Also called manila hemp, is a close relative of the banana plant and is native to the Philippines. Abaca is prized for its great mechanical strength, resistance to saltwater damage, and long fibre length.
Harvesting abaca is labour intensive as each stalk must be cut into strips which are scraped to remove the pulp. The fibres are then washed and dried.
During the 19th century abaca was widely used for ships' rigging, and pulped to make sturdy manila envelopes. Today, it is still used to make ropes, twines, fishing lines and nets, as well as coarse cloth for sacking. There is also a flourishing niche market for abaca clothing, curtains, screens and furnishings, but paper-making is currently the main use of the fibre.
Known as the ‘golden fibre’, jute is one of the longest and most used natural fibre for various textile applications.
It thrives in tropical lowland areas with humidity of 60% to 90%.
Jute is one of the most affordable natural fibres and considered second only to cotton in amount produced and variety of uses of vegetable fibres.
Jute is extracted from the bark of the white jute plant and to a lesser extent from tossa jute. It is a natural fibre with golden and silky shine and hence called the Golden Fibre.
Buri is the most common palm found in the Philippines. It belongs to the class of erect palms. Growing up to 20 meters high, with a maximum trunk diameter of one meter, and leaves that spread up to three meters long. It is slow-growing, perennial and can yield three types of fibers: Buri, Raffia and Buntal.
When the leaves are yet unopened, it can be harvested to produce Raffia. The leaf sheath is delicately hand cut and a thin membrane is extracted. This can be split into finer fibers, dyed and woven into fabric. The leaf stem produces Buntal fibers, hand-pulled to separate individually.
The harvesting of the leaf and leaf stem does not harm the palm. The labor intensive manual extraction of both the Raffia and Buntal fibers can develop the skills and employ a community. Furthermore, aside from the seeds of the Buri palm being raw materials for beads and buttons, its trunk can be used to produce sugar, starch and native wine.
Rattan were historically known as Malacca cane or Manila cane. It belongs to the palm family and are native to the tropical regions of Africa, Asia, and Australia. There are different types of rattan palms, such as high or low climbers, single stemmed or clustered rattan species. Some have very short and underground stems. Several rattan species are known to reach lengths of 100m.
Around 20% of rattan palm species are economically important and are traditionally used in Southeast Asia in producing wicker urniture, baskets,cane woven matsc, cordage and other handicrafts. Rattan canes are one of the world's most valuable non-timber forest products.
It is also a popular material for outdoor and indoor furniture. Able to be bent and curved, rattan takes on many wonderful curving forms. Its light, golden color brightens a room or outdoor environment and instantly conveys a feeling of a tropical paradise.
As a material, rattan is lightweight and almost impervious and is easy to move and handle. It can withstand extreme conditions of humidity and temperature and has a natural resistance to insects.
In the costal waters of Indonesia, Thailand, and The Philippines grows the fibrous, durable water hyacinth known as seagrass. It often flourishes in underwater meadows that resemble grassy fields, but on land, it is a beloved material in the furniture industry. It has become increasingly popular for manufacturers who design eco-friendly furniture using natural materials. When used in its natural form, seagrass furniture has an island look. Similar to hand-woven wicker, woven seagrass is highly textured, and distinct strands have a sedgy, natural feel. But besides their artisanal aesthetic, seagrass furniture has been trending because of its durability. Known to last for decades, it requires little maintenance and care.
Seagrass is a perennial sedge that grows abundantly in flood-prone areas in Bicol region in the Philippines. Dried stalks from seagrass are hand twined together to create the raw material for handicraft making—salapid. The salapid can be made into various products such as bags, slippers, hampers, and decorative items. The best characteristic of seagrass is its resistance to molds when stored for a longer period of time.
Bamboo a perennial, woody-stemmed grass known for its rapid growth and variety of uses. Due to the long cylindrical woody stem strength and ease of workability, bamboo is a versatile material.
The stem reaches its full height in about 60-90 days and depending on the intended use, can be harvested in three to five years.
Bamboo is known by different names. But one that particularly sticks in the mind is bamboo being referred to as the “cradle to coffin” plant, owing to its wide variety of uses and benefits to humans from birth to death. In the Philippines, bamboo is ubiquitous and is considered a highly-utilized resource for the household. In fact, Filipinos never go about their daily chores without using bamboo — from simply sitting on rustic furniture made from bamboo poles to using bamboo-made utensils for cooking.
Traditionally, pineapple silk was considered the queen of Philippine fabrics and is considered the fabric of choice of the Philippine elite.
Pineapple fibre on its own creates a sheer, stiff matreial that is lightweight. Cultivation of pineapple fibres is an age old traition in the Philippines. It has been revived on order to privide the world with more sustainable fibre option, as well as reigniting the skills of communities
Piña is a handwoven Philippine textile produced mostly by the Aklanon in the province of Aklan in Western Visayas, Philippines. It is considered the finest of Philippine textiles mainly because of its delicacy and its natural creamy hue.
The extraction of the fibres is a difficult process. A porcelain shard is used to remove the epidermis and expose the rough fibres. To extract the inner layer of fibres, the edge of a piece of halved coconut shell is run through the surface. Only long and fine but tenacious inner fibres are used to produce the delicate piña textile.
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 and in Goa in India.
Capiz are shells found in a province in the Philippines called Capiz. These flat, semi-transparent shells with a pearlescent appearance are edible but valued more for the shells. Capiz shells have been used for thousands of years as a glass substitute because of their durability and translucence. More recently Capiz shells are being used for decorative items like chandeliers and lampshades and other shell inlays.
Highly asymmetrical bivalve with a characteristically thin, semi-translucent shell.
The Capiz or window pane oyster, with its scientific name, Placuna placenta, can grow up to 70-150mm. The shells have been used for thousands of years as a glass substitute because of their durability and translucence.
MOTHER OF PEARL
Also known as nacre, as “the hard pearly iridescent substance forming the inner layer of a mollusk shell.” A key characteristic of mother of pearl is its iridescence, which produces a multi-colored glow that varies from different angles. While the mother of pearl and pearls are closely related, they are two different things. Mother of pearl is the actual layer coating the shell, while pearls are the gems formed through layers of nacre covering an irritant that enters the mollusk. Nevertheless, they both carry that sophisticated radiance due to the subtle glow they emit on their surfaces.