Typhoon Yolanda survivors stitch life back up again

typhoon Yolanda
Compassion backpack

Survivors of super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) have started rebuilding their lives. With the help of concerned groups, they sew functional bags for livelihood.

It may have been the worst blow that happened to their lives. But once again, Filipinos show the world how resilient they are! Survivors of super typhoon Yolanda that hit Eastern Visayas in the Philippines on November 8, 2013, have started rebuilding their lives.

While they may never forget the kind hearted souls who were quick to respond to their call for help, these survivors in Tacloban knew they cannot remain dependent on dole-outs forever. They needed something that could sustain them throughout their lives. They need a livelihood.

Typhoon Yolanda survivors sew functional backpacks

And so, with the help of young patriots from various sectors in the country, they decided to venture into sewing for commercial purpose.  They choose to sew functional backpacks. The concept behind the making of these bags is to create a disaster-resilient industry against an economy of dependency for survivors. The local government’s Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) also extended additional technical skills training to them.

Survivors purposely call their bags Compassion since it calls for our continued support. By purchasing this bag, you will greatly help them rebuild their lives. And you will not regret getting it. Each of the distinctively identifiable bright red backpacks is 50% upcycled and made of these components:

  • the outer cover is made of high-grade Japanese truck tarpaulins
  • its inner lining is made of pre-loved jeans
  • it uses military-grade nylon thread for all stitching
  • each bag is sealed with genuine YKK zippers
  • it bears stylish leather lash tabs
  • its large inner pocket snugly fits a 13″ Macbook or any standard folder
  • its jean pockets can store the things you would normally have to keep in a pocket
  • it’s weather-resistant

typhoon Yolanda

Since its introduction to the market, Compassion instantly gained significant patronage. Some of the first to purchase the bag include artists, celebrities, designers, chefs, athletes, and social workers. And so far, the response from the public is overwhelming. In fact, each Compassion has now become a badge.

For purchasing the bag and for more information about Compassion, you may contact Taclob directly.


Get Compassion and give more…

For every Compassion backpack purchased, you help create jobs for the Yolanda survivors. You also get to support an eco-friendly and upcycled design. But most importantly, you will have the opportunity to help the children survivors cope up with the trauma of typhoon Yolanda.

Courage: keeping Yolanda children survivors afloat

When you buy a Compassion bag, you give a multi-functional school bag to a typhoon child survivor.

Courage bag

Survivors of super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), which hit the Eastern Visayas part of the Philippines, are determined to get back on their feet again.  With the assistance of compatriots and leading bag makers in the country, they start rebuilding their lives by sewing weather-resistant backpacks for commercial purposes.  The good thing about it is that not only do they aim to establish an income-generating project.  Survivors also keep survival preparedness in mind.

Along with the iconic bright red Compassion bags, they also make backpacks cum flotation device designed to equip young children in case something like Yolanda happens again.  Aptly called Courage, the bag aims to provide children a fighting chance in case of emergency.  It is also meant to help address a deep emotional trauma of uncertainty that still haunts children survivors to this day.

Get Compassion and give more…

A Courage bag is given to a child survivor every time you buy a Compassion backpack for yourself or as a gift item for someone else. Each Courage bag, which contains art materials and school supplies, has these features:

  • constructed with high-density, water-resistant nylon fabric
  • double stitched with military-grade nylon thread to ensure longevity
  • reflective striping on the front and back to enhance visibility at night or during search and rescue operations
  • utilizes two empty 2-liter PET bottles strapped to the side of the bag to keep a child afloat

Watch the video and see how Courage works.

Survivors who sew both Compassion and Courage got additional technical skills training from TESDA  (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority).

For details on how to help children survivors and purchase Compassion bags, please do visit Taclob.

Coconut oil: effective prevention of hair fall

Coconut oil is, perhaps, the most useful product Nature has ever produced.  From dessert toppings, to floor wax, to natural healer, and even to beauty treatment: name it, and this mighty coconut oil has probably something to contribute.

Coconut oil

In my previous post, What Lies Beneath Hair Loss?, I mentioned some possible causes of hair fall or hair loss. Now, it’s time to talk about how to treat such problem the natural way.

