INVISIBLE SISTERS: WEAVING THEIR WAY OUT OF POVERTY

Current Affairs

INVISIBLE SISTERS: WEAVING THEIR WAY OUT OF POVERTY

No Comments 30 November 2013

By Gaby Gloria

At exactly 3:30 in the afternoon, with most of her household chores done, Nancy Surilla walks to the nearby barangay community center. There, other women from her barangay chat excitedly, sharing stories that range from daily experiences at home to the latest showbiz news. In one hand, each of these women hold golden instruments that are no larger than pencils, and no thicker than chopsticks, and in the other, long, colorful strips of plastic. As they chat, the women weave the golden instruments through the plastic strips, each creating a product that will eventually become a wallet or bag. Shortly after Nancy’s arrival, a young woman arrives and proceeds to teach them a new technique in the art of crochet.

Nancy, like the other women in the center, is part of the non-profit organization called Invisible Sisters. Founded in 2009 by American artist Ann Wizer, the Invisible Institute was a simple solution to the complex problems of poverty and garbage.

The Invisible Sisters crocheting clutch bags.

The Invisible Sisters crocheting clutch bags.

INVISIBLE trains and employs Filipino women from depressed communities to make crocheted bags out of waste such as the common plastic sando bags normally used in wet markets and commercial establishments.

Each week, these women attend a training session where an instructor introduces them to innovative techniques for preparing recycled plastic as raw material and executing various crocheting techniques. When they complete the 48-session program, INVISIBLE hires them to be part of the official production team that supplies sales outlets such as SM Kultura Filipino, Ayala Museum, and EchoStore.

The rate and production volume depend on each woman’s skill. Normally, a simple bag takes two to three days to finish and a clutch bag just a day. Smaller products such as wallets and key chains take a matter of hours. At present, 11 communities in Metro Manila serve as livelihood sites that contribute to the production for their sales outlets. These include barangays in Taguig, Paranaque, Quezon City and Manila.  

The organization’s name is fittingly about unseen people and unseen waste. The term “invisible” refers to two fundamental parts of the program. The first part refers to the materials they use, which are normally ignored because they are seen as trash or debris. The second refers to the employees –all are women like Nancy who are not part of the regular work force, women who are normally looked over by members of society.

When they started out, the women would collect plastic bags from creeks, esteros, and rivers, wash them, and cut them into strips to crochet. Their methods of collecting changed in 2011 when they partnered up with the Philippine Plastic Industry Association (PPIA) and Ayala Malls. As a result, plastic collection bins were set up in a Glorietta 5, Greenbelt, Trinoma, Market! Market! and some Ayala Residences buildings.

Samples of Invisible bags

Samples of Invisible bags

The collected plastic is then recycled by PPIA and given to INVISIBLE in large rolls of uniform colors. The plastic from the rolls is divided and distributed to the different livelihood sites to make the bags and wallets seen in stores.

In 2011, INVISIBLE partnered with its biggest supporter to date, GKonomics , the social enterprise development arm of Gawad Kalinga. The partnership led to the set up of their present office inside the GK building in Barangay Pinagsama, Taguig City. GKonomics also helps INVISIBLE with its marketing and training needs. Other big partners include the De La Salle College of St. Benilde (CSB), which provides training funds and helps with programs that address the needs of the women in terms of their livelihood, health, education, and personal development.

Training funds also come from companies such as Accenture Philippines, the Philippine Women’s Association-UK, and the Consuelo Foundation. There have also been partnership projects between INVISIBLE and two Philippine-based brands. INVISIBLE pouches were the packaging material for Silverworks jewelry, and shoe retailer Figlia sold INVISIBLE bags in their stores.

Over the years, more and more projects have been piling up for the organization. In 2013, they began to address the concerns of the women in terms of health, giving them free eye checkups and glasses. CSB has offered scholarships in courses for BS Marketing and Management which are currently open to Invisible women who are high school graduates. They are also working out a scholarship program with CSB to provide college scholarships to the children of the women.

It is with these actions that INVISIBLE hopes to educate consumers and to encourage them to take action themselves through simple ways such as recycling and throwing their trash in the right place.

