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The Philippine Handicrafts

In the Philippines many of the people either owned or engaged in one or more handicraft products like baskets, brooms, feather dusters, bamboo sofa set, cabinets, and other furniture. Accessories like earrings, bracelets, necklaces, and other clothing apparel which young people today are fond of wearing are also made from native products like beads, shells, seeds, and others. Clearly, that the handicraft industry is enjoying the patronage of Filipinos nationwide.

The Philippines is blessed with rich natural resources that are abundant throughout its 7,107 islands. These God-given natural materials are the sources of income and livelihood to buy food, houses, and other basic necessities. From many generations people learned and inherit many skills that enabled them to live in harmony with nature. They used the raw materials from trees, plants, and other natural resources that are abundant in many areas and turned them into simple, yet useful tools or instruments.

Many Filipinos today are engaged in handicraft businesses. Handicraft-making has become a means of livelihood, especially now that many handicraft companies are exporting their products to Japan, United states, Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, and other countries around the world.


The Philippines is the second largest world producer of handicrafts, mainly baskets out of native materials. This industry continues to provide a respectable contribution to  global earning for the country (around US$71.9M in 2000) while many handicraft items are also sold in the local market. Altogether, the sector is providing jobs to more than 1 million Filipinos. Although the industry has experienced some slowing-down over the last ten years, it managed the high-end demand markets in the United States, European Union, and Japan.

Despite of market slow-down Filipino craftsmen still manage to overcome the increasing prices of raw materials by constantly producing new designs for their products. Over the years, Philippine handicrafts have evolved and more  innovative designs and added options and choices and a combination of indigenous and common materials. And with more technological advances and more training to expand the market strategies,  Philippine handicrafts continue to thrive in global market.


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Crafts utilising shells have been practiced in the Philippines for centuries. Archaeological examples of shells used as implements have been found. Ethno-linguistic groups such as those of the Cordillera Mountains of Northern Luzon have traditionally prized shells for their glossiness and smoothness, incorporating them in body beautifications. Sungka, a game popular throughout the country and in other parts of Southeast Asia, involves a wooden tray with carved-out hollows and numerous small conches as tokens. In the nineteenth to the early twentieth centuries, the production of formal floral arrangements accompanying a photo or a painting all set into a deep frame was popular. Sometimes, the flowers were made from the lagang or the shell of the Chambered Nautilus which was cut up and then polished. The edges were serrated and pierced to resemble lace.

Furniture was likewise inlaid with bone and shell. In recent years, the export of shell items has been controlled due to ecological reasons. A Roman Catholic church in Bacolod City on the island of Negros is famous for a mosaic image of the Virgin Mary assembled from pieces of shell. An older church in the town of Guian on the island of Samar has walls decorated with elaborate patterns made from whole shells. A celebrated shellcraft of the Philippines utilizes the flat opalescent shell of a bivalve mollusk known as capiz. The thin translucent shells were individually squared and then set like glass panes into wooden lattice frames to be used as window shutters. This is a unique feature of Philippine architecture from the Spanish colonial period. These windows only occur extensively in the Philippines.

Cebu province in the middle of the Philippine Archipelago where its location has given it an abundance of diverse aquatic resources, which has made Cebu home to the country’s shell-craft industry. From its humble beginnings with puka shells in the 1980s, Cebu’s seashell handicraft has since evolved to today’s innovative designs used in the fashion, furniture, and home decor industries that are in demand all around the world. But this steady rise in demand has taken a toll on our seas. Overfishing and illegal fishing have since become serious problems, resulting in many seashell species being declared threatened or endangered.

GrandElla Cebu - Seashell Crafts and Beads Product Line

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Buri (Corypha elata) palm is a genus of palms (family Arecaceae), native to the Philippines and other Asian areas. The leaves have a long petiole terminating in a rounded fan of numerous leaflets. All are large palms with leaves ranging from 2 to 5 metres in length. They reach heights of 20 to 40 metres and with a trunk diameter of up to 1 to 2.5 metres. Buri is the largest palm endemic in the Philippines.  It is one of the most important palms, next to coconut, in terms of economic and industrial relevance. The buri palm, which can really be huge, produces millions of individual blossoms and ten thousands of seeds.  It only flowers once in its lifetime.  After producing a large number of small round fruits, it dies.  Before its life ends, the trunk is a source of palm flour used in certain Philippine delicacies. Harvesting the leaves does not pose any danger to the palm.  During the rainy season, the leaves regenerate very fast.  The leaves can be up to five meters long and from the buri palm comes three types of fibres: buri, raffia and buntal.  Harvesting the raw material and fibre processing highly involves groups of people living in areas where the buri palm is abundantly growing.

Philippine handicrafts using the Buri materials are woven using the leaves of the eponymous Buri palm trees abundantly growing in many areas in Philippines. Each leaf strand midrib sections are removed. The fibres are bleached by boiling water with salt and vinegar. The bleached fibres are thoroughly washed and left to dry under the sun until light brown and malleable. After drying, are then arranged in large rolls to avoid folds in each fibres. Then fibres are cut into desired width by pulling them through  a wooden contraption with sharp blade. Buri fibres cuts  to 5 mm,  7-8 mm,  1 cm, 2 cm, and 2.5cm for weaving. The Buri fibres can either be dyed or left in their natural colour, and rolled into spools for storage. The creation of just a piece of buri is a meticulous and delicate process that can take anywhere from a day to an entire week. Each one is unlike the other, since everything is done solely by hand and by its weaver.

The bond between the handicraft and its maker is an intimate one: the interlocking strips are similar to the unpredictable twists and turns of life, but the interlace makes the buri strong, beautiful, and complete. Since the enterprise is women-dominated, the handicrafts empower housewives, mothers, and ladies to express themselves through their God-given talent of creating buri handicrafts. The women in the handicraft industry can make buri bags, hats, wedding souvenirs, baskets, or any items that a customer may request or order. Weaving process starts as so called “pagpupusod” or knotting requiring patience and skill of the weavers. Then making buri fibres end pointed to easily attached on the item being weaved through the “suksok” or insert method.  The most common style of weaving Buri is by the “Sal-itan” or alternate method just like putting on shoe-lace called “Sintas”. Other methods  like ”Eyelet”, “Pito-han” (by seven) or the “Apatan” (by four) to mention a few.

The Buri materials

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Ayanes Online Cart - Buri Product Line

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