Even as it is important to seek medical advice on your condition, you can also turn to natural methods on treating you hair fall problem.  I particularly recommend the use of coconut oil as one of the best remedies to prevent hair fall and to promote its growth. Aside from being cheap and natural compared with the laboratory-concocted treatments, coconut oil is packed with these essential properties, such as:

Lauric acid.  This is a medium-chain fatty acid that protects the roots of your hair and prevents it from breakage. Studies reveal that coconut oil has the ability to reduce and prevent loss of hair protein more effectively than what sunflower and mineral oils do. Coconut oil is the richest source of lauric acid, containing around fifty percent of the substance.  To ensure your scalp is free of dandruff, split ends, lice and lice eggs, make it a habit to massage your head with coconut oil from time to time.

Antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. Aside from lauric acid, coconut oil also contains two other fatty acids – caprylic, and capric acids – that are known to work against fungi. Meanwhile, its monolaurin component has an antibacterial property that effectively fights against bugs.  All these properties of the coconut oil are powerful against dandruff and lice, two of the contributing factors that hinder hair growth. Studies have proven that coconut oil works effectively as a natural treatment of head lice.

Essential nutrients.  Coconut oil is proven to be an effective source of vitamins E, K, and iron, which are essential for maintaining luster and softness of your hair.  Again, vitamin E works effectively against dandruff.

Moisturizer.  With regular application of coconut oil, you can expect to have a strong and moisturized hair because the oil penetrates into your hair shaft and conditions your mane from the inside. At the same time, it protects your hair follicles from heat and harsh weather conditions.

Promotes better blood circulation. By massaging your scalp with coconut oil you significantly promote blood circulation and consequently allow essential nutrients and oxygen into your hair follicles; thus, making it healthy.

How to apply coconut oil on hair

Depending on your personal preference, you may apply coconut oil either before or after washing your hair. Personally, I do it at least 30 minutes before shampooing.  For those of you who have slightly wavy (like mine), or straight hair, I suggest that you treat your hair with coconut oil before washing it.

But if you have rather thick or curly mane, you may apply the coconut oil either before or after washing it.  Don’t worry about getting greasy-looking hair because curly hair tends to absorb oil quickly, so you would not end up with too sticky-shiny hair.  Be aware, however, that some types of hair, particularly the protein-sensitive, do not fare well to post-wash oil treatment.  You better consult your doctor on this first.

Some people ask whether it is more effective to heat the coconut oil first before applying or just have it at room temperature. Basically, it produces the same effects.  However, since coconut oil can coagulate in lower room temperature, it makes sense to have it warmed a bit before using.  Be sure, though, to not heat it too much as it can damage your scalp.

Coconut oil application before shampooing. Apply a generous amount of coconut oil onto your scalp  and gently massage it in circular motion for at least five minutes.  Give particular attention to your hair strands. Leave the oil on your hair for at least 30 minutes. If your hair fall problem is severe or if your concern is hair breakage, you may let the oil on for two to four hours.  Then, wash your hair off with regular shampoo.

Oil application after shampooing. If your problem is more on dry hair or split-ends, apply a little amount of coconut oil two to three inches towards the tip of your hair. But wait until your hair has completely dried out before applying.  The oil will be quickly absorbed by your hair and makes a protective coat around the hair strands.

Organic clothing for a healthier lifestyle

You don’t have to be an activist marching on the streets shouting for radical change, but you can make a subtle statement with the clothes you wear.  By choosing organic clothing, you can show your love for Mother Earth, as well as promote your own healthy lifestyle.


To be a fashionista is one thing, to be conscious about wearing what can be safe to the environment is another.  Although, you can be a fashionista with organic clothing, as eco-fashion is now an increasing trend.

When we say organic clothing, we refer to the materials produced from fibers that are raised in or grown naturally in compliance with organic agricultural standards. These materials are not treated with synthetic chemicals.  Instead, farmers who grow them use only natural methods to manage soil quality, diseases, pests, and other farming problems.

Among the most popular organic fabrics produced and available in selected outlets include organic cotton, organic linen, jute, silk, ramie or wool, tencel, hemp, bamboo, pineapple, banana, leather, and organic recycled fibers.