INVISIBLE has definitely taken a big step forward in dealing with poverty and pollution, problems that plague Philippine society, with its array of colorful crocheted totes and pouches. With over 700,000 plastic sando bags recycled, over a hundred women hired, and thousands of products sold, INVISIBLE is set to take the world by storm; to set an example among the people of this world, reminding them that something can be done, no matter how big we think a problem is. 

For Nancy and women like her, the percentage of the profit they receive every time a bag they make is sold, has a huge impact on their daily life. The money they receive enables them to buy food for their families. Nancy and her invisible sisters no longer feel helpless or worthless — they have become relevant and useful members of society. And it is this they owe to the organization.  With their gold wands turning trash into beautiful objects, the Invisible Sisters are weaving a wonderful and practical solution to poverty and pollution, for communities all over Metro Manila.

 

 

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MAYWEATHER STILL THE ONE FOR PACQUIAO

Sports

MAYWEATHER STILL THE ONE FOR PACQUIAO

No Comments 25 November 2013

We’ll never again see the seemingly unstoppable whirlwind Manny Pacquiao of 2007 to 2011. That was the Manny Pacquiao who zoomed up the scales to win five of his world titles in a record eight weight classes. But this Pacquiao — the 34-year-old version coming off a gargantuan one-punch, sixth-round, face-first, go-to-sleep knockout against his great rival Juan Manuel Marquez in their fourth encounter a year ago — is still pretty damn good. READ FULL STORY

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REQUIEM FOR A WELTERWEIGHT

Sports

REQUIEM FOR A WELTERWEIGHT

No Comments 23 November 2013

After eight frustrating years, four controversial fights, 42 contentiously scored rounds, with over 500 punches landed from more than 1,800 thrown, after two grueling hours of opportunity under the spotlight, on Dec. 8, 2012, Juan Manuel Marquez finally landed the punch of a lifetime against Manny Pacquiao. READ FULL STORY

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A GRIM, CHAOTIC COUNT

Current Affairs

A GRIM, CHAOTIC COUNT

No Comments 20 November 2013

Counting the dead in the Philippines is grim, slow, and frustratingly inexact work. On November 19, the Philippine government put the count at just under 3,982, but no one seemed to believe it would stay there. The United Nations warned that crews have still not reached some remote islands. READ FULL STORY

(See related story)

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‘WORSE THAN HELL’

Current Affairs

‘WORSE THAN HELL’

No Comments 14 November 2013

 A survivor of Supertyphoon Yolanda (international code name Haiyan) describes their condition as “worse than hell.” These images from CNN and New York Times capture the suffering and devastation from the world’s most powerful typhoon ever. Click links to view photos. Warning: the photo galleries contain graphic images.

CNN Photo Gallery    NY TIMES Photo Gallery

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CAN THE PHILIPPINES SAVE ITSELF FROM TYPHOONS?

Current Affairs

CAN THE PHILIPPINES SAVE ITSELF FROM TYPHOONS?

1 Comment 13 November 2013

For the third year in a row, the Philippines has been hit by a major storm claiming more than 1,000 lives, and the death toll from Haiyan, one of the worst on record, could climb to 10,000. With thousands of islands in the warm waters of the Pacific, the Philippines is destined to face the wrath of angry tropical storms year after year. READ FULL STORY

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WHEN HAIYAN STRUCK

Current Affairs

WHEN HAIYAN STRUCK

No Comments 13 November 2013

On November 8th, after Typhoon Haiyan hit, Helen Merino, a forty-four-year-old housemaid in Manila, tried to reach her parents in rural Barangay Tolingon, part of Isabel municipality in Leyte province. All power and communication lines were down, but somehow Facebook was accessible. READ FULL STORY

 

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A SURVIVOR’S STORY

Current Affairs

A SURVIVOR’S STORY

No Comments 12 November 2013

Lieutenant Colonel Fermin Carangan is the Commanding Officer of TOG 8, the Air Force unit tasked to provide air support for Samar and Leyte. Here he narrates his ordeal as Supertyphoon Haiyan (local name: Yolanda) unleashed her fury on Tacloban on that fateful morning of November 8. READ FULL STORY

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DESPERATE SURVIVORS RAID THE DEAD

Current Affairs

DESPERATE SURVIVORS RAID THE DEAD

No Comments 11 November 2013

TACLOBAN CITY – Tormented survivors of Super Typhoon Yolanda that is feared to have killed thousands rummaged for food through debris scattered with corpses, while frenzied mobs looted aid convoys.

