Sunday, July 12, 2009

Outrageous Prices for Local Handicrafts

Yesterday, my mom and I went to the trade fair at SM Megamall. It was full of local handicrafts, delicacies, and other products. It was the last day, and all the merchants lowered their usual prices. Lots of steals, yay!

We found some pastillas (um, sort of, candies made with milk). Only 20 pesos (roughly 50¢) per pack. Very cheap, considering it's made from carabao's milk and not cow's milk. Yay!

We found a stall selling yummy-smelling coffee. There was even civet coffee available there, considered by connoisseurs to be one of the best in the world. We had a cup, only 15 pesos each! Yay!

And THEN we came across a stand full of crocheted items. Shrugs, pullovers, cardigans -- even a full-length dress! I almost peed my pants. I then asked how much a short-sleeved bolero-type shrug costs... And the woman answered, "100 pesos lang po (100 pesos only)," with a wide grin. That's like, less than 2 USD. I processed this information, while she waits on a woman slowly cleaning out the rest of the merchandise. I accosted her, asking, "Sino po ang gumagawa nito? (Who makes these?)" To which she replied, "Mga manggagawa po sa Tarlac (Workers from Tarlac)."

That did it.

My nostrils flared. I started hyperventilating. I fumed at no one in particular. I started thinking of those poor workers in the province, who had to slave away day after day, crocheting garments for less than half of the minimum wage requirement in the Philippines. At 100 pesos each, I shudder at the thought of how that could have accommodated the cost of materials, the cost of labor, and of course the store owners' income. I assume that they would pay a woman 50 pesos at most for making a piece like that. Okay, the bolero was made with simple stitches, and full of airy spaces, but still. How many pieces can one worker make in a day? :(

It's even sadder that the workers are from Tarlac, Pampanga. It's a province that was very much affected by the Pinatubo volcano eruption in the 90's. Whole towns were wiped out. It's been more than a decade now, but some towns are still covered in lahar (volcanic mudflow).

My mom had to drag me away from the stall. The whole day, I just get angry whenever I remember that crochet store.

Now I know what "outrageous prices" really mean. I never got outraged at prices before yesterday. :( Crafters and other skilled workers should be paid better. :(


  1. I totally agree! Aside from the unfair labor cost, it makes crochet work look cheap to some people. The workers in Tarlac could probably get better pay if they were handed a sewing machine and fabrics, instead of a hook and threads. But since they are poor and uneducated, they might still be paid very low for their labor whatever it may be. Who knows if they even think they should be grateful they have work at all. It is really very sad and it always makes me angry at the well-dressed educated people who have the power to do something about it.

  2. ahh.. haha.. and when my mom and i went to baguio and saw this crocheted purse from one of the stalls she asked the seller of the price.. My sister tried to drag her away coz she's insisting i could just make her one anyway and it's gonna be for free.. But when my mom learned that it's just around P75 she told my sister that, for a 75 peso she wouldn't let me slave away. :)

    But the thing is the price of handicrafts really depends on the design, to material and from uniqueness. It doesn't mean that if it's handicrafted, it would be expensive. Plus you could see if a handicraft is really a work of art or just the 'work of hand'. (if you get what i mean.)

  3. You know Claire, it's a sad thing that workers get paid next to nothing, but from what I heard, that's what they really get.

    But I think that's not fair since doing something by hand takes an awful lot of time and effort and they should be paid accordingly, whether it's a work of art or a work of hand, granted, it does depend on the design and the types of stitches involved. I think there's no specific set price for that, and you have to negotiate fair pricing rin.

    I do like to note, however, that they crochet mighty fast. As in mighty fast. I'm still amazed.


What do you think? :)