Solar empowers Pala’wan indigenous women to save basketry tradition, natural forest

PALAWAN, Philippines – When the crickets chorus in the mountainous Sitio Kamantian, everything becomes pitch-black except for the solar-powered homes of Pala’wan indigenous women like Marilyn Tiblak.

As the gentle, cold upland breeze wafted through her shack, Tiblak, her husband, and their child huddled under a solar light while munching on boiled sweet potatoes they planted and harvested from their upland farm.

After dinner, the mother, in her 30s, slumped on a bamboo slat floor. A screeching sound filled the room as she began shaving a bamboo pole with a knife. Moments later, her hands carefully wove together fine bamboo strands to make a basket, traditionally called tingkep. 

“When we have orders from the lowland, we strive to make baskets at night,” she said in a wispy voice, as she integrated into her craft some forest-inspired designs, like the eye of a bird or the wings of a butterfly.

A basket weaver for half of her life, Tiblak added, “It’s the only time we can focus on weaving without thinking of working on swidden farms and at home, and going into the wild to look for food.”

Perched on southern Palawan’s Mt. Mantalingahan Protected Landscape(MMPL), Kamantian is one of the 37,096 sitios still not reached by the Philippine government’s sitio electrification program, 2021 data showed.

The arrival of solar technologies in Kamantian is a welcome development as it has helped empower traditionally marginalized women like Tiblak to preserve and pass on their basketry tradition, conserve their biodiversity-rich forest, and earn to improve, little by little, the well-being of their families.


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