‘Bag for Life’: making a living out of old newspapers and scratch papers in Brgy. Tuntungin Putho

by Colyn Brizuela

​The bags that you can use for life and at the same time help other people’s lives – these are the bags made by a group of women who turned old newspapers, magazines, and scratch papers into trendy and fashionable bags.

Some of the bags displayed at the Brgy Tuntungin-Putho’s Feb Fair booth

“Bag for Life”

The livelihood program called ‘Bag for Life’ in Barangay Tuntungin-Putho is a bag-making program for women that aims to reduce poverty and promote clean environment by using old and recycled papers.

The program mainly aims to help eradicate poverty in the barangay by supporting and providing ways of earning money for women especially those who are part of the Women’s Brigade. The Women’s Brigade is a non-profit organization of volunteer women that helps in the different programs and projects of the barangay.

Goals of the program:

  • Reduce poverty in the community and help the women have other sources of income
  • Promote recycling,  clean environment by reducing the amount of paper waste in the community

Barangay Tuntungin-Putho adopted the livelihood program from a series of livelihood training seminars conducted by St. Therese Foundation last 2011. For three consecutive months, during Wednesdays, the foundation invited around 10 women from the barangay and taught them how to turn the recycled materials to hand bags, grocery bags, pencil boxes, tissue boxes, and key chains. These women are the ones who are unemployed or do not have a stable income, and at the same time interested in making handicrafts.

Reducing poverty

One of the goals of the program is to help the women have other sources of income and reduce poverty. As of now, there is no quantitative data whether the bag-making program reduced the poverty-rate in the barangay, but participants of the program testified that the program helped them earn more money than before.

“Oo naman. Nakatulong talaga [bag-making]” answered Dominga Mamiit, one of the bag-makers. “Kasi noong kumuha ako ng ref [refrigerator] noon, diyan ko kinukuha yung pinanghuhulugan ko monthly. Tapos yung pambaon baon rin ng mga bata noong pumapasok pa sila.” she added. Meng was able to pay for a refrigerator for around 1,000 php a month and was able to add to the daily allowance of her children. “Eh ngayon, yung mga tapos na anak ko, sila na nagbibigay saakin ng pera [laughs]. Meng added.

April Dela Cruz, another bag-maker, also said that she was able to gain money from bag-making and it helped her because she had no job before. “Ngayon at least, nakakatulong ako sa asawa ko sa pang gastos araw araw sa bahay, pambili ng dagdag na pagkain, gatas…” April said.

Reducing ‘garbage’

​Aside from helping to provide livelihood to women, the program also aims to transform of ‘garbage’ into something that could be sold. It aims to reduce the paper wastes in the community.

According to the barangay captain, he observed that there has been a continuous decrease in paper wastes in their community because they are being reused and recycled in many forms like reusing it for scratch papers, printing, and in bag making.

Before, the sources of the scratch papers, newspapers, and old magazines were from the community. But as of now, the St. Therese Foundation are providing them with extra scratch papers, old magazines, and white/yellow pages because the barangay’s collected supply of paper wastes are not enough.

The Bagmakers of Tuntungin-Putho

The bag makers of Tuntungin-Putho with Leonara Verano (Women’s Brigade President – Tuntungin-Putho) proudly displays their handmade bags after long hours of hard work and dedication. [From L-R: Virginia Sanchez, April Dela Cruz, Dominga Mamiit, Helen Grace Mayorada, Leonora Verano, and Jonalyn Escobido

Out of all the women who attended the seminars and were trained in will to make the bags, only Dominga Mamiiit was able to continue bag making until now. Just like any other resident in their community, Dominga Mamiit or commonly called as ‘Meng’ wants to earn money to somehow provide for her family while doing what she loves. She has been making recycled bags for five years now just right after she learned how to do it.

“Yung mga kasama ko kasi dati, nagsiayaw na. Kasi yang pagbabag mahirap yan gawin, matagal mabili, eh kasi daw pag naglabada daw sila sa hapon, may pera agad sila,”  Meng explained.

She said that when doing laundry service, you will get instantly paid at the end of the day whereas in bag-making you still have to make the bags first, and wait for orders to be able to sell it. “Hindi ka magkakapera agad agad [bag-making] pero kikita ka parin, halos parehas lang naman kita diyan eh…,” she added. According to Meng, in one bag she can earn from a hundred pesos up to 250 pesos depending on the price of the bag.

“Pero ako, mahilig kasi talaga ako sa mga ganyan eh. Yang paggawa ng mga craft,” she said as she explained why she continued bag making.

As Meng continued to make a living out of the recycled bags, she inspired her neighbors to do the same. April Dela Cruz, Virginia Sanchez, Helen Mayorada, and Jonalyn Escobida are all Meng’s neighbors who learned how to make bags from her. They wanted to learn how to make the bags upon knowing that Meng was able to make money out of it.

“Nakita ko si Ate parang may umorder sakanya na foreigner tas kumita siya dun. Yun gusto ko na ring matuto kasi sa bahay lang nga ginagawa.”  said April Dela Cruz.

Another bag maker who learned from Meng was Helen Grace Mayorada, who also enjoyed bag making aside from the reason that it is one of her sources of income. “Same hobbies kami niya [Dominga], kaya nagustuhan ko rin mag bag making,” said Helen while she was making a bag. Helen saw how beautiful the bags Meng made and became interested in it. Both Helen and Meng were interested in making handicrafts, planting/gardening, hairdressing, etc.

The process of bag-making

Helen Mayorada demonstrating the process of making the bags Making the bags and mastering the art of it is not an easy job. According to the bag makers, it really takes patience and hard work

Steps in making the bags

  1. Prepare all the materials that you will use (newspapers, white pages, magazines, scissors, glue, etc.)​
  2. Pagbibilot (process of cutting and folding papers into equal parts) or cut the paper into long equal folds depending on the type of and size of bag you will make
  3. Flatten the papers to make it easier for weaving (connecting and combining the papers in patterns)
  4. Connect and combine the papers in patterns and form the type of bag you want just like the process of weaving

According to Helen, the process of bag making is long because of the pagbibilot. For example, if you are going to bilot for one bag and make the bag after, it will take you the whole day. So what they are doing is that they spend days in pagbibilot first before forming the bags after. Usually, in a week they could only make five bags.

Struggles of the Bagmakers

However, bag making is not their only source of income. Some of them have other sources of income like planting vegetables/herbs, hairdressing, and manicuring/pedicuring. They need to have other sources of income because the demand for their bags is seasonal. It is only during Decembers where they receive bulk orders. Usually in this month, they can have as low as one to two orders.

“Tuwing December lang tambak yung order saamin. Katulad nung aming gift basket, 100. Yung pencil bag, 50, ”explained Meng.

Many of their bags are also sold when they are invited into displays/ bazaars. Just like last February 14-18 2017, during the UPLB February Fair, they had a booth showcasing their livelihood products.

The bag-makers of Putho-Tuntungin think that only a few people in Los Baños know about the recycled bags. Even though they are now using social media to promote their bags, it has still not reached the local wider audience.

More details

The bags they make cost Php 200 to Php 500, depending on the type and size of bag. They make body bags, shoulder bags, and grocery bags. Aside from the bags, they also make small keychains made from recycled papers worth Php 15.

Their bags can be directly bought in the Barangay Hall of Tuntungin-Putho. You can also contact and order personally to Mrs. Dominga Mamiit at 09127920865. They can also be ordered and viewed at the Brgy. Tuntungin-Putho’s FB Page. 

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