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Carmelite Missionaries Bamboo Crafts: Helping the poor, preserving Ilonggo culture

Submitted by on January 2, 2012 – 5:41 pm13 Comments

Trendy, environment-friendly, religious and intimate – those are the words I would describe the place where I saw these bamboo products were made. But there’s more to the CM (Carmelite Missionaries) Bamboo Craft Center than meets the eye. So let me take you on a journey of a fresh green bamboo turning into a work of art and love.

I arrived at the shop at 9 in the morning and Sister Julie is already busy entertaining guests at her office. Asked to wait in the showroom, I busied myself looking at pieces of bamboo products on display. It’s not your usual souvenir or crafts store – CM Bamboo Crafts is a social project by the Carmelite Sisters in helping the poor and the out-of-school youth by providing them with livelihood. I was nervous and at the same time excited to explore the shop and see for myself how these lovely products were made.

Behind the Scenes of Bamboo Crafts

DagoySister Julie, the head of CMBC, toured me first at the “assembly area”, where treated and already processed pieces of bamboo are being assembled. I was lucky to observe their latest order being completed – the official Dinagyang Dolls ordered by the city government for next year’s festival. At the table are miniature head dresses made of raffia, and plastic dolls on which they were fit in. Sister Julie told me that these tasks are handled by women since it’s light but equally meticulous. Other tasks also include assembling frames, packaging and others.

Outside the assembly area, finished products are placed on a long table and waiting to be packed and placed on inventory.

Continuing with the tour, we entered the work shop where the bamboos are cut and made into different products. The shop is a large room filled with work stations, each assigned with different tasks. It’s interesting to note that most of the designs are now being made by their employees (they previously had a designer who exclusively works on the product models).

As to the source of the bamboos, I was told that they procure their materials from Jaro market. Unlike in other countries like China, CMBC does not have their own bamboo plantation. This presents a problem since bamboos coming from the market are not of equal value and must strictly inspected for quality control. The bamboos are then dried by sunlight outside the shop (a drier donated by the DOST is now out of order). Once dried, the bamboos are then chopped into different shape and sizes depending on the design of the product. The pieces of bamboo are then smoothened manually using sand paper (they had mechanical sanders but due to electrical problems most are now malfunctioning).

Inspired by Religiosity and Ilonggo Folk Culture

A separate building at the back of the shop contains the dormitory, painting area, and the designer’s work station. We first entered the designer’s station where decorative items such as frames and religious icons are made. At the table are worker’s source of inspiration – pictures of Jesus, the Last Supper, churches and other religious images. I did not miss the guitar sitting at the other side of the table – another source of inspiration — music during break times.

Upstairs is the painting room – workers spray painted pieces of bamboo according to their specs while others are painted with brush. While seeing the raffia being painted blue, I asked Sister Julie about the spiritual development of her employees. She said that every day, before starting their work, they gather and pray and do some sharing. She usually gives a talk for 3 to 5 minutes for guidance and inspiration. Quarterly they also have retreats especially during Lent and Advent.

Roots started out of need to provide livelihood

Bamboo Crafts Center

CM Bamboo Crafts was started by Sister Natividad Martines, a Spanish missionary, on 1974. While traveling from their convent at La Paz to their communities in Dingle, Sister Naty saw lots of bamboos idle along the way. With intent to alleviate the poverty, the plight and suffering of the poor, she was inspired to use the bamboos to provide livelihood and create jobs as many as possible. Thus the social project started.

Sister Naty and another Carmelite missionary underwent training on bamboo crafts. With six youths, Sister Naty started CMBC inside an old building in La Paz. The other Carmelite missionary started a shop at India, but was later closed down. Today, CMBC is widely known nationwide and internationally. They are sustained by orders from LGUs and private individuals such as tourists, interior designers, convention organizers and religious store owners.

Problems confronting Bamboo Crafts

The rise of China’s cheap products had greatly affected the operations of CMBC. With its cheap labor, heavy government subsidies, and high-tech equipment, China’s products have greatly reduced the value of bamboo crafts. Overall, bamboo crafts industry in our country faced setbacks in their businesses as competition grew fierce.

With few personnel, Sister Julie noted that they had difficulty completing orders from retail giants which order bulks on small time allowance. She noted that they’re faced with a dilemma of meeting the orders and reap profits while employees experience hazards on their health. Sister Julie said that their number one priority is the welfare of their employees. If her employees got sick from their work, what’s the point? she says.

Another problem they experience with retail giants are the high price markup while paying meager to the manufacturers such as CMBC. Sometimes while visiting malls, Sister Julie said she saw some of their items sold 300% higher than the suggested retail price. Due to intense pressure and unfair business practices of some retail giants, she said they refused some of their orders.

How can we help?

What can we do to help CM Bamboo Crafts? One is to patronize their products. I would encourage tourists to instead buy at their store rather than at retailers inside malls. By buying directly at manufacturers such as CMBC, we are assured that what we’re buying are truly Pinoy and are work of love and human hands.

If you plan on giving away souvenirs during conferences, conventions or just simply provide gifts to family and friends, look no farther and visit the CMBC shop.