Two days after one of the most powerful storms ever recorded flattened communities across a large part of the country last Nov. 8, desperate survival tactics created fresh horrors.

On the outskirts of Tacloban, a coastal eastern city of 220,000 where tsunami-like waves destroyed many buildings, Edward Gualberto accidentally stepped on bodies as he raided the wreckage of a home.

Wearing nothing but a pair of red basketball shorts, the father of four and barangay councilor apologized for his shabby appearance and for stealing from the dead.

“I am a decent person. But if you have not eaten in three days, you do shameful things to survive,” Gualberto told AFP as he dug canned goods from the debris and flies swarmed over the bodies.

“We have no food, we need water and other things to survive.”

After half a day’s work, he had filled a bag with an assortment of essentials, including packs of spaghetti, cans of beer, detergent, soap, canned goods, biscuits and candies.

People entered stores and homes just to to survive the day.

People entered stores and homes just to to survive the day.

“This typhoon has stripped us of our dignity… but I still have my family and I am thankful for that.”

Elsewhere in Tacloban, other survivors were employing more aggressive means as they took advantage of a security vacuum created when most of the city’s police force failed to turn up for work after the typhoon.

Philippine Red Cross chairman Richard Gordon said looters ransacked one of his organization’s trucks as it was crossing a bridge in Tanuan, Leyte, last Nov. 10.

“These are mobsters operating out of there,” said Gordon.

According to a report by the Sun Star, the truck carried enough food and water for 25,000 families.

Gordon tried to call local police forces for aid, but no one took his calls.

Like Gualberto, many said they had not eaten since the typhoon and overwhelmed authorities admitted they were unable to get enough relief supplies into the city.

Some broke through shops that had withstood the typhoon by hammering through glass windows and winching open steel barricades.

One desperate meat shop owner brandished a handgun in a failed bid to prevent one mob from entering his shop.

He was ignored and the shop was ransacked. The businessman just silently stood by, waving his gun in the air and shouting. When he realized he had lost the fight, he cursed them and walked away.

Nearby, pastry shop owner Emma Bermejo described the widespread looting as “anarchy.”

“There is no security personnel, relief goods are too slow to arrive. People are dirty, hungry and thirsty. A few more days and they will begin to kill each other,” she said.

“This is shameful. We have been hit by a catastrophe and now our businesses are gone. Looted. I can understand if they take our food and water, they can have it. But TV sets? Washing machines?”

Meanwhile, confused men, women and children walked aimlessly along roads strewn with overturned cars and felled power lines, some gagging from the stench of rotting flesh.

A team of military cadaver collectors had been deployed, but the soldiers appeared overwhelmed.

“There are six trucks going around the city picking up the dead, but it’s not enough,” said the driver of one of the vehicles as it wended its way through the streets.

“There are bodies everywhere, we do not have enough people to get to them.”

Some survivors handed out small letters to passers-by and reporters asking them to contact their relatives to relay their fate.

Many had wounds on their faces and were limping, while all had stories of unimaginable horror.

“The huge waves came again and again, flushing us out on the street and washing away our homes,” Mirasol Saoyi, 27, told AFP near the city’s seaside sports stadium that withstood the typhoon and where thousands of people had gathered.

“My husband tied us together, but still we got separated among the debris. I saw many people drowning, screaming and going under… I haven’t found my husband.” (Reuters and Agence France-Presse)

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BODIES HUNG FROM TREES, SCATTERED ON SIDEWALKS

Current Affairs

BODIES HUNG FROM TREES, SCATTERED ON SIDEWALKS

No Comments 11 November 2013

TACLOBAN CITY — Corpses hung from trees, were scattered on sidewalks or buried in flattened buildings — some of the thousands believed killed in one Philippine city alone by ferocious Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) that washed away homes and buildings with powerful winds and giant waves.

