persons with disability

‘Person with this ability’: PWDs in Aklan town earn from making Nito products

Jed Nykolle Harme

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‘Person with this ability’: PWDs in Aklan town earn from making Nito products

LIVELIHOOD. PWD Balete Association displays the various hand woven Nito products of their members. Jed Nykolle Harme/Rappler

Jed Nykolle Harme

Woody Francisco says that the mission of the PWD Balete Association is to give the PWD sector in their municipality a sustainable source of livelihood

AKLAN, Philippines – About 20 kilometers away from the capital of Aklan is the municipality of Balete where artisans with disabilities (PWDs) have been earning through weaving Nito products. 

The PWD Balete Association, with its 735 members, started its operations in Nito crafting before the pandemic to give a source of income for its members.

The association’s focal person, Woody Francisco, told Rappler that the operations started after they conducted data gathering in their town to check the potential of PWDs in the area. 

“Rikato ta namon nakita nga abo gali sa among sector ro artistic ag mayad maubra it facemasks, gantsilyo, ag kantigo mag ubra it Nito products,” he said. 

(There, we saw that most of our members are artistic, and can sew facemasks, crochet, and can weave Nito products.)

Francisco said that the association had an initial capital of P6,000, drawn from the P50-fee of the members. Since then, they have ventured into fashion, home decor, and Nito products which have become the source of income for their members. As of now, they have P300,000 in revenues from Nito products alone.

Francisco said that the association’s mission is to give the PWD sector in their municipality a sustainable source of livelihood. “Kami mismo gabakae kanda, kasi kalisod kanda makausoy it trabaho. Kaya kami mismo ro gausoy kung alin do pwede namong maubra para kanda,” said Francisco.

(The association itself buys their products, because it is hard for them to find a job. We ensure that we are the ones who give them opportunities and find ways what we can do for them.)

‘Person with this ability’
Art, Handicraft, Adult
ARTISAN. Ron Martisano demonstrates how to create the base of a Nito product in Balete, Aklan. Jed Nykolle Harme/Rappler

Ron Martesano, a 46-year-old PWD, has been weaving Nito products for 25 years. He said he started to get interested in the craft to help his family make ends meet. 

“Gusto ko eang makabulig sa akong ginikanan kato, agud indi ako maging pabug-at kanda. Hay syempre, makara eon ako, dapat magkantiguhan ako bisan papaalin agud makakaon kami,” he said. 

(I just want to help my parents at that time, so that I will not be a burden to them. I felt that I am already a PWD, I should acquire some skills to survive.)

He said crafting Nito products requires endurance, patience, and creativity, as it took him an hour to create one handwoven plate. Someones, he spends a week to finish one customized handicraft.

When asked about the challenges, he shared that sometimes, he finds Nito ferns himself in the mountainous areas in Balete. 

Habang gaubra ako kara, akong gaoy, pamatyag ko lugi ako, ako pa gausoy it Nito ag kalisod mag-usoy karon. Pero kapag nakakabaligya ako ag nailaan ron ko akong customers, gaugan akong pamatyag,” he said.

(Sometimes when I make Nito crafts, I feel like it’s a loss, because I find my own Nito ferns. And it’s so hard to find them. But when I finally make a profit, and my customers like it, I can say my efforts are worth it.)

Martesano also shared that he feels insulted when he encounters people who question a P50-product, and would even try to ask for a discount or bargain, not realizing how hard it is to produce one. On good days, he earns P1,400 per week or P5,600 per month. 

Former association president Emer Robin Dalida told Rappler that during the pandemic, he was chosen as a mentee in the online Kapatid Mentor ME-Money Market Enterprise (KMME) of the Department of Trade Industry-Aklan. This 10-month program paved the way for the association to upgrade its products, from processing to marketing. 

“From that, we started to have linkages and platforms. We attend various local and regional trade fairs where we display our products,” Dalida said.

Trade fairs helped them find their international market. They currently supply to international clients in South Korea and to some hotels in Boracay Island. Local government units and balikbayans also buy their products for tokens and pasalubong.

“It’s not about the disability that people should look at, but the ability of the people that are beneficial to the community,” Dalida said. –

Jed Nykolle Harme is an associate editor at Eamigas Publication, and is an Aries Rufo Journalism fellow for 2023-2024.

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