Admittedly, though, clothes made from any of these fabrics may cost higher than those made from synthetic or conventional materials.  But, beyond the cost are tremendous benefits both for your skin and for the environment.

hemp fiber
hemp fiber

Hypoallergenic. Organic fibers are hypoallergenic and do not contain pollutants, chemical-based dyes, resins, or formaldehyde, irritants that can trigger dermatological conditions and other allergic reactions to users.

Bamboo clothing, for example, is naturally antimicrobial, anti-fungal, anti-static, UV protective, flexible, and softer than silk when spun into yarn. It also absorbs sweat very quickly, keeping the wearer feeling dry and comfortable.

Bamboo-made clothes are oftentimes called ‘clothes that caress’ because of its softness and skin-friendly quality.

Toxin-free.  Organic clothing are free of toxins because they are grown using only natural fertilizers, compost and soil amendments, and natural methods of controlling pests.

Safe to human and animal health.  Since organic farming does not use toxic and chemical-based herbicides and pesticides, it is safe to farmers, farm workers, employees, as well as to the larger community around the farm.  Animals are also free from the effects of harmful chemicals.

Environmentally friendly. Not only is it safe to human and animal health, but organic farming also enriches the soil to its full potential, and rehabilitates those portions that have been damaged by too much chemical content. The nitrogen compounds from fertilizers, for example, enter the atmosphere and contribute much to global warming.  Excess nitrates percolate through the soil and contaminate both surface and groundwater sources.

organic cotton
organic cotton

On the other hand, organic farming takes around 1.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide per acre per year from the atmosphere.  And, this means a lot!

Organic cotton farming alone produces considerably less carbon dioxide emissions, and uses up to 60% less water than conventional farming methods.  Likewise, all natural fabrics are biodegradable, making it easy on the environment.

Durable.  You would be pleasantly surprised to know that organic clothes are durable.

Hemp, which is perhaps the most durable of all natural fibers, is more porous than cotton and can last for years.

Meanwhile, tests show that an organic cotton or bamboo-made clothes can last over a hundred machine washes before its fibers begin to break apart.

Because of its durability, you are assured that organic clothes are more economical in the long run.

Superior quality.  The pineapple or piña fabric, for example, which is often used in wedding dresses, gowns, and other formal attire may look simple but it exudes a natural elegance.  It has a natural shimmer that it no longer requires synthetic finishing treatment. Many fashion designers even use it to clothe celebrities and personalities.

Organic cotton, on the other hand, has a natural wax that keeps it smooth.

Hemp is also antimicrobial, mold-resistant, UV and UVB rays protective, and keeps its user dry.

In other words, organic fabrics are far more superior in quality than its synthetic counterparts.

Organic clothing has gradually entered into the mainstream fashion; although, many department stores worldwide are yet to carry this line.  But with the increasing people’s awareness about climate change, global warming, and sustainability, it would not take very long for people to adapt to this kind of lifestyle.

organic tablecloth
organic tablecloth

Other uses

Aside from clothing, natural fabrics also make good material for bed sheets, table linens, handkerchiefs, bags, mats, fans, and other useful materials and novelties.

Few disadvantages

Just like in any other products, organic clothing has also its own disadvantages.  Although, these can be remedied with proper care.

  • Since organic linen is not treated with anti-wrinkle chemicals, it has the tendency to break with constant creasing, especially along the collar and hem parts of the garment.
  • As mentioned earlier, organic clothing are more expensive than its conventionally-manufactured counterpart.  That is, if you don’t consider its long time benefits.
  • Not every country imposes specific standards or laws regarding organic clothing. That’s why it can be possible that manufacturers can mark its items as organic even if it contain non-organic chemicals.

Going bananas: sagging with benefits

While the Philippines has successfully put its piña fabric, the clothing made of pineapple leaves, into the mainstream of the fashion industry, let’s move further forward and identify another possible source of our basic need – that is, clothing, hoping to revive the tradition and lifestyle that our forefathers used to have.  I’m not talking about getting back to the primitive era here. Rather, I mean that it’s about time to adapt a lifestyle that is friendly to our personal health as well as to the environment that we live in; although, it’s prudent to preserve tradition and culture.

