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Local designer produces abaca woven facemasks

As the global demand for facemasks continue to increase due to the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), a local designer in Albay is now producing an eco-friendly and breathable facemasks out of “pinukpok,” an abaca handwoven fiber made solely in Bicol.

Jean Alta, 32, the woman behind “Kutur ni Jean” specializing in formal wear made from “pinukpok” or abaca fiber, is now producing facemasks from “pinukpok” abaca materials that are selling like hot cakes among the Bicolanos as it is comfortable, breathable, fashionable, eco-friendly, and safer than other materials.

“Pinukpok” fiber is made manually by pounding abaca strands, which are then handwoven into fabric by Banguerohan Bicol Small Business Institute Foundation Incorporated (BSBI).

Alta’s creation of “pinukpok” facemasks is not only helping the environment but also the women’s group in Legazpi City whose livelihood and vital source of income are badly affected for more than three months now following the occurrence of Covid-19 pandemic.

The “pinukpok” materials are being supplied by the BSBI, a women’s cooperative formed a decade ago that is providing livelihood to displaced families of natural disasters.

The BSBI received assistance from the Legazpi City government and training from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) in processing pinukpok.

Alta shifted to “pinukpok” facemasks making from the usual “tila” or cloth to help the women’s group in Banquerohan village, Legazpi City.

“I’m happy that I was able to help the women’s group which is now badly affected by the pandemic as no one buy “pinukpok” for special occasions for several months now,” she said.

“By creating pinukpok facemasks, we can be able to help the women’s organization weaving pinukpok as their livelihood is badly affected by coronavirus pandemic. Similarly, we can also get rid of plastic or materials that are harmful to our environment,” Alta said.

Abaca is an specie of native banana, which is propagated and being harvested because of its fiber and it is the leading livelihood of abaca farmers here.

Abaca (Musa textiles nee), internationally known as Manila hemp, is an indigenous materials, found in Bicol region.

Weaving in region is done since time immemorial as part of livelihood and way of life among the Bicolanos specifically in rural areas of the region.

Most of the abaca areas in Bicol are concentrated in the island province of Catanduanes dubbed as the “Happy Island”.

At present, Catanduanes is the biggest abaca producing province in Bicol region.

About 50,212.34 hectares of abaca farms in the region are being cultivated by 21,124 farmers.

It will be recalled that on the first salvo of Covid-19, Alta provided free facemasks for print and broadcast journalists, village officials, and market vendors at the Albay district here.

Alta’s Kutur ni Jean also produced personal protective suits for hospital physicians in response to the growing need of the medical frontliners here.

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