What comes to mind when someone says banig? They’re just sleeping mats, right? Wrong.
LARA (Waray for ‘weaving’) is a fashion and lifestyle brand that takes our traditional notion of the banig and redefines it.
It began as a project by Gov. Sharee Ann Tan of Samar to help the Basiao Native Weavers’ Association (BANWA) get back on their feet after the devastation of Yolanda. She came by the association during an agricultural fair where she saw the potential of the weaving industry. Given the right product development, she believed that the weavers’ banig crafts can evolve into world-class lifestyle products. So, she got a team together to give the weavers just that. And 10 hectares of land to plant their raw materials.
Together with a team of creative consultants and Sparks Samar, the tourism arm of the Samar government, the weavers and the governor were able to establish LARA. Through this brand, they want to put Basey, Samar on the map as the capital of the banig industry.
We got a sneak peek of LARA’s products at the brand launch at SM Mega Fashion Hall. There were beautiful handbags with intricate embroideries and handy backpacks perfect for traveling. There were statement sandals and sun visors you can wear to the beach, and sneakers and vans you can pair with a casual outfit for the city. There were even accessories, dangling earrings and necklaces, all of which are made of banig.
I was able to chat with two of the weavers that were present during the launch, Ate Eva and Mana Ani. The two women proudly explained how this project with the governor is benefiting 2,000 weavers and their families and 20 weaving associations in Basey. 70 percent of the profits from LARA’s sales will be going to the weavers.
They also explained to me how Basey’s woven works are made exceptional by the raw material, which is Tikog grass. Tikog, unlike the pandan and buri leaves used in the banig-weaving of other regions, is a sturdier and firmer material because of its firm triangular stems. This makes Basey’s banig crafts stronger and last longer than others.
The product development brought by the governor’s project is also helping revive what was once a dying craft. Younger generations are once again getting interested in weaving banig thanks to the new quality and artistry imbibed into the practice.
It’s a win for everyone.
The #BanigRevolution continues! For those who were not able to visit the LARA booth over the weekend, you may inquire and place orders via direct message or email us at [email protected] We’re still fixing our online store, but we’ll keep you guys posted. #LARA #LaraSamar #BanigRevolution #SparkSamar #SamarBanig
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So far, LARA’s items can only be bought through their shop online. But, Gov. Tan assures us that they are currently on the hunt for a location in Metro Manila, hopefully somewhere in Makati.
Photos courtesy of Instagram.com/larasamarph
Writer: ANTHEA REYES