January 24, 2011

Bamboo has always been a reliable source of livelihood for many in the town of Maasin, Iloilo. Bamboo foliage covers the mountains that jut out of the horizon. The people of Barangay Bolo have always taken great pride in being part of a community that has made their town the center of bamboo trade in the country.

Every day, the hardworking men of Bolo walk the beaten tracks to the bamboo patches that surround their village. There they toil, cutting mature bamboos to be sold off to the manufacturers in the “Banua.”

Bamboo cutting and harvesting is never easy. Some of the men spend an entire day cleaning and cutting bamboos in the forest. Then they transport the large culms to the roadside or riverside. Those who have carabaos are fortunate to have the heavy loads off their shoulder. However, others who could not afford to invest in the beast of burden would have to carry the heavy burden over their shoulders.

Jenny Mandate, a mother of five, is one of those less fortunate. The only woman bamboo cutter in her village, she does the job in behalf of her paralytic husband. In order to provide for her family’s needs, she spends hours toiling in the forest. Jenny has endured so much but unfortunately her story of sacrifice is nothing new in a place where poverty abounds.

Michael Manejo, 16, had his fair share of sacrifices too. At his age, he is supposed to worry over teenage life, not over his family’s meal the next day.

Join Kara David as she chronicles the struggle of the proud and hardworking bamboo cutters of Maasin, Iloilo and find out how they make ends meet in an industry many have taken for granted.

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