Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray visited the province of Laguna to showcase some of its local products and businesses in her role as an ambassador of the Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI) One Town, One Product (OTOP) project on 27-30 August 2020. Gray was also recognized as “Adopted Illustrious Daughter of Laguna” by the provincial government.
As the face of OTOP Philippines, Gray highlighted small local businesses in various regions, with Laguna as her first stop. “I am lending my platform to our [Filipino] small businesses, MSMEs (micro, small and medium-sized enterprises) and entrepreneurs,” the beauty queen said via Instagram last 29 August.
Some of Laguna micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) that showcased their local products and businesses during the visit were Ai-She Footwear (Liliw, Laguna), Junk Not Handicraft (Biñan City, Laguna), and Rolyo Likha At Iba Pa Handicraft (Pila, Laguna).
Starting with an investment of P50,000 in 2006, Corazon Coligado, owner of Ai-She Footwear, grabbed the opportunity and started her footwear business with two male footwear makers aside from her designer friend.
Crafting the business with continuous learning, Coligado engaged herself with different programs and services of DTI. To name one, she was endorsed to the Department’s partner agency CESO (Canadian Executive Service Organization) which helped her hone her business plan and focus on the bigger goal to transfer to a bigger production area in order to hire more workers and increase production as well as to improve raw materials and inventory management.
Ai-She Footwear was overwhelmed with the fast development in their business and fortune. They have become a regular exhibitor in every trade fair at the national and international fairs organized by DTI.
Ai-She Footwear focused on producing many kinds of artisan shoes, with a variety of aesthetics—including crocheted and patchwork—with colors mirroring the town’s vibrant culture. With the recent involvement of OTOP Philippines Ambassador Gray’s, Ai-She Footwear generated an estimated sales of P300,000, from September to December 2020.
Ai-She designed a Catriona an abaca mule made from locally sourced materials, all handcrafted by sapateros in Liliw, with an embroidered three stars and a sun emblem as a finishing touch.
“Kinikilig ako kasi Filipino brand Ai-She Footwear created shoes in my honor,” Gray says. “I was even able to experience putting together my own pair of the ‘Catriona shoe!’,” she added.
Junk Not Handicraft
With the aim to turn trash into art, Wilhelmina “Willie” Garcia, owner of Junk Not Handicraft, is passionate about interior design and the environment. They always had a way to recycle plastic wastes and transform them into artful, premium-priced furniture and even bags and fashion accessories. Junk Not Handicraft has long been involved in a lot of journeys in partnership with DTI including participation in trade fairs and exhibits sponsored by the Department.
Junk Not Handicraft was featured and won many local and international awards. Known for being a social entrepreneur and with the continuing international campaign for environmentalism, Willie has received numerous inquiries from all over the Philippines and abroad on the possibility of replicating her business model. With the recent visit of OTOP Philippines Ambassador Gray, Junk Not Handicraft generated estimated sales of P1.830M from September to December 2020.
Rolyo Likha At Iba Pa Handicraft
From his interest and hobby of paper rolling, Renel Batralo identified a business opportunity to create various art and crafts from fashion accessories to home furnishing to containers to mats to baskets. This has led to the growth of Rolyo Likha At Iba Pa Handicraft — now one of the best artists in this field not only in Laguna but also in the Philippines.
Despite the challenges and negative criticisms encountered in 2008, Batralo never gave up and held his determination and explored all other possibilities to further improve his work. He was enrolled in DTI’s Kapatid Mentor ME Program wherein he attended and participated in various DTI seminar workshops and training on entrepreneurship.
Soon after, he became a mentor himself as well and started providing livelihood training to potential and existing MSMEs. Batralo maximized the use of local resources and turned these into art and crafts. With the recent visit of OTOP Philippines Ambassador Gray’s, Rolyo Likha At Iba Pa Handicraft generated estimated sales of P707,000 from September to December 2020.
The Raise Your Flag Laguna initiative as part of the visit of OTOP Philippines Ambassador Gray was able to become a venue to see the importance of learning and advocating our local products, our weaving communities, and our Filipino culture.