Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Making Strips, Weaving Lives

Hard Work and Success according to MS Nonito Ignacio, Bariw Producer

By Sally R. Villasis


Regional Applied Communications Group

Aklan State University

Bariw has made life a challenge for Nonito Ignacio, Magsasaka Siyentista (MS) of Nabas FITS Center in Aklan.

In 1992, this native of barangay Nagustan, Nabas, Aklan was only 20 years old when he started producing bariw. Then, Aklan was producing and processing bariw into novelty products and items for tourists and even for export.

At the time, MS Ignacio was amazed because Aklan was gaining worldwide attention for its craftsmanship in bariw. This encouraged him to plant and produce bariw fiber in his own capacity. From that time on, bariw has always been a lucrative means of livelihood for MS Ignacio.

Now a supplier of fiber for the bariw processors for almost 20 years, MS Ignacio has always made sure that his marketing strategies are in place. His bariw fiber stocks are available at their home to meet the demands of the processors in his area.

Enthusiastic and personable, MS Ignacio was chosen MS by the Western Visayas Agriculture and Resources Research and Development Consortium (WESVARRDEC) for the Nabas FITS Center in Nabas, Aklan through the coordination of Aklan State University (ASU), its partner member agency.

Planting and Growing Bariw

MS Ignacio starts bariw production with clearing the area needed for planting the palms. From the forest, he collects bariw seedlings with 5 to 10 leaves each. For each hill, he digs a hole 6 inches deep and allows 3-meter distance between the hills. Next, he clears and fences the surrounding area of each hill to protect them from stray animals. He then proceeds with mulching using cut grasses.

Harvesting Bariw

MS Ignacio harvests leaves from bariw plants aged 2 ½ to 3 years. In harvesting bariw leaves, known as pagsasa(Aklanon or Akeanon term), he begins by cleaning the bariw palms. He cuts from the bariw trunks only the long and mature leaves. To cut the leaves far from reach, MS Ignacio either climbs the palms or uses a scythe fixed at the end of a bamboo or wooden pole to reach them. Then he gathers the cut leaves, and collects 32 pieces to form one bundle. A sleeping mat, for one, can be made from 7 bundles with 32 bariw leaves each.


MS Ignacio then proceeds to pagriras, or the removal of thorns and midribs. He removes both the thorns at the edge of leaves and separates the midrib or the hard portion of the leaf. One bundle cut into halves will therefore produce 64 pieces. By this time, the bariw leaves are now ready for hanging and drying.


MS Ignacio is now ready for paglamayo ag pagbuead, or drying the leaves, which involves two steps. First, he dries the leaves for three days by hanging them outdoor making sure they are not directly exposed to sunlight. This allows for the gradual removal of moisture from the leaves. Second, he dries the leaves to dry under the sun for a day or two, after thorns are removed from them. If thorns are not removed, bariw leaves will be crumpled which makes the production (smoothening and softening included) of a pale fiber material difficult.

Smoothening and Softening

After which, MS Ignacio proceeds to pagbaebae, or softening the leaves. Dried bariw leaves are normally rigid and would thus need to be smooth and soft so they can be woven. To produce smooth texture, he starts pressing(pagpaepag), using a club (bowling pin-shaped wood) or a solid flat stone or wood. He lays the dried leaves on the stone or wood and pounds them by a wooden club. When they are softened, he presses using his bare fingers and palms (known as paghilad) one leaf at a time to flatten them, doing this repeatedly until he attains the desired softness.

MS Ignacio says that it is best for “two persons to soften the leaves, it produces a peculiar rhythm, just like the beat of the drum.” The working partners usually proceed with paghilad four times, after which the bariw fiber is then stored for 3 months. Only by then will the fiber is ready for processing.

In an ordinary day, MS Ignacio makes a maximum of 200 bundles of bariw at P4 per roll, which earns him P800. His thrice a week production (12 times for four weeks) gives him P9,600. For the transport of bariw from the farm to his house where it is sold (approx. 2 km), he incurs P400 monthly (8 liters of gas at P50 per liter), which gives him a net income of P9,200.

MS Ignacio hopes to become a leading bariw producer in Aklan. “I hope Aklan becomes a major producer of quality bariw products. We have a great province. We should be proud of it,” he says.

The nitty-gritty of bariw production, however, is not the only trade for MS Ignacio. When he is not into bariw production, the hardworking farmer attends to his two hectares of land planted to rice and vegetables and where he also raises pigs and chickens. He also sidelines through the operation of a sari-sari store and coco lumber hauling in their barangay.

With all these skills, capacities and activities, MS Ignacio proves to be a hardworking farmer, who has been pounding his way to reach his goals for his wife and children. Today, working well and hard on a 3-hectare bariw farm, he enjoys the success that others can only dream of.

Though he has undergone many hardships and difficulties, MS Ignacio expresses optimism, saying “If we don’t look at things in a positive way, it will be extremely difficult for us to survive in any business, and in life.”

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