Known for its white beaches, enchanting caves, and breath-taking waterfalls, the town of Bolinao in Pangasinan never fails to wow local and foreign travellers. As a way to remember the beauty of the town, one must take home the best souvenir in town there is — seashell crafts.
The seashell souvenirs as products of the creative hands of the Bolinaos come in many lovely designs — chandeliers, wind chimes, Christmas lanterns, key chains, and bags, among others.
The high income potential of seashell souvenir making encouraged 10 Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program beneficiaries in Brgy. Balingasay to seek livelihood assistance from the Department of Social Welfare and Development Field Office 1 through its Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP) in 2015.
On the same year, the members were organized into Balingasay Women’s SLP Association receiving a seed capital fund of PhP10,000.00 each from DSWD GAA 2015 fund.
Gemma Gamueda, the Association President, said that she makes the souvenirs during her rest time from doing household chores, usually in the afternoon or at night while watching her favorite telenovelas. “Matrabaho ang paggawa pero nakasanayan na namin (It requires a lot of processes, but we are used to it),” she shared.
The members usually need an hour walk to the shore to glean sacks of free seashells or buy them at PhP60.00 to PhP75.00 per big can. These are dried up under the sun for a day or two. After which, the shells are cooked with chlorine for about five minutes in a big wok to attain their white color while making the shells more durable. These will be dried up under the sun again for a day. Some are dyed with colors for aesthetic purposes prior to designing.
The small lanterns are sold at PhP10.00 to P35.00 per piece while the prices of the chandeliers range from PhP60.00 to PhP250.00 depending on the size and design. Businessmen buy products from the association and sell them in retail in pasalubong centers and hotels in town while others are sold by bulk in Divisoria in Manila. During off-peak season, each member earns PhP1,200.00 monthly while during “Ber” months where Christmas lanterns are in demand, each member can earn as much as PhP4,000.00 to PhP5,000 monthly.
“Minimum wage earners ang mga asawa namin kaya malaking tulong ang kita namin dito. Masaya kami na umaabot sa iba’t ibang lugar ang aming mga gawang-kamay at nakakatulong kami sa turismo ng Bolinao (Our profits greatly augment the minimum wage of our husbands. We are happy that our handmade products have reached many places and we are helping the tourism industry of Bolinao),” said Gemma. (by: Janine Joy B. Altero, Social Marketing Officer, Sustainable Livelihood Program)