Let’s explore, then, the rich textile tradition of the people of the Okinawan Islands.

banana fiber 2Banana-made clothing

The independent kingdom of ‘Ryukyu’, which covers the Okinawan islands (before it was relinquished to Japan), had been known for its rich textile weaving industry, using plant fibers.  Among the plant-based textiles they made was the bashôfu, or the banana fiber cloth.

In the 13th century, the Okinawans weaved kimonos and other traditional clothes from a specific variety of the banana plant, called ito bashô in Japanese. The word fu means fabric or cloth; thus, the term bashôfu.

banana cloth
banana cloth

Banana cloth

Extraction of the banana fiber was done manually and the process was quite tedious, requiring skills and a lot of patience.  Because of this, weavers found it difficult to mass-produce the cloth. Also, the presence of readily available and low cost fabrics, such as cotton, silk, and other synthetic cloths hampered them to put banana-made clothes into the mainstream of commerce.  And, of course, the ongoing World War II was a major factor in the decline of the banana-weaving industry.

Fortunately, though, weaving and use of bashôfu was revived, and even accelerated after the war and when Okinawa was returned to Japan in 1972.  Since then, bashôfu has been receiving considerable attention as Japan’s important intangible cultural properties.

Types of banana

There are three major types of banana plants, namely: the food source (the plantain and sweet banana); the decorative plants, and; the starch and fibers sources.  The popular abaca fiber, also known as Manila hemp, comes from the third type of banana.

Extraction processes of banana fiber


Banana fiber properties

banana kimonoBanana is a natural bast fibre, having its own physical and chemical properties of fine quality. It has been proven to have these unique qualities:

  • it resembles the fiber from ramie and bamboo, but it is finer than the two
  • banana fiber can be spun  in almost all methods of spinning, such as, bast fiber spinning, open-end spinning, semi-worsted spinning, or ring spinning.  In other words, its spinnability is better than other fibers.
  • it can be as soft as organza silk when refined using traditional techniques
  • lustrous and lightweight
  • breathable
  • very high tensile strength
  • low in elongation
  • has a high moisture absorption capacity
  • repels grease and water
  • remains extremely flexible
  • it dries quickly
  • fire resistant
  • comes from a renewable resource

banana-made clothing

Why we should patronize banana clothing

Banana is grown in 129 countries around the world, particularly in Southeast Asia, India, Hawaii, and some Pacific islands.  It is the fourth most important global food crops, serving our different needs such as fruit and food sources, and food wrapping (leaves).

Banana plants are sustainable. It takes only about 12 to 16 months to yield.  But, once the fruits are harvested, banana stems seem to have no more use but to be dumped in landfills.  And there are billion tons of stems that are wasted annually in banana plantations. Good thing that our ancestors found a way to utilize these otherwise waste materials. They saw that these junk banana stems can actually provide us with a sustainable source of fabric that helps us reduce our dependence on synthetic fibers.

Of course, we know that production of synthetic fibers requires chemical-based fertilizer, pesticides, extra energy, and other non-biodegradable elements  that are harmful to both the environment and people.

By advocating banana-made products, especially clothing, we are promoting organic and sustainable lifestyle as well as helping the banana-weaving industry to flourish. And of course, we are reducing wastes at the landfills.

Other products from banana fiber

Aside from clothing, banana fiber also makes a good material for:

  • tea bags
  • Japanese yen notes
  • paper
  • bags
  • towels
  • curtains
  • bed sheets and other household items
  • cement bags that can carry 25-kilogram weight
  • material to reinforce a vehicle’s interior parts
  • novelty items

Piña fabric: transforming pineapple leaves into eco-wear

Piña fabric finally made a niche in the fashion industry as a world-class material for high-end products, thanks to the local designers’ efforts.

Piña fabric has finally found its place in the fashion industry, thanks to the efforts local designers. The high-end clothing line now sees an increasing popularity among many fashionistas across the globe.

