(SPOT.ph) Plastic pollution is one of the top environmental problems in the world, and the COVID-19 pandemic isn't helping as single-use surgical masks, gloves, gowns, and food packaging get added to the mix. Since face masks are now one of our everyday necessities, finding a reusable option that's also effective can make a difference. Teresita Fernandez Sebastian, a local crafter at Ody's Home Crafts in Catanduanes, is designing reusable face masks that use abaca fiber.
Abaca has been found to be seven times more effective at filtration and protection than cloth masks, based on a test by the Department of Science and Technology. They're also washable.
In 2018, the House of Representatives approved a bill declaring Catanduanes as the abaca capital of the Philippines. The island province is the top abaca producer in the country, contributing about 90% of Bicol Region's total production and about 40% of the Philippines’ abaca exports.
Aside from its economic contributions, fiber production from abaca also has great environmental benefits. The plant, which is a species of banana native to the Philippines, is considered to be zero-waste. Its seed is used as enzymes for cosmetics, the seed oil is used for non-toxic paints and dyes, and the stalks are the ones used as raw fiber material for ropes, clothes, textiles, and crafts. The fiber can also be used as pulp for paper and packaging—and now for handmade face masks.
Production of the handmade abaca face masks is yet to start, but will soon be sold at Ody's Home Crafts in Barangay Francia, Virac. For now, you can send a message to Teresita Fernandez Sebastian's Facebook page or to 0950-979-8073 for orders. Each piece costs P20, while wholesale order of one dozen is at P18 per piece. Ody's Home Crafts is open to shipping outside Catanduanes as soon as transport services normalize.
Catanduanes celebrates Abaca Festival every last week of May to showcase their cottage industry. Locals and tourists watch for the floats designed with abaca fiber, abaca-made clothes and bags, and other abaca-inspired products.