Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Salay Handmade Paper Industries, Inc.

The quaint town of Salay is in the province of Misamis Oriental, in green Mindanao of the Philippines. It is a fourth class municipality. So very typical of most rural towns, Salay is quiet and the people live simply, engaging in traditional agriculture and fishing.

In 1987, however, clashes between the New People's Army (NPA) rebels and government soldiers displaced the mountain people who depended mainly on their small farm lots for subsistence. The people had to move down to the Poblacion, where they had no adequate food and other necessities.

In the midst of this condition, civic-minded individuals heeded the national government's call for the people to organize the People's Economic Council (PEC) so they could help themselves. Thus, PEC-Salay was born and came to the family of Dr. Reynaldo and Loreta Rafisura.
Loreta was then recuperating from mastectomy. Dr. Rafisura was serving as the Municipal Health Officer.

Being natives of Salay, the couple felt their hearts "wrenched" when they saw some of their town mates begging for food. This tragedy had never occurred before. Food was always available, at the very least in the form of backyard root crops and vegetables. But in 1987, even these were lost when the people left their farms and livelihood to evade the fighting.

Providence must have guided Dr. Rafisura one night when he saw an exhibit of livelihood projects. He was on his way home from a medical seminar in the nearby city of Cagayan de Oro. The exhibits, which included instructional film shows, were presented in the municipality of Villanueva by the Design Mobile of the Product Development and Design Center of the Philippines (PDDCP). One of the movies was about the process of making handmade paper using cogon grass (Imperata cylindrica exaltata).

Dr. Rafisura was convinced that handmade papermaking was the answer to PEC's search for a livelihood project, one that could solve the unemployment problem of Salay. In Salay, grass was (and still is) more abundant than anything else! "Cogon is a pest," Dr. Rafisura said, "but if it could be made into something beautiful, something that could help our people, then we have to exploit its potential."

A month later, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) sponsored a three-day workshop on handmade papermaking in Salay. The trainer was Ms. Elizabeth Tagaylo, a chemist. Fifty-three people attended the course, but they were surprised and dismayed at the result of the workshop: The sheet of handmade paper was coarse like an egg tray.

Consequently, only a few participants persevered to finish the training.
Still, 10 people decided to stick together and continued the effort. To sustain the project, all the workers willingly sacrificed by receiving pay that cash flow allowed. A raffle draw was made, resulting in an initial capital of P6,000

It was the DTI, especially Provincial Director Alfonso Alamban and Regional Director Ninfa Along-Albania, who kept the morale of the group always high, enabling the group to meet the daily challenges. Other agencies who became friends were the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Fiber Industry and Development Authority (FIDA), PDDCP, and other local and even foreign non- government organizations (NGOs).

Starting with the lowly cogon grass, the group conducted experiments and successfully made original formulas using fiber of abaca (Musa textilis), leaves of pineapple (Ananas comosus), sawdust, bark of salago (Wikstroemia lancelota) and other indigenous materials.

The group then peddled the products and displayed them on consignment basis at stores in Cagayan de Oro and even in Manila. They also joined trade fairs and networked with any agencies willing to help them. Still, it was very difficult to sell handmade paper sheets per se. No one in Mindanao knew about them or appreciated their environmental value.

Hoping to increase sales, the group started converting the handmade paper sheets into artistic handicrafts. This practice began after Loreta, who loves nature, took the weeds and flowers in her garden and pressed them.

Afterwards, her sister Carmen Capistrano, a local high school teacher in Salay, decorated a sheet of handmade paper with pressed flowers and leaves. She then added some writings, and turned this combination into a Valentine's card -- the first greeting card of the group. The process was meticulous and time-consuming, but the finished product did look much better than the plain sheet.

This procedure of pressing plant parts on handmade paper eventually became the trademark of the group. If there was a paper heaven, Salay is it!



The dream of the 10 people who grouped together in the Handmade Papermaking Group of the People's Economic Council of Salay Misamis Oriental, Philippines in 1987 was to form a Cooperative or a Foundation.

Lack of money in the form of equity and bank account prevented it from being so. Instead it was registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission as a Corporation in 1990.

Its founding leader, Mrs. Loreta Rafisura, did so just to be able to secure a legal personality. Then, she learned from books what a Corporation is and how it functions.

The aspiration that its workers should be part owner of the company where they gave their time, talent and resources to was not shelved away.

Salay Handmade Paper Industries Incorporated functioned as a Corporation with a Cooperative heart.

Through the years, 14 workers became stockholders by way of stocks salary or stocks bought from salary deduction. In 2003, its 14 stockholders own a little more than 15% of the capital stock. Mrs. Rafisura and her family has about a third of it. They, too are workers: Dr. Reynaldo G. Rafisura as its Chairman of the Board and Mrs. Loreta Rafisura as President. When their 3 children finished college they came in to help. Neil is its General Manager now. Loreen Marie was its Marketing Officer until she left for the US to work as a nurse and J. Emmanuel is now a member of the Board of Directors and its treasurer.

The social concerns of SHAPII have never been forgotten . Where there are activities in the town, province, region or in the national scene that concerns the development of the Filipino, SHAPII workers would be there too.

On July 3, 2000, the Salay Handmade Paper Industries Foundation, Inc. was registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. This formally separated the social arm of SHAPII from its business activities.

It had 9 members, again composed mostly of the members of the family of Dr. Reynaldo and Mrs. Loreta Rafisura and children. With close relatives Pocholo Capistrano, Recolito Perocho , Fritz Hortelano and Alfonso Alamban.

Members of the Administrative staff of SHAPII worked extra hours with it for very little compensation. In year 2002, all the other stockholders of SHAPII opted to be a member of the SHAPII Foundation with a minimum contribution of P100.00 per year. Now there are 60 people working together.

The primary aim of the Foundation is to have linkages and give scholarships to enable poor but deserving youth to pursue higher education.It also wants to organize/ sustain or support livelihood projects so that rural folks can have an alternative source of income within the rural setting.

It limits its scope primarily within the town of Salay. Its first activity is the Alay-sa-Bata Program (Offering for the Child) which sponsors scholarships from the elementary to High School in the local Salay National High School.

Alay-sa-Bata has committed to a $150.00-support-per-deserving-student, renewable every year until the child graduates from the 4 year secondary schooling. It deliberately does not intend to take all the financial responsibility from the parent as the Programme is conceived only as a grant-aid.

Amazingly this modest programme aimed at having only 12 scholars in 4 years grew too fast! Now, in school year 2003-2004 SHAPII has 27 in the roster and 7 of them are in College.The most significant networking the foundation had was with Fr. Terry Barcelon S.J. of Xavier University's NKVS scholarship program that enabled 4 of the brightest students who graduated from Salay National High School to enroll for medicine and nursing course at the elite university for free this year.

Truly, the foundation is holding on to the dream that the youth are our hope. The SHAPII Foundation is the workers' legacy to the future.When Vivien Carroll, who was connected with TVET in TESDA Region X of the Philippines, enabled the foundation to receive a donation of 20 used computers from Swinburne University of Australia, the SHAPII Basic Computer Services was created in Salay in 2001.

To date, SHAPII had trained 38 of its 350 workers to become computer literate on its own. Salay does not have internet or computer schools, so the foundation devised its own modules, bought its own units as the SHAPII export-oriented business prodded it to develop in IT.

In the field of Agriculture and Population activities, SHAPII has been active along with the Local Government Unit officials.

SHAPII Foundation's activities cover not only along the line of livelihood but also education, health, agriculture, information technology, population, values, and the youth….and just about anything that affects the development of the town’s people. (Salay Handmade Paper Industries, Inc.)


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