Tigaon, Camarines Sur – Residents in some villages of this town found an alternative way of using trees in their crafts without “balding” the forests. What they only need is the bark that is used in making products from flip-flops, native bags to home decors and Christmas ornaments.
BY EL INTERINO
Vol. VII, No. 46. December 23, 2007-January 5, 2008
Handicraft is a long-time major cottage industry here. Skillful people, like in Barangay (village) Gubat creates several products like bags, flip-flops, home adornments such as flowers and wall decorations, wallets and almost everything that could be done with their hands.
One of the main materials they use in handicraft is the salogon. It is the inner, soft bark of some trees taken by stripping and chipping-off the hard, outer bark to obtain the important finer stuff. It becomes a fabric when pounded carefully in rapid succession to become very thin sheet like paper or cloth.
Trinidad Genio, 85, is one of the Bicolano entrepreneurs who use salogon in her handicraft business since the 60’s. Mommy Trining, as her workers fondly call her, makes flowers, slippers, bags and other stuffs using the salogon fabric. She also customizes design according to orders of the clients.
“Sometime in 1962, I saw an old lady chewing nganga (betel nut). I was intrigued with the bag where she kept her nganga so I asked what that container is made of. She said it is made of a salogon, from a tree bark. She let me touch it and I learned that it is like a cloth. That’s how I got interested to start the business,” Mommy Trining said.
She recalled the difficulties she faced at the onset of what was to become their family business. She told Bulatlat that her husband Clodualdo used to be mad at her because he thought what she was doing was foolishness and a waste of time. He did not realize that her idea would bloom and could also penetrate the international market through export.
“Kaito, anggoton na marhay si agom ko pag nahihiling akong naggigibo nin bag asin burak. Ititarapok kaito ang mga salogon sa luwas kan harong mi dahil sa kaanggotan (Before, my husband would be very angry every time he sees me making bags and flowers using salogon. He throws away the salogon outside the house because of his annoyance),” she laughingly said in the vernacular language.
With her persistence and hard work, she continued doing her craft and began giving away samples of the products. She also made native bags for her friends as gifts during Christmas season. Slowly her craft was recognized and her trade was boosted.
“That’s how my business began,” she said. “Then I made other products using salogon. After recognition and encouragement from my friends, I began to mass-produce the products. I also joined exhibits and eventually embarked on exporting.”
Mommy Trining is a recipient of several prestigious prizes from different governmental and non-governmental awards because of her salogon crafts. She also became a nominee for an international award in Oslo, Norway.
“Kadakul na proseso ang pig-agihan kan salogon na ginagamit sa paghanda kaan (There are many processes done in preparing salogon to make it more useful),” said Belicia Buitizon, 60, the long-time employee and right-hand person of Mommy Trining. Aling Bisya, as she is fondly called, is the one responsible for preparing the salogon before it can be used for handicraft.
“An paka-deliver kan salogon, linalabahan iyan nganing mahali ang duga tapos isisablay asin nganing dai tagiptipon (After delivery, the salogon is washed to remove the excess sap of the fabric and avoid mildew),” Aling Bisya said as she related the procedure for processing salogon.
After that she bleaches the fabrics with chlorine and soaks it in a boiling dye solution for about five minutes to attain the desired color before drying it under the sun.
“Sunod kaan pig-armidol nganin maging purusog dangan sisablay giraray nganing mag-alang. Pagkatapos pigplantsa nganing maging gisik (The next step is spreading armidol over the fabric to strengthen it, then it is dried under the sun and finally, it is ironed to make it crisp),” she said.
Armidol is a glutinous colloid made from blending starch in water then boiled to make a paste.
After all the procedures in preparing the salogon, it is now ready for use.
Clobbers of barks
Nardito Colinares, 46, a resident of nearby Barangay Talojongon, is one of the clobbers of salogon, which he supplies to Mommy Trining. He disclosed that there are several trees that are good producer of barks.
