• By The Financial District


Updated: Sep 27, 2020

Obra Ilonggo is set to weave a rich tapestry of Ilonggo products that include the centuries-old Hablon with stunning designs envisioned to initially create a ripple here and later on in all of Asia and the world.

“The vision is to see Ilonggo products in many homes around the country – and in the world,” Obra Ilonggo President and Chief Creative Director Ms. Frannie Golez mused as she unveiled a social enterprise project meant to empower the women of Iloilo in this time of the pandemic.

This enviable project, conceptualized to help affected communities in this pandemic, is seen to interlace to the nation’s consciousness the rich history and weaving heritage from Hablon that has been part of barter trade in the 18th century.

Also in the pipeline are other handcrafted items selected for distinctly showcasing and promoting Ilonggo beauty, culture, and heritage.

What Obra Ilonggo does is to scout for products that communities churn out, tweak the design from good to great and then market the same using the group’s expertise.

A big help for the group’s efforts is that Obra Ilonggo’s Chairperson, Mrs. Rosalie Treñas, wife of Iloilo Mayor Jerry P. Treñas is an art lover and successful business woman complementing the design and graphic arts expertise of Frannie who has a double degree in Media Production and Graphic Arts major in Packaging Design and Branding from Assumption College and the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, California, USA.

Aside from Mrs. Treñas and Ms. Golez, the other members of the social enterprise project are Raisa S. Treñas, Karmela C. Jesena, Myka B. Perlas, Jane C. Jarantilla, the Treasurer, and Leny T. Ledesma, Corporate Secretary and Vince G. Abellar, the lone male member who provides a different perspective to the group’s efforts.

The eight-person team, which has combed the island in search for the product that Obra Ilonggo can market, have expertise in finance, banking, food and retail, marketing, design and art and real estate and entrepreneurship.

Mrs. Rosalie Treñas came up with the idea of empowering the women of Iloilo when she took note of the disastrous effects of COVID-19 on the small businesses and start-ups. She then linked up with Frannie Golez and Leny Ledesma and came up with the idea of helping the affected communities.

Last week, the team was ecstatic: Obra Ilonggo’s point-man for the Hablon weavers from northern Iloilo reported that the women who operate the old looms were excited due to the additional orders that came their way.

The looms had been quiet for some time but with the orders that Obra Ilonggo got they can look forward to working again, to having more food at the table, to being proud that the centuries-old Hablon that had electrified the 18th century can again work its wonders in the time of COVID-19.

What makes Obra Ilonggo succeed in its offering is a collective desire to succeed in marketing the Iloilo products that come their way and an open mind from the communities to rise to the challenge that the eight-person team comes up with after meticulously looking at a product from all angles.

The team meets to pass upon the merits of each product that are presented to them for consideration, some they discover as they comb the inner communities and others recommended by their friends and friend of friends. Many have heard about their advocacy and many have responded.

For Frannie, the brainstorming sessions they conduct to pass upon the products are sources of extreme pleasure as the needed tweak sometimes involves one of design and graphic arts, areas where she honed her skills.

“Personally for us, every day provides us an adventure in learning and re-learning our culture, in seeing the inner beauty and in wanting everybody else other than ourselves to see this with us. If the locals and the rest of the country can discover what Ilonggos can make and what they can offer, the beauty there is, then we know we can be proud of ourselves as Ilonggos,“ she said.

While the members of Obra Ilonggo have individual day jobs, the challenge of providing a helping hand to the women of Iloilo provides a reason for them to smile and be happy. And for the brainstorming sessions on the products and the hurdling of challenges are considered as fellowships away from their jobs.

The members derive pleasure from helping.

According to Mrs. Treñas, “it feels good to hear the community members tell us “ay Inday dako gid ni na bulig nahimo nyo para sa amon… (translated to oh ma’am it's a real big help what you are all doing for all of us…) to which they say that “we enjoy working with them, discovering their talents, and helping them grow. That's what we want, to grow together. Seeing their eyes twinkle when they learn something new from us and knowing they will make something beautiful, that is what gives us joy.“

Since the team conceptualized the social enterprise project, the members have been able to overcome the challenges from the pandemic and what made it worthwhile was the fact that they have seen to it that the temporary roadblocks they encounter are just that: temporary.

While COVID-19 had been a hindrance, the team applied the needed solutions. Where capital is needed, Obra Ilonggo provides it; when raw materials are a problem, they supply it; whatever stumps the Iloilo producers of handicraft items and other products, they come with the answer.

“All these apply to our community and micro entrepreneur partners because they live in far flung areas, because if they cannot have access to raw materials, how will they produce, and if they do not produce how will they sell, and if they do not sell, how will they eat,” Frannie said.

Obra Ilonggo endeavors to make life easier for those they help. “We even buy the materials and have it delivered to them so they can start producing. They do not have to worry about marketing or selling as we will do it for them. We have the technology, the market know-how, the network and contacts. They just need to worry about their production,” Frannie said.

What Obra Ilonggo has been doing has so far resonated from afar. Marketing whiz Ardee Urbina from Pasay City and his true-blue Ilongga wife Lillian Urbina are now awaiting the formal launch of the Ilonggo products come August 25, 2020. And they are raring to buy the products to gift to their friends.

Ardee cited the project to put on the map Hablon weaving noteworthy having seen for himself, courtesy of Google, an old woman manipulating a rickety loom with deft hands that go over multicolored yarns while pushing two of the pedals down below. “It is a sight to behold,” he added.

Frannie said that Obra Ilonggo is going to do an online launch of the initial offering of select Iloilo products this Tuesday citing how happy the team is “with our first collection whose theme is Rustic Ilonggo: A reflection of the kind of simple life we have here in our cities, towns, in the island. But in its simplicity, there is still that beauty and elegance and gentle character of the Ilonggo people.

And there is no stopping for Obra Ilonggo as it “push for the growth and development of local enterprise and indigenous materials from the Panay and Guimaras islands so that we can help empower communities, entrepreneurs, and local women, “

“By pursuing this endeavor, we can then make the local economy go around by providing more opportunities, and jobs whilst we market the products to other cities and the rest of the world,” Frannie said, with that unmistakable lilt in her voice that forms part of the rich Ilonggo culture. [Lito U. Gagni]

The Financial District would like to learn more from its audience. Can you please give us feedback on this article you just read. Click Here to participate in our online survey.