Beautiful Handmade Cards from the Philippines
Share the message of Fair Trade with friends and family! These 100% handmade paper cards from
the artisans at Salay Handmade Paper Industries feature exquisite pressed-flower designs crafted
from indigenous raw fibres, flowers and grasses.
Fresh cogon grass is picked daily and drawn into town by ox-cart where it is cut, cooked and
processed by hand. Each piece of paper is created in a mould and deckle, couched in cloth, pressed
by hand and dried by air, sun or steam.
Each card breathes with the aspirations and inspirations of the artisans, who regard the process not
only as a means of livelihood, but even more so as a craft!
Marcelino Marianas Dablo takes great pride that his beloved bicycle remains in perfect repair 13
years after he acquired it through Salay’s interest-free salary-deduction bicycle program.
Dablo began his working life at an early age with the risky job of climbing tall coconut trees and
splitting mature nuts for copra drying. But now that he has a family he is glad to have secured a
safe, reliable and equitable job at Salay, allowing him to build a house for his family of three. He
hopes someday to see his children finish their college educations and is proud that his eldest
daughter has received a scholarship.
Every morning, Antonio Dablo Marianas loads his two eldest children on his bicycle and pedals
them to school on his way to work at Salay. Marianas, or Ton-Ton as he is affectionately known, is
a soft-spoken man of 36, and a loving husband and father of three.
Employed with Salay since he graduated high school nearly 18 years ago, he has since risen to the
position of foreman in the Paper Production and Paper Research divisions of the group. His interest
in handmade paper-making began when he was still a student, working in the household of Dr and
Mrs. Rafisura, the organization’s founders. Today, he is a strong advocate of Salay’s family
planning program and happy that his job enables him to save money for the future.
Judith Daquiado-Pahis is a woman of many talents. She works at Salay in the Product
Development Department, heads up a cluster of pressed flower designers and operates a sewing
machine both at Salay and independently as a dressmaker.
A mother of three, she is able to provide for her family’s basic expenses so that her husband,
employed as a construction worker in Manila, can put his income toward paying for their eldest
son’s college education.
Just east of Vietnam, the Philippines constitutes an archipelago of more than 7000 islands;
nevertheless, roughly two-thirds of the country’s 89,468,677 residents live on the island of Luzon.
Past Muslim, Spanish and American rule has created an interesting blend of native elements and
foreign influences. Geography has also generated a multiplicity of languages, some 80 dialects in
Once one of the richest countries in Asia, the Philippines has gradually become one of the poorest
in the region since gaining independence in 1946. Light industry and services, however, have made
considerable inroads in this mainly agricultural country as of late. Numerous call centers and
business process outsourcing (BPO) firms have migrated to the Philippines, generating thousands of
jobs and improving services with many clients, including Fortune 500 companies.
In spite of recent advances, poverty remains widespread in the Philippines, with 30 percent living below the national
poverty line. The economy is heavily dependent on money sent home by millions of Filipinos working overseas and,
despite government attempts to tackle problems, the gap between rich and poor is widening. With countries like China
offering cheap product to the world, handicraft artisans are finding it increasingly difficult to compete in the export market.
Kilowin Talong Sa Gata (Philippines)
Sample recipe taken from Salads and Side Dishes from Around the World, a New
Internationalist publication supporting Fair Trade and sold at many Ten Thousand
Villages stores. (Photo by Kam & Co, Denmark)
1 pound (450g) eggplants (aubergines) sliced*
3 tomatoes, chopped
1 scallion (spring onion) finely chopped
2 Tbsp vinegar
1/2 Tbsp black peppercorns, crushed
1/2 cup (120ml) coconut milk
*The slender ones are best, but the larger purple ones will do.
1. First place the tomatoes, scallion (spring onion), peppercorns, and vinegar into a bowl and mix well.
2. Set aside for 1 hour.
3. When ready to make the salad, grill the eggplant/aubergine slices until they are soft.
4. Place the pieces in a salad bowl and cover them with the tomato mixture. Set aside for 30 minutes.
5. Now pour the coconut milk over the salad; season and toss the ingredients lightly to mix well.
The Human Connection
“I believe that artisans put something of themselves into their crafts. And when the store is really,
really quiet, the crafts whisper stories to whoever wants to hear them. If only we knew how to
listen.” –Volunteer Martha de Santiago
Every handicraft inhabiting the shelves of Ten Thousand Villages’ stores has been given life by the
hands of a skilled craftsperson and carries in its body the stories, traditions and passions of its
maker. To hold one of these works thoughtfully in your hand is to begin a conversation with an
artisan who is shaping a better life in their home and community.
Many Ten Thousand Villages volunteers have felt compelled to give of their time precisely because
of this connection to the people and stories that lie behind the crafts.
THE HUMAN CONNECTION
For Victoria McTaggart of Ottawa, Ontario, this human connection is one of the most rewarding aspects of volunteering
with Ten Thousand Villages. “I had never worked in retail until coming to Ten Thousand Villages,” she says, “but I knew
that I loved talking with people and sharing in their stories. The personal nature of each item is a feature that sets Ten
Thousand Villages apart from others.
“I try to spend a few moments each shift reading an info sheet to familiarize myself with a producer group and their story. I
make a point of visiting markets, souks and bazaars when I travel. It’s through sitting down with local entrepreneurs and
hearing the stories about the passion of their trade that I begin to understand the culture and people of the country. My
house looks like a handicraft museum!”
Martha de Santiago feels similarly compelled by the stories behind the handicrafts. She came to Canada from her home in
Mexico to further her studies and, feeling called to reach out to those in developing countries, spent more than four years
volunteering at Ten Thousand Villages in Oakville, Ontario, before joining the marketing team at Head Office. The
volunteer experience has helped to put her life in perspective, she says. “Being exposed to the artisans’ stories makes you
realize how privileged you are; that your small problems are really opportunities.”
She recalls a story that has been particularly meaningful for her.
On a slow Sunday afternoon a woman came into the store, browsed for a short while and noticing a particular bracelet took
a closer look. She asked if it was from South Africa and proceeded to name the region, exclaiming, “I know the people who
The customer revealed that she had been visiting a friend in South Africa whose gardener was ill with AIDS. She had begun
regularly spending time with the man and his family, bringing food and checking on his health. It was then that she learned
that he also worked with an artisan group producing Zulu jewellery.
Concerned that were he to die his beloved family would be left without income, he had urged her to “please let everyone in
North America know that they are helping!”
The woman declared, “You have no idea how much this means to me! I’ve seen where this bracelet is made! The sales here
are really making a difference.” She then left the store, visibly emotional.
BRIDGING THE GAP
“Sometimes we feel like there’s a huge space between us and people in other countries,” says de Santiago. “But that
encounter proved to me that we’re closer than we think. The problem is that we don’t notice these connections, even when
they’re right in front of us.”
“It was just one bracelet, but it has a story. And every other item has a story behind it. You can feel the energy in the store.
I believe that artisans put something of themselves into their crafts. And when the store is really, really quiet, the crafts
whisper stories to whoever wants to hear them. If only we knew how to listen.”