Abaca Rising

Abaca survivor

Healthy abaca in Santa Barbara, Bulusan

When the bunchy top virus hit the Bicol region (that peaked around 2009), Bulusan abaca farm patches according to anecdotes and reports were almost wiped out. So it was a breath of fresh air and a big surprise seeing these abaca plants thriving healthy and well in the mountain village of Odikin (Santa Barbara, Bulusan).

More than a pleasant surprise. These surviving abaca are the elite of the crop –  the mere  fact that they were able to resist the virus by itself without artificial means. It surely brings hope to the still recovering industry devastated by the virus attack in almost abaca growing areas of the region.

My guess is that these were saved by the dense and rich biodiversity of Odikin.  A healthy ecosystem  shielded these abaca crops by giving them almost a natural immunity from the dreaded bunchy top virus. Healthy abaca crops means more Manila hemp exports.

The internationally known Manila hemp of several uses – from ropes, filter papers to currency notes making is none other than the ‘bandala’ – product of our humble abaca farmers and strippers (parahag-ot). Abaca is one of the major crops of  Bulusan next to coconut. The Philippines ranks number one in the world in abaca fiber production thus the international name : Manila hemp.

These same fibers are also utilized in the making of my favorite room slippers similar to the photo. These are however made in the neighboring town of Gubat. The makers of these slippers are called para-sangot in Gubat dialect.

Abaca (Musa textilis) is indigenous to the Philippines.

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Handcrafted abaca slippers from Gubat, Sorsogon

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Photos by Alma P. Gamil

Bulusan, Sorsogon  and

Gubat , Sorsogon

Philippines

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