Handmade Papermaking: The Sunrise Industry

The potentials of handmade papermaking were seen as early as 1990 and plans were already afoot to lay down and strengthen the industry’s foundation.

With the industry’s growth and development in mind, the FIDA, DTI and the Duntog Foundation, Inc. organized a multi-sectoral conference on handmade paper in Baguio in April 1991. There strange bedfellows found a common cause, that is to organize the Federation of Handmade Papermakers and Converters or FEHPA and later the Confederation of Handmade Papermakers Association of the Philippines or CHAPS. This group of conservationists have rallied with what little strength they have to make handmade papermaking a serious business. These innovators decided that they have much to teach the rest of the world on handmade papermaking.

CITEM and PTTC, on the other hand took the marketing and training task as they mounted the highly successful handmade paper and paper-based resources industry exhibition called "Papel: Likhang Kamay" five times over – first starting in September 1991 to 1995. Designed to fuel the advancement of the Philippine handmade paper and paper-based resources sector, they served to gauge the acceptability of locally made products, both here and in the international market. In greeting cards alone, reports have it that demand for Philippine handmade paper reached millions of dollars. The most promising markets for Philippine handmade paper are Germany, Italy, France, and the UK and is now fast gaining acceptance within the other Asian countries and the mainland.

It was in this opportunity that Fish a life Multi-purpose Cooperative, Inc. was established by a group of environmentalists in Manila to grab the market potential of the industry. They have joined the Papel: Likhang Kamay I, II and III in 1991, 1992 and 1993 respectively. Within these trade exhibits that they realized the vast orders on handmade paper products beyond their capabilities. Orders and queries on possible export market around the world kept on coming but unfortunately in vain because of the setback on paper sheets production of the group and not to mention financial constraints. The group split in two, one proceeded to Gloria, Mindoro Oriental and the other proceeded to Lasam, Cagayan.

Confident on the market potential and love of the craft, the other breakaway group of artist and environmentalist have set up their backyard papermill in sitio Banay, Lasam, Cagayan and established Lifestremas Arts and Crafts, a Countryside Barangay Business Enterprise registered later under the Kalakalan 20. They first introduced handmade papermaking in 1993 through a demonstration in Barangay Peru, Lasam, Cagayan during an Upland Farmers Skills Training of the Lasam Upland Farmers Association funded by the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Provincial Government of Cagayan and later introduced the craft to the members of the Zinundungan Valley Multi-purpose Cooperative, Inc.

Project Feasibility Studies were made through the help of the Department of Science and Technology and the Department of Trade and Industry for loan applications to the Land Bank of the Philippines but was denied because the industry is new to them and they lack the expertise to evaluate the proposed project.

Inspite of the difficulties to finance a small scale industry on handmade paper making, the Zinundungan Valley MPCI in collaboration with Lifestreams Arts and Crafts continuously participated in various provincial and regional trade exhibits/shows and help provide trainings on handmade paper making for interested environmentalists, cooperative members and non-members who want to engage in handmade paper making industry. On 1998, the Department of Trade and Industry of Cagayan and DOLE-GATT funded our request for a Handmade Paper Making Basic/Upgrading Skills Training and Conversion and later joined the National Trade Fair ’98.

During the National Trad Fair "98, again the market response was encouraging, orders and other queries for possible export order bookings came in, local as well as foreign based business asked for large volume supplies. Some even provided the dimensions of their container vans and warehouses. But again it did not prosper anew because of financial constraints and lack of appropriate facilities on handmade paper sheet production and conversion.

On September of 1999, the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), after careful evaluation of the potential of the cooperative’s hand made paper making project, considered Zinundungan Valley MPCI as a regional model for its community based training and enterprise development program (CBTED). In this regard, the cooperative was provided with equipments for its handmade paper making common service facilities and was given series of entrepreneurship development trainings.

After the helping hand from the TESDA-CBTED, the ZVMPCI Handmade Paper Training and Research Center was established and housed at the Lasam National Agricultural School at Barangay Nabannagan. The Board of Directors created a Committee on Handmade paper making to manage the trainings, research and possible market of the handmade paper products.

The cooperative as of this time have already provided trainings to different institutions like the Central State University of Lasam where they are now producing paper sheets and end products of their own, the women groups of Barangays Cabatacan East and West, Barangay Alannay, and Nabannagan all within the municipality of Lasam and Barangay Cabayabasan within the municipality of Lallo. The cooperative in collaboration of the Lifdestreams Arts and Crafts had also provided Basic and Upgrading Trainings on Handmade papermaking at the differenet municipalities like Ballesteros, Allacapan and the City of Tuguegarao and also in Dibul, Quirino province.

The market response from within the region is very promising. Environmentally awared groups and institutions like the Isabela State University, St. Paul University and the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Cagayan Valley are supporting the industry by ordering conference kits, tokens and certificates all made of handmade papers. Althought the cooperative will start with local markets, it will renew its ties with its contacts in the export market. On October 24 to 29, the cooperative will be participating in the Regional Trade Fair at SM Mega Trade Hall in Metro Manila. Its products will also be exhibited at the TESDA-CBTED sponsored trade exhibit on November 13 and 14 at Glorietta Mall, Makati City and on November 6 to 10 during the DAR-FAO/TSSRD conference at Baguio City.

The Zinundungan Valley MPCI is now on the initial stages of scaling up its operations to a commercial level. The Department of Trade and Industry had again recommended the cooperative to join the National Trade Fair 2001 and is looking into the possibility of participating FAME, an international Trade Exhibit this coming April of 2001. Despite its optimistic outlook, specially in the market and technical feasibility of the product, the cooperative still face a daunting task of upgrading its production process to a level wherein you are confident to meet the market demand in terms of quality and production capacity. The cooperative still needs infusion of some appropriate equipments /facilities to be able to venture in the export market and not to mention a sound financial system.

Apart from this, there are some problems arising between the cooperative, LNAS and the TESDA regarding the accommodation and use of the CBTED common service facilities. One is the space provided for the supposedly production center is limited only for sheet forming and there is no enough space for conversion. Two, it is not clear if the facilities can be brought out from the center by the members for production use, though some are already being used outside the center, and three is the lack of supply of water.

Recommendations are hereby given:

    1. Re-evaluate the CBTED project with the Project Working Group.
    2. Adopt a Memorandum of Agreement between the cooperative, LNAS and Provincial TESDA regarding the accommodation and use of the CBTED common service facilities.
    3. Recommend infusion of more appropriate common service facilities to augment possible export production in the near future.
    4. Recommend Enterprise Development trainings to include:
      1. Institutional development
      2. Productivity program - 5 "S"
      3. Gender and Development GAD
      4. Industry Development Plan


Zinundungan Valley MPCI
Peru, Lasam, Cagayan
Email: zvmpci@yahoo.com

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