If you’ve ever visited the furniture shop Crate and Barrel, chances are, you may have seen these finely crafted placemats, carpets, rugs or even some exquisite living room furniture pieces made from abaca (Manila hemp), rattan or nito. The prices here is a premium and it’s easy to conclude that most of them may be imported. Interestingly, when I visited Camalig, Albay’s Natural Carpet Industries, I was surprised to see Crate and Barrel tags on the newly woven circular abaca placemats inside their 7,300 sq. m. factory. Those US$10 placemats at the shop can be bought here directly for only US$ 3. It just shows that the abaca industry is back in the limelight as one of the main export products of the country and can compete with international brands.
Natural Carpet Industries
I enjoy visiting factories such as the ones at Natural Carpet Industries in Camalig, Albay. Work places fascinate me as I have always been intrigued on how product pieces are put together. Their 100+ workforce may be busy but the workers seem to be at ease with what they are doing. Once in a while, chatting and joking with each other. Each person has a specialized task. From weaving the abaca fibers, to lightly burning the fabric for excess strands, painting some pieces and putting tags on each one of them. The value of these products are high as they are meticulously hand-crafted.
Abaca and rattan handicraft is a backyard industry in Bicol. It was in 1995 when Felipe Napa Jr started his small handicraft business named as Napa’s Handicraft using capital money by mortgaging his family’s properties. His perseverance rose through the local competition and eventually got his products to international stores like The Pottery Barn, The Gap and Muji in Japan. In 2014, Felipe Napa received the Outstanding Albayano Award for Decorative Arts.
I went back to the showroom and took a second look at the products inside the room with deeper appreciation. They look exquisite by themselves but seeing the work behind them makes them more valuable.
Natural Carpet Industries
Zone 5, Brgy. Sumlang, Camalig, 4502, Albay
Contact: (02) 738–9963
Mobile: 0917.570.1830, 0932.811.1704
E-mail: [email protected]
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.