By Jam Escandor
GUBAT, Sorsogon --- Determined to continually upgrade local products and explore future collaborative activities, the local governments of Gubat, Sorsogon and Liliw, Laguna have signed sisterhood agreement Friday morning, June 1, in this town.
The agreement aims to establish a sisterhood relationship through which both LGUs could “promote exchange of ideas in areas of culture and arts, trade and investment, tourism, heritage conservation, agriculture, and human resources.
Gubat Mayor Sharon Rose Glipo-Escoto led the agreement signing along with Liliw Mayor Ericson J. Sulibit, the Sangguniang Bayan, and the department heads of both LGUs.
Escoto said that the agreement signing is a big leap forward for the town as they aim to become the center of agro-ecotourism in Sorsogon province.
“The people of Gubat have long dreamed to establish the abaca handicraft industry, and now, that dream is becoming a reality with this partnership. It will also generate livelihood opportunities for the people”, she said.
Best known in the country for their robust slipper industry, Liliw agreed to become part of Gubat’s development and upgrade of primary handicraft products like Salanigo abaca slipper.
Salanigo is a weave design of abaca fibers dyed in two colors, indigenous in Gubat. It has an “under-two-over-two” pattern that creates an elaborate diagonal or twilled weave. It is also made with bare hands of the few remaining artisans from upland barangays of the town.
For centuries, the design has been used for walls made of sawali. A polio survivor named Josefina Epino from Barangay Manapao transformed this ancient design into abaca slippers seen now as Gubat’s premier product. Through the years, fewer artisans remained as they encountered difficulty in transmitting the skills to the new generation and marketing of products due to lack of modern equipment for commercial production.
Patrick Omar B. Erestain, municipal administrator of Gubat explained that they saw Liliw as a perfect partner as the two LGUs share common ground in terms of strengthening the handicraft industry and cultural heritage preservation.
“Since last year, the LGU has explored the prospective tie-up with Liliw as their tsinelas industry is more connected to Gubat’s salanigo. They also include a lot of abaca as raw material on their products”, he added.
Erestain also detailed that the scope of partnership between the two LGUs came at the right time as Gubat started to embark on cultural revival in 2017 where they foremost identified products connected to the town’s history.
In an effort to revive salanigo-making, the LGU has collaborated with different national government agencies, universities, and private organizations, which, according to Erestain, has so far gained favorable result.
“More than the identified scope of partnership from diversification of handicraft to heritage conservation, we also saw that Liliw has a good track record and has political willingness in terms of partnerships”, Erestain said.
After the MOA signing, the group proceeded to the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the Agro-fair called “Saudan sa Pista” as part of the two-week celebration of this year’s Ginubat festival, Gubat’s town fiesta. Featured in the Saudan sa Pista are salanigo weave designs diversified and incorporated in outdoor slippers and sandals made by Liliw shoemakers. This is the first product of Gubat-Liliw collaboration.
Joining also the agro-fair is the Liliw caravan where products of Liliw such as footwear, lambanog, vinegar, uraro, and strawberry jam are made available to the public. Liliw Mayor Ericson Sulibit said that they were very glad to see that their presence as well as their products are well appreciated by the Gubatnons.
Escoto likewise stated that the aim of the agreement is to foster mutual friendship and goodwill amongst their people, nurture closer relationship, and further create closer social and cultural exchanges and economic ties between the two local governments.
“We are excited to pursue exchange programs with LGU-Liliw and hope that this bond will continue to be mutually beneficial”, Escoto said.