Project Bamboo

Help the Batak Tribe bring their indigenous handicrafts to market through the Project Bamboo Crowdfunding Campaign

$ Pledged of the $ 6,500 Funding Goal

Last May, we launched the Project Bamboo Crowdfunding Campaign at START SOME GOOD. Although we did not reach our funding goal within the 45-day campaign period, nothing’s going to stop us from bringing new Batak bamboo products to market anyway, and we are grateful for all our generous backers who have sent their pledges through our COOPITA Shop.

About the Project

Meet the Batak of Palawan

The Batak are indigenous peoples who are said to be the Filipino ancestors – the first to set foot in the Philippines. The name, “Batak” is said to be a Cuyunon term for “mountain people”. The Batak used to be semi-nomadic, collecting foods from the forest and rivers. Today, the Batak live precariously in Palawan – the country’s last ecological frontier. According to population estimates, there are less than 400 Batak members left, and those that remain believe “Da’ na ang Batak” – “ Soon there will be no more Batak.”

The Last Guardians of the Forest

Traditionally hunters-gatherers, the Batak now suffer malnutrition because of dwindling forest resources. What used to be their sole food and livelihood source is now open to concessionaires and mining companies looking to exploit virgin forests in pursuit of profit. The lack of clean water and access to medical aid further aggravates the situation, and some Batak members literally die from diseases that are easily treatable in the city.

The last guardians of the vanishing rainforests of Palawan, the Batak are ill-equipped to operate in today’s market economy. Without access to education, they have a hard time finding jobs and earning a steady income.

Extreme poverty and illiteracy within the Batak community has placed them at the mercy of outside influence. Today, the Batak compete for resources with lowlanders and concessionaires – who take what they can from the forest in such massive, commercial scale that is unsustainable. Deprived of their traditional occupation, the Batak now come to work for the said concessionaires, through which they earn a meager 100PHP (US$ 2.16) per week, in harvesting rattan poles. A Batak worker makes 5 php for each pole that he spends half a day collecting, cleaning and transporting. Earnings from this work are not enough to sustain Batak families, which is why many of them are malnourished and are vulnerable to disease.

Baselisa Latube, former chieftain of the Batak settlement of Sitio Manggapin, has a heart-wrenching story. She and her husband were jailed intermittently for several years, with the longest stretching 6 years and 5 months. Their crime: living on land that the local concessionaires wished to usurp.

Deprived of their traditional occupation the Bataks are now dependent on sporadic manual wage labour through which they earn a meagre 100 PHP (US$ 2.16) per week.

With forest-resources on a steady decline, the Batak are losing more and more of their natural food source, health, and cultural identity.

Thankfully, there are many ways to help!

This campaign aims to to work within the tribe’s cultural foundation to create an alternative and sustainable livelihood for the Bataks.

Batak Craft will develop the tribe’s skill and process efficiency in traditional basket-weaving, document the tribe and its culture alongside, and helping them sell their products to an international market.

We also aim to provide a product refinement training programme for the tribe, so that they can eventually take ownership of every aspect of the product to market value chain.

Providing a sustainable livelihood to the Batak helps them:
  1. Bring food to their tables. One basket purchase can feed an entire family of 3-4 for several days.
  2. Get proper medical treatment in times of sickness. With a steady income, the Batak can afford to travel to city hospitals and pay for treatment and medicine.
  3. Protect the forests by saying no to concessionaires and mining companies who encroach upon ancestral land in pursuit of profit. With a sustainable livelihood in place, the Batak wouldn’t have to resort to working for mining companies (panning for gold) out of desperation.
  4. Strengthen cultural integrity and thrive in modern society. Palawan locals generally tend to discriminate against the Batak. This creates a sense of inferiority among the tribe, which partly contributes to their “vanishing status”. As a result, Batak members leave the tribe in search of greener pastures. But we believe greener pastures can be found within — and that’s why we want you to join us in making this happen.

The Rewards

Batak Craft has used our design background to innovate products that represent the craft traditions of the Batak and stand out at statement pieces in our backers’ homes and wardrobes. Please find below images of the various rewards we have on offer specifically for this campaign.