Think green! Bamboos can easily be replaced as compared to forest trees. Aside from its stylish designs, crafts in bamboo evoke a tropical feeling. This is especially good if you’re working to have that atmosphere on hotels, restaurants or at your own home.

Truly, CMBC is not just an ordinary crafts store. It has become a vehicle for us to do good to others while appreciating quality products. CMBC is also a living conservatory of Iloilo culture, ingenuity and compassion.

For samples of their products, visit my other post:

“CM Bamboo Crafts: The Online Catalog”

Contact Details:

CM Bamboo Craft Center
2 Jereos Street, La Paz, Iloilo City
Tel. No. (033) 320-0053

CM Bamboo Craft Center Display Center
154 Kaliraya
Tatalon, Quezon City
Tel No. (02) 740-8655

Carmelite Missionaries
Provincial House
19 Sct Madrinian Stree, Quezon City
Telefax (02) 924-1020

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  • Sr. Gina, CM says:

    Hello, Mark! How nice of you to have featured the CM Bamboo Craft. May GOD continue to inspire you to make a difference in your field of interest. I will keep you in my prayer.

    • Mark Segador says:

      Thank you very much Sister Gina! I hope through this post more and more Ilonggos and tourists will visit CM Bamboo Crafts and patronize our local products. With this, we can continually support our ministry of helping the poor youth. God bless you also! =)

      • Sr. Gina V. Pios, CM says:

        Hello, Mark! I told many sisters about you featuring our social project. Expect for more messages to come your way (even as far as Rome and Spain). See, you have an instant group of prayer warriors. GOD bless you!

  • Sr. Flordeliza Presquito, cm says:

    Thank you very much Mr. Mark Segador for featuring our Bamboo Craft in the Net. You are a great help in supporting the poor youth we are helping through the social project for the poor by the Carmelite Missionaries. May the Good Lord bless you in your mission as collaborator in this ministry. – Sr. Flordeliza Presquito, cm (Mater Carmeli Ladies Home, 12 San Agustin Street, Iloilo City)

  • Sr. Julie Ganza,cm says:

    Greetings of Peace and Joy!

    Thank you very much Mark for your kind effort in featuring our Social Project “CMBC” may this endeavor will bear more blessings to our recepient the poor. Rest assured of our prayer CMBC Staff and workers. God Bless You always.
    May I correct our address in Manila Outlet the one I gave is our former address, here is our present address in Manila :
    154 Kaliraya
    Tatalon, Quezon City
    Tel#02 7408655

    Sr. Julie Ganza,cm

    • Mark Segador says:

      thank you Sister Julie! I hope I can revisit CMBC this month or this February. Sure, Sister, I’ll update your Manila Address. God bless you! =)

      • Sr. Ting calamba, CM says:

        Hi, Mark! What a joy to see our products featured in the Internet. It’s amazing! When Sr. Gina told us about this good news,I can’t help but scribble some lines to appreciate and thank you for promoting our mission and of course our bamboo products.
        May God reward you for your kindness and generosity. Would it be possible to meet you. I will be in Iloilo next week. If yes, I will be very happy to introduce to you our center of life, a retreat and training center.
        Thank you once again and hope to hear from your response.

        May God bless you and your work. Kind regards,
        Sr. Ting, CM

        • Mark Segador says:

          Hi Sister! Thank you very much for your support and for appreciating my work. I admire your ministry in helping our fellow Filipinos. I hope to see you soon here in Iloilo. God bless always!

  • Sr. Ting Calamba, CM says:

    Dear Mark,
    God’s peace be with you!
    Hi, how are you?
    It’s a joy to read something about CMBC in the internet. Thank you for featuring our products and promoting CMBC as well. How nice of you. May God reward you.
    How I wish to see you. I will be in Iloilo next week. Would it be possible to introduce to you our Carmelite Missionaries Center of Life (CMCL) retreat and training center in Brgy. Tinocuan, Duenas, Iloilo.
    May God bless you and your work. Keep up!

    In Missionary Carmel,
    Sr. Ting

  • Hey! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a team of volunteers and starting a new project
    in a community in the same niche. Your blog provided us valuable information to work on.
    You have done a marvellous job!

  • julius c. verdadero says:

    Hi Mark!

    First, let me congratulate you for featuring the works of the CMBC, Iloilo City. Your article is indeed comprehensive. I have many questions about bamboo crafts production and all of it were answered by your article. I once visited the place sometime last year and like you I was so impressed by their works of art. I brought home with me few pieces to show to my officemates how lovely their crafts were.

    By the way, I used to work with DTI-R10 but now involved as the executive director of Dire Husi Initiatives, Inc. The organization is a non-government group advocating to provide livelihood opportunities also to members of the informal sector specifically the OSYs.

    Now, if it is not too much with you, may I ask for your help please for any contact numbers (cellphone number) that you may have from the CMBC so that I can directly get in touch with them? Please. Another thing, our group plans to visit CMBC within April, can we ask for any suggestion from you where to stay in a hotel / hostel that’s cheap?

    Hoping to hear from you soonest brother! God bless.

    Executive Director
    Dire Husi Initiatives, Inc.

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