TABUK CITY, Kalinga: A shortage of rattan is severely hampering the broom industry in the province which is a major source of income for the residents.
Smith Binto, 63, credited for starting the buybuy or tiger grass broom cottage industry in Sitio Pinalo, Barangay Magnao by planting tiger grass in the village in 1992, harvested raw material good for 800 brooms last year but had to store half of the stock because of the shortage of rattan.
Rattan is used for binding, assembling and finishing the broom.
Binto said about 30 broom makers in the village would rather find other things to do when they run out of rattan than continue making brooms using plastic strips, the only alternative to the rattan shortage.
Plastic cannot be tightened and would easily unravel and the difference is not lost on buyers who prefer rattan-bound and finished buybuy over those with plastic binding and finishing.
There is no more rattan in the forest and broom makers here buy their supply at P5 per piece from the people of Limos in Pinukpuk, their neighbor to the west. The problem is that a barangay (village) ordinance prohibits the commercialization of this forest product.
Binto said rattan is available in Tabuk City market at the same price but these are of the hard type which is difficult to whittle and abrade the hands of those who worked on it. The broom makers prefer kolayot, a type of rattan that is soft and pliant but its supply in the market has become scarce.
Addressing the problem by establishing rattan plantations is easier said than done because it takes at least 15 years to produce mature rattan stems.
“I started planting rattan when my child was only eight years old. I have now a grandchild and I could not yet harvest the plants,” said George Magayam, 55.
But Magayam acknowledges that all other solutions like the discovery and linking up with a steady source of the pliant rattan is temporary and establishing their own plantation in Pinalo is still the best option.
Located on the slope of a mountain overlooking the center of the village, there is still a lot of space in Pinalo that may be developed into rattan plantations.
Almost all households have tiger grass plantations to source for raw materials and asked broom makers with no plantation to work for them.
Binto could be speaking for all Pinalo broom makers when he said that broom making does not answer all the needs of his family and that he needs to augment his income by taking on odd jobs like working in the kaingin or swidden farms or carving new rice paddies.
He said that if not for broom making, his daughter Mirasol would not have graduated BS in Public Administration at Kalinga State University. Mirasol is the only one among his six children who finished college.
Binto said he owes a lot to buybuy making because being illiterate, it is the best way he could provide for the needs of his family. He recalled that before he planted tiger grass, he would work for others everyday. While Magayam said he strives to turn out quality brooms and also checks fellow broom makers who produce substandard products.
“Broom making is a blessing to us. We need to protect the industry,” Magayam said
Charlie Afidchao, 36, married with three children, who learned the skill from his brother-in-law Benjie Calisto said buybuy making is not really that lucrative adding he working 10-hour days and can assemble 20 brooms that fetch P2,600 in the market.
“After deducting the expenses, it would be good if we get P100 a day for our work. But for us poor people, that is already good enough considering that the work is done under the shade,” Afidchao said.
“We know the value of broom making. Before we started making brooms commercially, we used to go look for odd jobs. Now we do not have to leave our homes,” Afidchao said.
Binto wished that the government or any agency could help them by providing a mechanical splitter and plainer to split and whittle the rattan strips because the manual process is not only tedious but abrades the hand.
Until now, Pinalo brooms are 100 percent handmade. The makers do not employ equipment to make the work easier.
A common warehouse cum work place would be heaven-sent for the Pinalo broom makers, he added.
“At present, we store the cleaned tiger grass in our homes. This is inconvenient specially for the children because of the itchy particles of the panicles. If stored around humans, the buybuy could also be messy. At the moment, we do the work in open sheds in our homes and we could not work during bad weather. It would really be a great help if there is a permanent building we could work in,” Binto said.