Mom weavers, sewists behind local handcrafted face masks elated over DOST approval

Original Article by Manila Bulletin

Date: February 13, 2021

MARAGONDON, Cavite – The team behind Likhang Maragondon is beaming with pride as the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) approves their Habing Maragondon product as the first local handwoven face mask that conformed to the recommended minimum specifications for non-medical face masks.

(Photos courtesy of Likhang Maragondon/ MANILA BULLETIN)

Likhang Maragondon employs 12 weavers and sewists, most of whom are housewives.

“Masaya kasi pwede naming ipagmalaki yung aming face mask na ginagawa (I’m happy because we can be proud of the face mask that we’re making),” Marilou M. Ramirez, a 46-year-old sewist for Likhang Maragondon, told Manila Bulletin. “Ang mahalaga po doon ay safe siyang gamitin (The important thing is, it’s safe to use).”

The DOST approval is just a cherry on top. Ramirez, along with her co-sewists and weavers, is thankful for having the opportunity to earn a living during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

(Photos courtesy of Likhang Maragondon/ MANILA BULLETIN)

Before the lockdown, Ramirez sewed school uniforms – a venture that came to a halt with the cancelation of face-to-face classes this academic year. And with her husband, a factory worker, not being able to report to work during the first few weeks of community quarantine, the income she earned from sewing face masks solely provided for her family.

Likhang Maragondon was only three months old when the pandemic hit. From a store that originally offered locally-made bamboo items and woven products like kimonos and ponchos, the enterprise decided to offer community face masks using handwoven fabrics to cater to the demand.

Catherine U. Diquit, the social entrepreneur behind the business, can’t be prouder of the project. When ventures started selling face masks featuring local weaves during the early months of the pandemic, she was tempted to follow suit. But as a product of Cavite National Science High School in Maragondon, she wanted to offer a product that is not only beautiful but also scientifically designed to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

“This is for our town, this is for our people,” Diquit told Manila Bulletin. “We’re selling something not just for the sake of profit, not just for the sake of aesthetics, but something that will also protect the people. Because the only way to get out of this pandemic is through science.”

Habing Maragondon face masks are composed of four layers: two inner hydrophilic materials, a hydrophobic material, and an outermost locally handloom-woven fabric made of 40 percent upcycled thread from factory rejects.

The enterprise has already shipped its face masks to 13 regions within the Philippines and to 16 countries abroad, including North Africa.