As the scale of devastation became clear on Nov. 10 from one of the worst storms ever recorded, officials said emergency crews could find more bodies when they reach parts of the archipelago cut off by flooding and landslides. Desperate residents raided grocery stores and gas stations in search of food, fuel and water as the government began relief efforts and international aid operations got underway.

Even in a nation regularly beset by earthquakes, volcanoes and tropical storms, Typhoon Haiyan appears to be the deadliest natural disaster on record.

Haiyan hit the eastern seaboard of the Philippines on Nov. 8 and quickly barreled across its central islands, packing winds of 235 kph (147 mph) that gusted to 275 kph (170 mph), and a storm surge of 6 meters (20 feet).

A man brings his lifeless 6-year-old daughter to the morgue in Tacloban City.

A man brings his lifeless 6-year-old daughter to the morgue in Tacloban City.

Hardest hit in the Philippines was Leyte Island, where regional Police Chief Elmer Soria said the provincial governor had told him there were about 10,000 dead, primarily from drowning and collapsed buildings. Most were in Tacloban, the provincial capital of about 200,000 people that is the biggest city on the island.

Reports also trickled in indicating deaths elsewhere on the island.

On Samar Island, Leo Dacaynos of the provincial disaster office said 300 people were confirmed dead in one town and another 2,000 were missing, with some towns yet to be reached by rescuers. He pleaded for food and water, adding that power was out and there was no cellphone signal, making communication possible only by radio.

Reports from other affected islands indicated dozens, perhaps hundreds more deaths.

With communications still knocked out in many areas, it was unclear how authorities were arriving at their estimates of the number of people killed, and it will be days before the full extent of the storm is known.

“On the way to the airport, we saw many bodies along the street,” said Philippine-born Australian Mila Ward, 53, who was waiting at the Tacloban airport to catch a military flight back to Manila, about 580 kilometers (360 miles) to the northwest. “They were covered with just anything — tarpaulin, roofing sheets, cardboard.” She said she passed “well over 100” bodies.

In one part of Tacloban, a ship had been pushed ashore and sat amid damaged homes.

Haiyan inflicted serious damage to at least six of the archipelago’s more than 7,000 islands, with Leyte, Samar and the northern part of Cebu appearing to bear the brunt of the storm. About 4 million people were affected by the storm, the national disaster agency said.

The Philippine National Red Cross said its efforts were hampered by looters, including some who attacked trucks of food and other relief supplies it was shipping to Tacloban from the southern port of Davao.

Tacloban’s two largest malls and grocery stores were looted, and police guarded a fuel depot. About 200 police officers were sent into Tacloban to restore law and order.

With other rampant looting reported, President Benigno Aquino III said he was considering declaring a state of emergency or martial law in Tacloban. A state of emergency usually includes curfews, price and food supply controls, military or police checkpoints and increased security patrols.

Residents walk past damaged structures in Daanbantayan, Cebu.

Residents walk past damaged structures in Daanbantayan, Cebu.

The massive casualties occurred even though the government had evacuated nearly 800,000 people ahead of the typhoon.

Challenged to respond to a disaster of such magnitude, the Philippine government also accepted help from abroad.

President Barack Obama said in a statement that he and his wife, Michelle, were “deeply saddened” by the deaths and damage from the typhoon. He said the U.S. was providing “significant humanitarian assistance” and was ready to assist in relief and recovery efforts.

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel directed the Pacific Command to deploy ships and aircraft to support search-and-rescue operations and fly in emergency supplies.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was “extremely concerned” by the widespread destruction and the steeply rising death toll, according to a statement released by his office.

Pope Francis led tens of thousands of people at the Vatican in prayer for the victims. The Philippines has the largest number of Catholics in Asia, and Filipinos are one of Rome’s biggest immigrant communities.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said Aquino was “speechless” when he told him of the devastation in Tacloban.

“I told him all systems are down,” Gazmin said. “There is no power, no water, nothing. People are desperate. They’re looting.”

“The devastation is … I don’t have the words for it,” Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said. “It’s really horrific. It’s a great human tragedy.” (Associated Press)

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