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A sign of hope

Many may be familiar with the “kikay kits” or make-up bags, since expanded to include coin purses, passport holders, document folders and even handbags made out of leatherette with covers woven out of cloth scraps more commonly used for doormats.

These are products of an innovative social enterprise known as Rags2Riches (R2R) that sought to change the lives of women (and men) living in the urban poor community of Payatas, though it has since expanded to other communities around the country. This was done by tapping the already existing skills of the women, which they used only for weaving doormats out of cloth scraps that were then sold in markets or by door-to-door peddlers, and upgrading these into more marketable products. This was done with the use of improved designs for more upscale bags and purses whose profits would give the communities greater profit margins for their labor.

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Much of the success of R2R can be attributed to Reese Fernandez. I know her mainly as a sister in Towns (The Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service), who eight years ago began working with “artisans to create beautiful products that could also lift them out of poverty.” This Reese did by working with noted designers like Rajo Laurel and Amina Alunan to come up with stylish items out of such humble materials like woven cloth scraps. She then organized the artisans and began marketing the products first by word of mouth and then through stand-alone stores. “Scary-inspiring-joyful” is how Reese describes the journey she embarked on, and just last weekend, R2R marked a milestone by opening their fifth store on the third floor of the UP Town Center.

To celebrate the opening of this store and also on the occasion of Labor Day, R2R also held a sale in all their stores (the others are in Glorietta 3, Power Plant, Podium and TriNoma) with a 20-percent discount given on items worth P600 or more. R2R also has a website, www.rags2riches.ph, which those interested can visit to learn about the enterprise and what they can do to help.

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I visited the R2R store at the UP Town Center over the weekend and found a variety of products that have certainly gone a long way from the simple purses that made up the initial line.

Products bear a card that carries not only the name of the artisan that handcrafted the item, but also a “back story” that tells of R2R’s beginnings and philosophy.

“We are a fashion and design house empowering community artisans,” one tag proclaims. “In a world where fashion and designs are often seen as excess, R2R is proof that style and sustainability can coexist.”

Proudly, R2R says that “We don’t just love seeing transformation, we love being a big part of it! R2R is a life and livelihood partner for empowered and dignified artisans as they strive to weave better futures for their families and communities.”

Most of us are now caught up in election fever, pondering our choices and even, at times, letting the fevered loyalties triggered by candidates and political parties to strain (if not break entirely) personal ties and friendships. Of course our choices and loyalties matter, not only today but for tomorrow as well. But even if certain “unpalatables” win the vote, hope remains, and one such manifestation is the existence and flourishing of enterprises like R2R that prove joy and glory can survive even the most sorrowful mysteries.

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Despite the results released by the major survey firms, Rep. Gina de Venecia of Pangasinan’s fourth district (whose seat is now being contested by her son, Christopher) believes that Liberal Party’s Mar Roxas is the choice of the so-called “silent majority.”

She bases her belief, she said, in the massive showing of Roxas supporters when he arrived in Dagupan City for the last of the three presidential debates. Indeed, Roxas-Robredo supporters gave him a “yellow carpet” welcome, escorted him to the venue by hundreds of bikers while thousands of yellow-garbed supporters lined up both sides of the streets, waving yellow flaglets and showering him with yellow confetti as he entered the Phinma University of Pangasinan auditorium.

Later, during the debate, some 6,000 Ro-Ro supporters gathered in two viewing venues to cheer on their candidate. Hundreds of other supporters also watched the debate live at the Rizal Park in a spontaneous gathering that gave lie to the “snapshots” presented by the survey firms, holding up hope that in the last few days leading up to election day, a miracle could still occur or, rather, that the true will of the people would prevail.

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Despite his populist stances, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte does not really have the welfare of the poor, especially of farmers, in mind.

Eduardo Mora, sectoral representative of the National Anti-Poverty Commission for farmers and landless rural workers, says the mayor’s remorseless rejection of agrarian reform “is a signal that he doesn’t respect the Constitution and pays no heed to our rights.”

In his speech before the Makati Business Club, Duterte, in the course of his rambling declarations, announced that he would abolish the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) because it has not done the farmers or landowners any good. His rejection of CARP, said Mora, “underscores his lack of a clear and coherent economic platform because he fails to understand that agrarian redistributive justice is the bedrock of industrial development.”

Speaking in Filipino, Mora pointed out that agrarian reform is one of the core principles of development. “It has been proven in our history and in the history of other countries. Objecting to this is a signal of antipoor and selfish governance.”

So much for the mayor’s propoor rhetoric.

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TAGS: Elections 2016, Gina de Venecia, Mar Roxas, Payatas, Rags2Riches, Rodrigo Duterte, Social Enterprise
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