Abaca tells age-old stories with a modern aesthetic. Based in Manila, Bea de Jesus designs quality handmade items and curates thoughtfully found objects. With a belief that every place has a story to tell and every culture has something to offer, Abaca aims to support culturally rich communities and preserve traditional craft. A portion of all their proceeds goes to Right Start Foundation, a non-profit for underprivileged Filipino children.
We chatted with Bea to learn more about Abaca's respect for heritage and the importance of material in Filipino craft.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO BE PART OF PRESERVING INDIGENOUS CRAFT?
Being in a country with a rich, yet, what I feel is an under appreciated craft industry, it becomes more of a pressing concern to support them as much as possible. The retail landscape is becoming so fast; big brands are killing off small producers and I think we have to bring back appreciation for carefully handmade products. It is crucial that we keep them alive, as they are a huge part of our culture and history.
Weavers and craftsmen are exceptionally good at what they do, but what they lack is a voice that would allow them to cater to a larger audience. I think a big part of the reason why for some of them demand is just not enough to continue with their craft, is because their means of selling and marketing are very traditional. This keeps them at a disadvantage because people now have very different purchasing habits from how it was decades ago. A lot of them are actually up in the mountains, and what they need is someone who would bring their goods closer to the market.
WHO ARE THE ARTISANAL INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES YOU WORK WITH AND HOW DID YOU START THOSE RELATIONSHIPS?
A large fraction of the weavers we work with, are from the northern and southern parts of Luzon. We met someone from there who was part of a community of weavers, and it all went on from there. They are really a result of travel and seeking out products and their sources. I particularly love going to different places, markets, and travel is really I think the best way to do it.
WHAT ARE THE MATERIALS THEY CREATE?
They create bags, various home goods like baskets, tableware, etc., from abaca, rattan, and bamboo products.
WHAT ANCESTRAL STORY DOES ABACA SHARE THROUGH THEIR PRODUCTS?
Abaca (the material) is said to have been first discovered in the Philippines as early as 1521, and natives were already using it for textile. Weaving, or basketry, whether it is of abaca, rattan, or other material, has always been a huge part of Philippine culture and is a major source of income for families in the rural areas.
The topography of the Philippines allows a bounty of natural materials from which a lot of products can be created. Filipinos, especially in the rural areas, live very closely with the natural environment, and basketry always served useful for household or everyday needs. When there is a demand, they weave. When there is none, they do farming.
HOW DOES ABACA COMPLIMENT MAAARI?
The values of MAAARI perfectly align with what ABACA stands for. The process and the story we always aim to tell through our products, perfectly fits with the movement MAAARI represents, which promotes a shift to not only sustainable and ethical, but to a conscious and thoughtful purchase process; to products that not only look good, but mean something. I think it is great that more and more people are supporting the move towards personal, even traditional goods.
SHOP ABACA GOODS
TICAO BAG IN MUSTARD
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