Wednesday, July 14, 2021

#KwentoNgTagumpay: Unique hand-woven face masks help indigenous communities rise above the pandemic

Through unique face masks made from hand-woven fabric scraps, Abra Indigo Manila was able to provide new livelihood opportunities to indigenous communities in far-flung areas despite the pandemic. 

Abra Indigo is a social enterprise founded by Ysabelle Sarayba to give consumers access to indigenous products by showcasing and connecting local communities, workers, and socially conscious consumers.


Although Abra Indigo experienced some setbacks at the height of the global health crisis, Ysabelle remained unfazed in her goal to assist other people, especially those who did not have any sources of income.

Through the help of a pervasive telecommunications network like Globe’s 4G LTE, Ysabelle was able to talk with the Itnegs of Abra and share ideas regularly during the lockdowns. Together, they came out with timely products attuned to the trying times.


The Itneg tribe is known for its beautiful hand-woven and embroidered fabrics.  Since they use weaving to tell their stories, every pattern, design, and symbol has a story and history behind it.


Using indigenous fabric scraps, the Itnegs repurposed and refashioned them into face masks that have become a big hit with consumers. Each mask design is distinct, with various embroideries that reflect the rich culture of the Itnegs and comes with a pocket to insert an additional filter.


The high demand for face masks allowed Ysabelle to help even more people. Fabrics were sourced from another indigenous community in Ilocos and woven by seamstresses in Novaliches.  Despite the challenges, Abra Indigo increased its production and gave economic opportunities to more people.


Ysabelle remains hopeful that Abra Indigo’s “Kwento ng Tagumpay” will carry on for the sake of the communities that it is supporting. “Today, Abra Indigo is continuously growing, so that means more income sa mga indigenous communities, and then soon we hope na mas marami pa kaming indigenous communities na matulungan i-market yung mga products nila,” she said.


Inspiration for Abra Indigo came when Ysabelle, then a graduating student at the University of the Philippines,  joined a school bazaar where she met an Itneg couple.  Ysabelle immediately fell in love with the couple’s indigenous products and asked if she could partner with them.


“I didn’t have any capital to buy their (Itneg) products, so I had to loan P20,000.  It was a rough start since the products were costly at hindi ko sila tinawaran since I wanted to help. I really believed in the products, so I started by posting online and to my surprise, nabenta namin lahat,” she recalled. 


Ysabelle’s tech and marketing savvy combined with unique apparel, accessories, and home essentials made from the Itneg woven fabric, saw the business growing rapidly in just a couple of months. Abra Indigo expanded from a one-woman operation to a six-person company.

For Globe, success stories such as Ysabelle’s further fuel its passion to meet, even exceed, the growing demand for first-world connectivity and provide better customer experiences.


“We are ramping up our efforts to give stronger, reliable, and high-speed coverage to more provinces, even in far-flung areas of the Philippines. The 4G LTE migration and the upgrading of broadband subscribers to Globe fiber lines are crucial to our efforts to elevate our customers’ satisfaction and mobile experience, given the increasing demand for data. This also lays the groundwork for 5G, a more advanced and faster technology,” said Ernest L. Cu, Globe President, and CEO.


The company strongly supports the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, particularly UN SDG No. 9 which highlights the roles of infrastructure and innovation as crucial drivers of economic growth and development. Globe is committed to upholding the 10 United Nations Global Compact principles.


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