Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Agsam - Miracle Wet & Wear

Agsam fern Mindanao PhilippinesThis innocuous-looking brackeny stuff was an essential part of my only source of income over the past five years. I used to make jewellery here in the winter, then take it to Majorca, Spain, in the summer, and sell it in the local town markets.

The fern grows in the mountains of Cortes Point, just across from Siargao on the 'mainland' of Mindanao. The fern in the photo is actually a smaller relative version of the real thing, that grows at higher altitude. agsam stem Siargao Island Philippines The fern spreads by sending out 2-3m long 'sucker stems',Agsam Fibres Lanuza Mindanao Philippines
and it is from these that the agsam fibres, about 3mm wide, and 1.5-2m long, are prepared, by the Mamanwa negrito inhabitants of the mountain forests.

They bring them down, from time to time, to Nurcia, a small village on the coastal road from Lanuza to Tandag, where a flourishing craft industry has grown up, involving almost all the women of the village, from the old, all the women of the village, from the old, Mana Cosing, who is blind with cataracts, to the youngest of girls. They soak the fibres for a week or so in mangrove mud, to make them flexible and strong, and to stain them with rich browns and blacks.

They then weave them, with consummate skill, into bracelets, rings, anklets, necklaces, belts, and, in a smart bow to the latest Filipino 21st century fashion and passion, cellphone holders. Agsam Fibres Lanuza Mindanao Philippines

All of which are very popular, and in the case of the bracelets, wonder best-sellers.

Their USP (Unique Selling Proposition) is that, while they are woven as a continuous ring, they can be softened and stretched over the hand, then, as they dry, they shrink back to their original size, tightening on the wrist.

I used to buy them in bulk, 5-7000 of them, every year, from an old lady in Cebu, then last year, after I discovered their source, from a cooperative in Nurcia itself.

They cost me about P10 (€0.15), and you can see from my market-stall spiel below how much I was able to sell them for.
Soak 10-15 minutes - Stretch gently to fit over hand
Let dry and shrink to fit - (No…it won’t expand and fall off in the sea or shower)
20 Year Guarantee !
Money back if your bracelet doesn’t bring health, wealth and happiness in 20 years
3.50€ 2 for 6€
Better than flogging cocaine to yuppies.

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