A year after deadly typhoon, Philippines women weave their magic

Thu Nov 6, 2014 8:34pm EST
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By Roli Ng and Rosemarie Francisco

BASEY/MANILA Philippines (Reuters) - A year after one of the world's most powerful storms smashed into the Philippines, a group of women are stitching their lives back together by weaving colorful reeds used in handicrafts sold by the world's top retailers.

Their workshop is a far cry from the high-end shops selling their products such as handbags and homewares on 5th Avenue in New York.

Sitting in one of the caves dotting the seaside highway of Basey town in central Philippines, about a dozen women weave the reed plant, known as tikog, which is sold to sustain their families still struggling to make ends meet after Typhoon Haiyan left more than 7,000 dead or missing last Nov. 8.

"Weaving helps feed our families. But we haven't really recovered, we still don't earn enough," said Marilyn Corpus, 46, from inside the cave whose cool temperature helps preserve the grass.

    Amongst the despair and devastation wrought by Haiyan - the strongest storm ever recorded to hit land - hundreds of women weavers have emerged as the main breadwinners in their families.

    Most of the weavers say they received relief and building materials for their homes from foreign and local NGOs and private groups, but none from the government, possibly because of their remote location.

But theirs is a rare story of hope in the region's rural economy, which was mainly dependent on the coconut groves destroyed by the storm.

In a country where about one in four people lived below the poverty line at the beginning of last year, Haiyan drove another 1.5 million Filipinos into the extreme hardship of living on less than $1 a day.   Continued...

Typhoon Haiyan survivors weave mats in a cave in Basey, Eastern Samar, in central Philippines November 6, 2014. REUTERS/Erik De Castro