• The Financial District


COVID-19 has brought adverse impacts not only as threat to human health and lives, but also to various businesses and the economy. The implementation of community quarantine posed stiff challenges and unfavorable effects to micro small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

But for entrepreneur, Esrom Asuncion, this is not a perfect time to slumber. Driven by strong entrepreneurial mindset, Esrom looked for an opportunity to rise amidst the challenges of the #newnormal.

Esrom, a native of San Juan, Ilocos Sur and owner of Esrom’s House of Eco Buri. The main products include colorful and trendy bayongs, pouches and buri bags. A regular in trade fairs and exhibits, Esrom’s products were always one of the top picks among local and international buyers. This is not until the pandemic COVID-19 struck.

“I realized that my Buri Bags lost its market. Pasalubong Centers and Trade Fairs are prohibited. People do not need my bags anymore, they only need essential items to survive COVID-19.” Esrom said.

The demand for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), face shields and face masks begun to increase across the globe. Everyone is required to wear masks to ensure basic level of protection from the virus. This is where Esrom grasped the idea to adjust in the situation and find ways to innovate products.

Esrom gathered all the scrap fabrics from their bag production area, this time not to make another fashionable bag, but for a bigger and more useful purpose. Esrom’s creative knack in arts and crafts paved way to the creation of face masks made from Inabel and Binakol fabrics.

“As an Ilocano, I wanted to promote the genuine Ilocano culture and heritage through our inabel fabric. It’s also a way of helping our local weavers earn a living amidst the pandemic.” Esrom added.

Indigenous to the Ilocos region, Inabel is the Ilocano term for handwoven or “hinabi” in Filipino. Handed down from generation to generation, the art of Inabel Weaving is a golden thread entwined in the Ilocano culture. Manually woven through a wooden-pedal loom, an abel fabric is made up of pure creativity, imagination, positivity, respect, discipline and keenness. Traditionally used for blankets, pillowcases, table runner, bags and other garments, the abel fabric is one of the exceptional Ilocano crafts that showcase not only of the Agagabel’s knack in weaving but also the greatness of Ilocano culture and tradition.“Binakol” on the other hand is a variation of the abel weave. Its design is composed of interlocked geometric patterns, resulting in an optical illusion despite its flat surface.

To ensure the quality of the face masks, Esrom personally facilitates the production starting from the pattern making up to sewing. With the help of Esrom’s mother and few family members they were able to produce masks for their consumption. When the demand got bigger and bulk orders came, she decided to hire members of the community to help them. Esrom prioritized those who have been displaced from their previous employments. To date, Esrom has a total of seven (7) workers.

Esrom did not go far nor joined trade fair exhibits to sell the inabel and binakol face mask. Buyers are within reach through the latest trend- E-commerce. Orders are being placed online and paid thru online banking or money remittances. Purchased products are sent to customers through courier services. These unique and washable inabel and binakol face masks have already reached not only in the Ilocos Region and Metro Manila but also internationally, such as Japan and Hawaii.

As the demand and market for face masks grow bigger, Esrom’s team will continue to produce inabel and binakol face masks. From a zero-income-generating business during the 1st few weeks of community quarantine, they have earned P20,000 income in less than two months of production.

With the business success in the midst of #newnormal, Esrom is thankful to DTI for the continuous guidance throughout her entrepreneurial journey. Aside from trade fairs and exhibits, Esrom is a regular recipient of various trainings conducted by DTI Ilocos Sur.

“The COVID-19 has brought drastic impact to MSMEs like me. In this difficult time, we need to step-up and find that ‘silver lining’ to help us get through it. To my fellow MSMEs, let’s bounce back and help one another.” Esrom said.

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