Cebu, Philippines ─ With a fresh take on crocheting, an all-women social enterprise interweaves the lives of four Senior High School students (SHS) and nine displaced fire victims for the better.
One critical moment to this initiative's making is a major fire incident. On December 5, 2018, a residential area in Barangay Kamputhaw went up in tumultuous flames. Damages incurred reached an estimated P1 million and 70 houses were destroyed resulting in plenty of disoriented low-income households. During these trying times, no one has felt more powerless than the women affected.
When the community needed rehabilitation and empowerment the most, Gansilyo provided, and continues to provide.
Named after the Bisaya word for crocheting, Gansilyo is a small-scale initiative that sets to empower women in the grassroots. It endeavors to provide the women with added income, to fuel their shared passion for crocheting, and to help with rehabilitating from the disastrous fire. Launched in March 1, 2019, Gansilyo offers crocheted earrings crafted by women from the affected area.
The Ates of Gansilyo
Gansilyo is a small community consisting of tight-knit, hardworking crafters from Barangay Kamputhaw. Out of respect, each one is referred to as “ate” meaning “older sister” by the founders of the enterprise.
The first is Estela Fernandez, a happy-go-lucky woman in her late 50s with five kids and 13 grandchildren. Ate Estela enjoys crocheting which she learned and developed an affinity for when she was eight years old. Eventually, she made a living out of it, making crocheted clothes, headbands, and accessories for people.
Since the fire burned down their home and all their belongings, she has been running multiple dayjobs like cooking and massaging to gain extra money to slowly rebuild. For a time, she even stayed in a cramped gym and then a chapel along with her grandson, children, and other fire victims.
Ate Estela gathered and invited the other workers of the enterprise. She is one out of Gansilyo’s nine crafters who share similar narratives in light of the fire incident.
There is also Cleofe Limquiaco who carried her bed-ridden mother towards the river to escape the flames.
There is Elvira Quiñones, a housewife to four children, who cried learning crochet to earn additional income for her family.
There is Teresita Moral who lost everything in the fire but still holds countless hopes for the future, her biggest wish being to live comfortably again with her family in Barangay Kamputhaw.
Despite the tough conditions, the ates of Gansilyo remain thankful for the safety of their families and continue to stand strong in the face of adversities. In a way, they were already empowering themselves; Gansilyo only helped them further.
“Hooked. Interlocked. Connected.”
In the latter half of 2018, four grade 12 students from the Sacred Heart School - Hijas De Jesus took a school project within their hands and transformed it into something more than just a grade requirement. They made Gansilyo meaningful and advocacy-driven as they called to support local and empower women.
The high school student founders of Gansilyo.
Sophia Ang, Patricia Abellana, Camille Beloria, and Cybil Ybañez are the young women who started Gansilyo and interlocked their lives to that of nine crafters. Close friends since high school, the four worked seamlessly together to make the social enterprise a reality, and to help their ates in need.
The girls personally buy the needed materials, shoulder all expenses, and deliver them to the homes of their ates. They are also handling everything from finance, marketing, logistics. The four would also donate relief goods whenever they can and treat the ates like friends instead of workers. Truly, the women of Gansilyo established genuine rapport, all the while helping with rehabilitative needs.
As for money matters, they pay the crafters based on the amount they ask for while the remaining cash falls back into the business to sustain it. Now, several crafters already finished rebuilding their homes as they continue to work passionately with Gansilyo.
Eventually, Beloria and Ybañez left Gansilyo in July 2019 to pursue tertiary studies in Australia. They knew they would not be able to contribute as much as they would like with the distance and time difference. Nonetheless, they still continue to support the business and keep in contact with Gansilyo’s partners.
Indeed, as its tagline suggests, Gansilyo is hooked, interlocked, and connected.