Igniting the art and culture of weaving, Helen Ramos makes wonderful crafts with an inherited skill she hopes to pass on to the next generation.

In the heart of Cavinti, Laguna, a town renowned not just for its thriving economy but also for its ingenious pandan crafts, resides the spirited 59-year-old Helen Ramos. She embodies the town’s craft, leading the Cavinti Women’s Agriculture Cooperative.

Helen began weaving at the early age of nine to save money for school. Despite her young age, she spent most of her time weaving rather than playing and learned the hard way of earning money while using her creative hand.

When she grew up, she joined a group of weavers when a local government unit in Cavinti employed residents to open a souvenir store selling expertly produced baskets, bags, hats, mats, and other decorations made from pandan leaves. She was appointed as the association’s leader, and she has since been in charge of its 47 members.

The LGUs assisted them to reach a broad number of customers and boost their sales. They were invited to different trade fairs and festivals such as Anilag and Sambalilo where they were able to showcase their products and expand their market reach.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) was impressed by the achievements of the association. In response, they organized training sessions and workshops to further hone their weaving techniques and product designs. This initiative significantly boosted demand for the association’s crafts. Consequently, they sought additional financial support from CARD MRI Rizal Bank, Inc. (CARD RBI), a microfinance-oriented rural bank specializing in empowering local microentrepreneurs.

“The skill alone isn’t enough, we need financial support to back up our business,” Helen shared.

However, no weaver’s skillful hand has ever touched a dark thread. Due to bad weather conditions, the association had a hard time catering to bulk orders.

“It is extremely difficult to gather all the necessary materials and dry pandan leaves during constant rain. We prefer air drying even though LGU provided us with a drying machine. Regardless, if there’s a will, there’s a way,” Helen said.

Yet, her steadfast perseverance helped her overcome these challenges. The whole association was determined to keep weaving and has set out a plan to avoid cramming their limited space where they also hang the pandan leaves to dry.

“DTI helped us to enhance our knowledge and skills, but CARD RBI became the foundation of our business,” she added.

As they carry on threading towards success, they hope to acquire their pandan plantation, buy a bigger space for drying and weaving, and develop their brand in the upcoming years.

“Our lives may contain some hazy twists and crisscrosses, much like weaving, but if you have faith in yourself, everything will eventually fall into place,” Helen concluded.