The Cheerleader

Thank you for your support! Pledge $1 for the Cheerleader reward, and we’lll include your name on our donors page. You’ll also receive access to our exclusive Project Bamboo updates and offers throughout this campaign.

Sunday Social Webinar

Join Lara, the founder of Batak Craft and Naomi, the co-founder of Coopita, for a webinar on Project Bamboo and life with the Batak. We will be sending around a survey before the webinar as well so we can answer any specific questions you may have.

We’ll send you a bundle of three postcards depicting the Batak way of life, as the Last Guardians of the Forests of Palawan. Help spread our story across the world!

Forest Wood Bracelets

These bracelets are named after our beautiful Batak women, with meaningful stories to tell – click on each one to know more.

This design draws inspiration from the simple beaded jewellery of the Batak Tribe, and is made from wooden beads that are available in the local markets. Click the thumbnails to see the rest of the details at our Coopita shop.

Forest Wood Necklaces

These necklaces are named after our beautiful Batak women, with meaningful stories to tell.

This design draws inspiration from the simple beaded jewellery of the Batak Tribe, and is made from wooden beads that are available in the local markets.

Go Postal! Postcards, set of 3

We’ll send you a bundle of three postcards depicting the Batak way of life, as the Last Guardians of the Forests of Palawan. Help spread our story across the world!

Batak Beats: Forest Vibes | Music Album

Whether you are a fan of world music or a cultural explorer, this digital music album is a one-of-a-kind compilation of the Songs of the Batak. Music cuts across borders and we hope this album, one of our efforts to document the cultural traditions of the Batak, will bring as much joy to you as it did to us when producing it. This product also comes with a PDF eBook of the singers’ stories.

Bamboo Coasters, Set of 4

A set of 4 Bamboo in Resin coasters with a beautiful Batak weave pattern, so you can enjoy your drinks in style and keep your tables free of mug/glass stains. Each coaster’s design is customized to your preference.

Zen Bamboo Place Mat

These incredible bamboo mats showcase the incredible weaving skills of the Batak. The mats will be available in a choice of Batak weaves, which will be specified. Available at Coopita.

Tales of the Batak | Coffee Table Book

An important part of Batak Craft’s mission is to document the cultural traditions of the Batak before they are forgotten. This coffee table book captures the realities of life among the Batak and shares stories that are important to the tribe.

Batak Baskets, Set of 3

This set of three baskets will be the perfect statement pieces for your home. Available in a choice of Batak weaving patterns, which will be specified after you order.

Batak Home Bundle

Whether you are a fan of world music or a cultural explorer, this digital music album is a one-of-a-kind compilation of the Songs of the Batak. Music cuts across borders and we hope this album, one of our efforts to document the cultural traditions of the Batak, will bring as much joy to you as it did to us when producing it. This product also comes with a PDF eBook of the singers’ stories.

Product Refinement Training

Sponsor a 3-day refinement training programme for 8 Batak weavers, so that they can take control of another part of the product creation value chain and take another step towards realising economic self-sufficiency.

We will document the training and keep you connected to your weavers so you can see behind-the-scenes how your pledge has helped them and their families. We will also film a Thank You message from your Batak family to show you our heartfelt gratitude for your support.

About Batak Craft

Batak Craft is a Philippines-based community-run effort working to rehabilitate the Batak Tribe’s physical and cultural health by addressing the root causes of their depopulation through enterprise facilitation: specifically, by creating a sustainable bamboo-weaving business for the Batak.

For Lara Frayre, a multi-disciplinary designer, Batak Craft is the culmination of a decade of continuing education in the artistic, socio-cultural, and entrepreneurial disciplines.

Lara was working for an NGO to construct a yoga center at Roxas, Palawan. The project had hired workers in the vicinity for the construction. Over time, she noticed that some workers were tougher, more honest, and more hardworking than the others. They showed up early at work; they left the last. They were humble, and seemed to be content with the simplest things in life. She got to know them better by visiting their homes, asking many questions, and ultimately discovering that they were members of a tribe called, Batak.

She went back home to Manila when the project concluded, but felt a connection with the Batak.

