60 year old Roberta Sumaga taught herself how to weave. She recalled dismantling the bag she bought from Bohol and studied how each fiber was carefully placed to form a bag weaved from romblon (a variety of pandan). After earning the skill, she was able to produce more bags which she sold individually by hopping from one store to another. She braved the strong heat of Mati City in Davao Oriental to sell romblon bags that helped augment the income of a family of six broods.

Today, she is one of the members of Tagdodo Tribal Group Association, a DOLE XI assisted beneficiary who received P208, 000.00 from DOLE Integrated Livelihood Program (DILP) along with 26 other members. Roberta now earns an additional P2,000.00 a month from weaving aside from her regular income from being a farm labor and the honorarium she receives as a Barangay Health Worker (BHW). This is among the stories woven together by women who found empowerment through collective hard work and dedication to free themselves from economic dependence.

The Tagdodo Tribal Group Association has been organized way back in 1987 as a women’s group in Sitio Tagdodo, Barangay Mamali, a coastal barangay set against the backdrop of the beautiful sunrise of Mati, Davao Oriental. The main sources of livelihood are through fishing and agriculture (coconut, rice, backyard livestock raising, and small areas dedicated as vegetable farms). Most households were built beside the shoreline and the houses are supported by stilts as protection from the tides. The main road can be easily accessed while passing the barangay road can be a rough ordeal. The abundance of nature around these parts is evident, and so is poverty.

In addition to the assistance provided by the Department of Labor and Employment-Region XI, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) assisted the group through providing entrepreneurial development trainings and marketing strategies. According to Lydia Cutanda, the association president, they won’t be able to last this long if not for the assistance of government agencies and the cooperation of their members. Most of the members are housewives and who were left by day to attend to the domestic needs of the family while their husbands are away fishing or farming. When they joined the association, they are now using their spare time weaving bags which are sold at P150.00 per piece.

“As an agreement, the romblon raw materials  are bought by the members from the association for P0.35 per piece/ P35.00 per hundred. They get the romblon  from us (association) already stripped and dyed. They are also provided with box molders which come in medium and large sizes. The finished products are also sold to the association and the bags are then supplied to souvenir shops in the city. We are frequently invited to trade fairs where we showcase the simple design and good quality of our bags. Aside from bags, we also weave colorfully dyed banig(s), and wallets.

Monthly, the members are required to give one bag free of charge to the association. When sold, the proceeds shall be considered as their Capital Share. We also need to do this so that we can thrive on our own and not solely depend on government aid.” Cutanda explained.

The association continues their livelihood project with stronger support from its members. They frequent trade fairs from Mati to Davao Cities to widen their market. Little stories of success in rural areas like Sitio Tagdodo give a human face to the implementation of DOLE Livelihood Projects.

***The Tagdodo Tribal Group Association received P208,000.00 grant in form of materials and equipments from DOLE Integrated Livelihood Project in April 2012.