Barong Tagalog
Barong Tagalog

The lustrous Philippine-made piña fabric is made from the leaves of Red Spanish pineapple. It was originally used to make Barong Tagalog, a Filipino men’s formal attire. But as fashion evolves, women have started wearing piña clothes in many formal occasions. 

Properties of piña fabric

Piña fabric stands out above all fabrics because of its regal and timeless properties, particularly:

  • it is fine and translucent
  • it has a similar appearance to linen
  • it’s naturally glossy with high lustre
  • the cloth is softer than hemp
  • it has more texture than silk
  • it’s lightweight
  • it’s easy to care and washable
  • no dry cleaning required
  • it blends well with other fibers

History of the fabric

Piña weaving in the Philippines is an age-old tradition. It originated from Kalibo, Aklan in the western Visayas region.

When aristocrats of the pre-Hispanic period started wearing it, piña clothing almost instantly became the queen of Philippine fabrics.

The material also caught the attention of Spaniards. When they first arrived in the Philippines in 1500s, they were immediately attracted to the oriental subtlety of this indigenous garment.

By the 19th century, piña became an in-demand fabric worldwide. Until the cotton-made clothing was introduced!

Around mid-1980s, piña weaving dwindled, and eventually ceased. It was not able to compete in terms of prices with the cheaper cotton. Plus, the lack of new weavers made it difficult for them to cope with demand. The original weavers have retired due to old age.

Revival of the dying industry

Fortunately, some entrepreneurs stepped in to save the dying piña weaving industry. They started promoting piña Barong among wealthy families and personalities in the Philippines.

Celebrity Carrie Underwood wearing a pina dress.
Celebrity Carrie Underwood wearing a pina dress.

Local fashion designers also saw a great potential in the indigenous material. So, they introduced piña to the international market. They packaged it as an elegant high-end fashion.

Aside from Barong Tagalog and Filipiniana (lady’s formal wear), weavers have also expanded their line of products, to include

  • table linens
  • handkerchiefs
  • bags
  • mats
  • fans
  • paper
  • novelty items

And to showcase their creativity, weavers offer ‘calado’, a manually-embroidered fabric with traditional decorations.

Expensive textile

A 100% pure piña cloth or Barong Tagalog can be very expensive. Owning one could already be considered a status symbol.

To dispel the notion that piña clothing is only for the rich, weavers made a way to bring down its cost. But without compromising quality!  They do this by interweaving piña with other fine fabrics.

  • piña and silk combination is called piña seda
  • a piña and jusi mix makes a stronger piña-jusi fabric (jusi is a fiber made from abaca)

Why piña fabric is expensive

Piña weaving is considered heirloom more valuable than precious gold and silver. Production of the fabric is very tedious and time-consuming. It takes a whole day to make just one-fourth of a meter of cloth. It also requires tons of patience to produce an ensemble.

Despite modern machines, most weavers still prefer to use the traditional hand looming method. Perhaps, there’s some sense of sentimental value attached to it.

How much does pina cost?

Due to its complex production process, piña cloth is considerably expensive at $25 to $35 per yard, or even more. A piña-jusi Barong Tagalog costs between $80 and $90. While, a Filipiniana dress can cost from $150. 

Maintaining a piña fabric

Here are a few tips to make your piña fresh through the years.

  • When washing, soak first your piña clothes in warm water for a few minutes. Use just a bit of mild detergent.
  • If the fabric has turned yellowish, add some vinegar into the water and soak it overnight.
  • Gently hand wash the material.
  • Scrub off dirt with a soft toothbrush. But don’t brush on the embroidery.
  • Rinse it in up and down motion. Do not twist or wring the material. You might ruin the embroidery and the cloth itself.
  • Let it drip dry. You may also lay it flat to dry.
  • Iron your piña on low to medium heat while it is still a bit damp.
  • Cover your piña with a dark cloth to keep it from getting discolored. Store it hanging in a closet.


Piña fabric comes from a sustainable source. Pineapple plants respond better to fungicide-free soil.  And so, they mark a friendlier footprint on the environment. Weavers also use only natural herbs and plants to dye the material used in ‘calado’.

To sum it all up, piña fabric makes a very good eco-wear.


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