she said.
At present, Eva and the Binuatan Creations are looking forward to be able to put up a housing community for their workers. They are working with housing authorities to access low-cost accommodation.
Eva, and her Binuatan Creations, is but one among the many testaments of enterprising Palaweños who seize opportunities and sustain growth through hardwork, perseverance, and a healthy dose of creativity.