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Farmers in Catanduanes celebrate resilience in Abaca Festival

By Edna Bagadiong

VIRAC, Catanduanes --- Linie Villaraiz and her friends from Masbate City have already made reservations for the 8th Abaca Festival, which will take place in the capital town of Virac in Catanduanes from May 27 to 31.

The young overseas worker recently returned from Taiwan to enjoy the various Philippine festivals in the month of May, with the Abaca Festival on top of her list.

Villaraiz says that they do not mind the tiring trip by sea and land to reach Virac for the festival next month, as they are eager to witness how the province lives up to its reputation as the country’s top abaca producer.

The festival’s highlight is a float parade in which several participants showcase their creativity using brightly-colored abaca and indigenous materials to showcase the local fiber industry, while marching through the town.

“Last year, I missed the fun when I was unable to join my cousins at the Abaca Festival. But next month, I can capture the moment by taking photos and videos of the floats, which are incredible, as shown in my cousins’ footage because of their unique designs,” Villaraiz said in the chat.

Catanduanes, through Republic Act No. 11700, was declared the “abaca capital of the Philippines” on April 25, 2022. This is to recognize the province’s significant role in producing the prized crop for export.

However, the abaca industry in Catanduanes has experienced struggles, particularly after being hit by a series of devastating typhoons in recent years.

Abaca farmers have suffered losses every time a strong typhoon battered the province, which is in the usual path of tropical storms.

According to the Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority, the typhoons that hit Catanduanes caused a decline in the abaca output. Despite this, Catanduanes still accounts for 30 percent of the country’s annual abaca production. The Philippines supplies around 87 percent of the global abaca supply.

More than 13,000 farmers and 27,000 strippers work in over 33,000 hectares of abaca plantations across the island. The typhoons have significantly impacted their livelihoods, but they have shown resilience and have gradually bounced back after every disaster.

The festival, which opens on May 27, will have the theme: “Pagkamoot Sa Abaca: Paglaom Asin Kusog Kang Islang Maogma.” (Love of Abaca: Hope and Strength of a Happy Island).

The opening ceremonies will be followed by a parade that will draw participants from 11 municipalities, from Imelda Boulevard to the Capitol grounds. The festival will also feature an agri trade fair for souvenirs and an abaca travel expo to raise awareness of the abaca industry.

On the penultimate day, the grand Abaca Santacruzan will be staged, a sort of fashion show. (PIA 5/Catanduanes)

RESILIENCE Ladies of Catanduanes performs the dance ritual that celebrates the resilience of abaca farmers in the island province. (PIA Catanduanes)


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