Grandmothers Elvira Velasco-Lolo (L) and Lilia Napay (R) have been nurturing the craft of basket weaving in the Bicol region of Philippines for almost half a century now.
Elvira has been in the weaving business since 1968... that is much longer than many of us has been alive. Government volunteers at that time visited their town, among others, to teach the basics of weaving in an effort to boost livelihood in underdeveloped regions of the country. It then piqued her interest and was inspired to learn more about it. Not long after, she herself began teaching the technique to other locals which expanded her network and eventually created the community of weavers she works with until now.
She began her business by teaching and employing households in the remote mountain areas of their province. She needed help in handling bigger volumes and most of the locals were struggling to making money from agriculture alone.
There are now about 50 households in her network of weavers all working as a thriving artisanal community. Elvira herself can’t weave as much as before anymore, but continues to teach and supervise production in the mountains to this day.
Lilia, on the other hand, has been in weaving for 30 years now. She runs a small community of artisans that produces weaved baskets and ornaments. it was a business she started with her late husband who was a weaver his whole life.
Since her husband’s passing, she was left to continue the business alone. Although it was very hard in the beginning, it did inspire her to help other widows like herself by teaching them the craft to give them a chance to still make a decent livelihood and support their families.
Leaving a legacy
Elvira and Lilia are now grandmothers to more than 30 grandchildren. Since none, in both their families expressed any interest in weaving, let alone the business, their only hope is that the communities they work with will continue to carry out their legacy in keeping the craft of basket weaving alive for the next generations to come.