“Igwang iba-ibang klase kan kahoy na nakukuanan nin marhay na salogon. An iba iyo an Tabgon, Balite, Rabas dangan an mismong kahoy na Salogon (There are several varieties that yield good salogon. Some of them are Tabgon, Balite, Rabas, and the Salogon tree itself),” he said.
Nardito told Bulatlat that producing salogon is very crucial. They would go to mountains of nearby municipalities and walk from the base at least 15 kilometers to where the salogon-producing trees are abundant.
“An pagkua kaiyan pigsusukol nin mga 30 pulgada hale sa poon. Lilinyahan iyan dangan pigbabakbak ang upak nganing makua itong malumoy na ginigibong salogon (Getting it is done by measuring about 30 inches from the tree base then lined to guide for stripping. Then it is stripped to get the soft component of the bark that is the salogon),” he said.
“Napakadelikado kan pagkua kaiyan. Minaduman kami sa bukid amayon, mga alas 5 nin aga. Grupo kaming minasakat sa bukid. Siguro mga 13 katawo kaming iribaha. May mga dara na kaming balon. Kun saen kami makaabot na may tubig duman kami makakan (Getting it is dangerous. We go to the mountains very early, around 5 a.m. in a group of about 13 people. We bring food with us and eat where we can find water),” he said.
This is evident because they go to several locations since salogon-producing trees nearby are now insufficient and doesn’t thrive in specific places.
The best time for them to climb the mountains is when it is not raining because the trails are not slippery. He said that they must go back to their homes before dusk to avoid further accidents that may arise.
“Masakit baga ta kung anu na sana ang makaengkwentro mi duman arog kan halas o kaya baul kaya dai kami puwede magturog duman ta minsan pati minaabot na sana ang maraot na panahon na dai pig-asahan lalo na ta harayo kami sa samuyang pamilya. (It’s really difficult because we do not know what we might encounter in the mountains like snakes or wild boar and we can’t stay there because bad weather comes unexpectedly, especially we are far away from our families),” Nardito said.
When they arrive in their homes, they had to chip-off the hard bark to get the salogon. It is then soaked in water for several hours to soften it before it is pounded briskly to make the sheets.
“Kaipuhan na maingat ang pagpukpok kaan ta nganing dai magisi asin nganing maging marhay ang kalidad (It is a must to beat it carefully to avoid tearing and to have a good quality),” he said.
After the salogon is made into sheets like fabric, it is sold to shops such as of Mommy Trining’s. The minimum price is 70 centavos to P1 per inch and depending on the quality of the sheets.
According to Nardito, the trees do not die because they do not cut them. The nutrient channels of the trees, xylem and phloem, are not affected since they only take several layers of the bark. The trees heal after five years and strippers can take its barks again.
He hopes that concerned government and non-government agencies as well as the people themselves would realize the value of salogon.
“Dapat iyan ang itanom kan mga tawo ta dakulaon na benepisyo kaiyan satuya (People should plant trees producing salogon because it is very beneficial to us),” he said.
He said further that salogon-producing trees grow year-round and is not hard to cultivate.
“Kun mahihiling ta, halos mayo na nin kahoy sa satuyang palibot. Kung kaya kaming mga parakuang salogon minaduman pa sa hararayong bukid ta yaon duman ang mga kahoy na nagtatao nin salogon (As we can see, there is almost no more trees left in our surroundings. That’s why we have to go to far mountains because there are the trees that give salogon),” he added.
“Mas marhay na iyan kesa magputol ning kahoy. Napo-protektaran pa ang satuyang kapalibutan sa mga kalamidad arog kan bagyo. Saka aram mi man na bawal ang magputol nin kahoy (It is better than cutting trees. It also protects our surroundings from calamities like typhoon. And we know that cutting trees is prohibited),” he said.
At present, trees, especially large ones, in this place are now scarce due to logging and charcoal production. But with the residents’ initiative and concern, rehabilitating the bald forest is possible. Bulatlat