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August 12, 2019


Sun Life Foundation and ECHOsi Foundation recently implemented a project under the TALA Program of Sun Life. TALA means Traditional Arts and Livelihood Advocacy and it also means “star” in Filipino which after all, is a guiding light.

Turnover of swatch books

Launched in the area of Bansalan on Mount Apo, the indigenous people are called the Bagobo Tagabawa tribe, and has been ECHOsi’s adopted community since 2015. Vivencia Mamites, their indefatigable leader, took on the challenge to educate more women weavers in financial literacy and entrepreneurship (among other modules) to make their project site sustainable even after the project is long over. Over 30 women weavers ages 19 to 60 enrolled in the program. Sun Life also supported the purchase of looms for the community.

Vivencia Mamites assisting a weaver

The project involves bringing Product Development from ECHOsi’s bench of experts like Candy Sy who has been traveling around ECHOsi’s adopted textile weaving women from Kalinga to Iloilo to Davao.

Distribution of raw materials to the beneficiaries

“The weavers are so skilled but they are getting old,” says Candy, who came back from living in the USA to move here as she shares her invaluable knowledge of the science of textiles. One of the objectives of Project TALA is also to train younger women to start weaving and learn the traditional heft and hew of the tribe. Every tribe has a way of interpreting their dreams into what they weave. Every weave tells a story. Like a book written with thread, a traditional textile explains the daily lives of the tribe as well as their dreams. This is their way to express their culture and unique nuances now only found from elders.

Turnover of Bang-bang

“Sun Life Foundation’s support to Arts and Culture was where we could align with our projects they could support,” says Jeannie Javelosa, founder and chief culture officer of Great Women, the social enterprise brand platform focused on bringing the textiles to the marketplace.

Sun Life Foundation’s Karen Casas (Trustee), Yahmin Mattison (Trustee), Tin Millete (Executive Director), and Riza Mantaring (Chairperson) with ECHOsi Foundation’s Chit Juan and Jeannie Javelosa

ECHOsi’s strength has been to bring together many partnership groups in one project to maximize its impact. The LGUs are also instrumental in helping with some other resources already available in the area such as transportation, local staff, and other coordination and logistical needs.

Product development session

“I think other NGOs and foundations are looking for groups like ours. We have had experience on the ground, working with Indigenous groups—starting from our first phase of Great Women projects in 2012—along with what was then CIDA or Canadian International Development Agency and now called Global Affairs Canada (GAC).

Even USAID in Marawi has given us projects for Strengthening Urban Resilience for Growth with Equity (SURGE) which is also on weaving and preserving local culture while providing a livelihood that is harvest-proof or harvest-complementary,” continues Javelosa.

Harvest-proof simply means in between seasonal harvests like coffee. Women can do other things like weaving. This formula makes livelihood more sustainable and continuous.

Other companies, LGUs, and NGOs have reached out to ECHOsi to see where the complementation can happen. “Sun Life is happy with the results for the first year and is looking to repeat the partnership,” reveals Javelosa.

“We also continue to look for partners so it’s like a ‘partnership made in heaven’ as the saying goes. And surely partnerships like this one should keep going not just in Davao but in other parts of the country where IPs can preserve their culture and earn a living sustainably,” she adds.



Product photos by Karissa Paula Feliza and Minimalist Project Designs & Prints


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