“Poring through academic papers, I started having a sinking feeling in my chest when I discovered that there are only about 400 Batak left, which is half of their population back in the 1900s.”

She decided to carry out deeper research to learn if they wanted help, and identify the best way to help them.

Lara formed a small team with two other locals. With just a motorcycle, their bags and food supplies, the team sought out the 6 most populated Batak settlements on a three-week adventure, which included trekking for hours across multiple river crossings, going to and from each community.

“Things weren’t always easy – during our first visit to the Batak pilot group at Sitio Manggapin, a woman ex-chieftain named Baselisa glared at us with a suspicious, ‘Who are you and why are you here?’ There is a long-running history of outside communities taking advantage of tribal groups and so some of them are wary of people who offer help. But, that’s how the idea of Batak Craft took shape.”

About Coopita

Coopita is a Singapore-based platform focused on enhancing the capabilities of makers working on craft preservation across Asia. Since the start of operations in June 2016, Coopita’s community has grown to include over 110 makers from across 8 different countries in Asia.

Naomi joined Coopita as a co-founder in 2016, driven by a passion for the rich craft traditions of Asia. With a background in economics and public policy, Naomi has always been interested in the role of social enterprises in development policy.

Naomi is responsible for Coopita’s on the ground efforts to reach out to unique maker communities working on craft preservation across Asia, which is how she came across Batak Craft. She was very impressed in terms of the clarity of Lara’s end goals as well as her passion and commitment to working with the Bataks to find a solution that could help them move into the modern economy without losing their rich cultural heritage.

Coopita had been considering the use of crowdfunding as tool to finance product innovations for makers across our community. When Naomi realised that this is something that Lara had considered but needed more resources to get off the ground, she knew that Project Bamboo would be perfect as Coopita’s first crowdfunding collaboration with a partner maker.

Frequently Asked Questions

We at Batak Craft and Coopita are so excited to present Project Bamboo to the Start Some Good community. Head over to our FAQ DOCUMENT or please get in touch with us if you have any questions or feedback on our project. We really appreciate your support.

Use of Funds

$6,500 TIPPING POINT GOAL

Batak Craft works with ten Batak families in Palawan who are trained in basketry. If we reach our tipping point, our campaign will be able to provide benefits to the ten Batak families that translate to allowing each family* to earn PHP 1750 (US$ 35) per week for a period of 6.5 weeks to tide over the dry season, when it is especially difficult for them to meet their daily expenses.

*Each family has an average of 3 members.

$8,500 STRETCH GOAL

Achieving the stretch goal will allow us to provide the equivalent of an additional 2 weeks of work for the 10 Batak families that Batak Craft works with. It will also allow us to fund a product refinement training programme to enable Batak members to get involved in the product design process.

Supporters

  • Jacob Maentz

  • Tom Dawkins

  • Isaac Lian

  • Laldinkima Sailo

  • Anshika Arora

  • Daisy Scoggin

  • Angela Sabas

  • Alison Yuen

  • Johannes Loh

  • Anna Gätjen

  • Bhavna Jagwani

  • Achim O. Haid-loh

  • Vamsi Ram Maddimsetti

  • Elsa George Thayil

  • Christie Thomas

  • Aruna George

  • Karyn Suwito

  • Tarang Kumar

  • Rohan Trivedi

  • M Jacob

  • Tracy Cheng

  • Megha Prakash

  • Katy Nagabhushan

  • Chacko Kurian

  • Avni Pundir

  • Jaron Soh

  • Mikhail Jacob

  • Varghese Abraham

  • Abhimanyu Agarwalla

  • Agatha Lee

  • Laura Francois

  • Karin Stephan

  • Ambar Widiastuti

  • George Jacob

  • Rohan Abraham

Be Part of the Movement

Hello, Changemaker! Sign up here to get special updates on our ongoing campaign to help save the vanishing Batak Tribe of the Philippines



This campaign is dedicated to our beloved Batak elder, a beautiful soul with a gentle heart, Polka.
About

Batak Craft: Traditional Skills and Livelihood Development for the Batak Tribe of Palawan, Philippines

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