Hand embroidery is the leading industry in Lumban, Laguna that provides employment to the majority of Lumban people, young and adult women, and even to some men. Businessmen who ventured into this business gave their lives a tremendous economical leap. In the Southern Tagalog region of the Philippines, people wore the Barong Tagalog and Baro’t Saya made from ‘pina’, ‘jusi’, or banana fabric even during the Spaniards invasion. This could have been seen by the Southern people, including the Lumbanians, as an opportunity to generate income. Since then, hand embroidery has gained prestige beyond borders because their people have even worked harder to compete with other fashion trends. The concept sticks to the promotion of barong tagalong being the Philippines’ traditional clothes. However, Lumban people have made an amazing innovation by offering the same concept and yet with a wider variation of products.
Figure 1 – Lumban Embroiderer
Lumban products made of hand embroidered fabric
- Barong Tagalog – P1500
- Kimona – P1500
- Hand Fan – P500
- Handkerchief – price not determined
- Doilies – P300
- Wallet – P350
- Table cloth – P500
- Scarf – P800
- And many more
*Prices may vary depending on the seller.
Figure 2 – Lumban’s Embroidered Products
Nowadays, Lumban has not limited its craft to hand embroidery. They were able to blend in their talent in hand painting. It is astonishing how they imagined and made into realization the creation of perfectly blend hand embroidered and hand painted fabric. To demonstrate elegance, don your table with a set of table clothes, table napkins, and other table necessities with the traditional hand embroidery.
Hand embroidery is indeed a very intricate work. It requires a process where the embroiderer has to be able to see the line/thread of the fabric, and then pull off some of them to create a dramatic effect on the design. Embroidery itself is even more complicated. Tiny designs of leaves and/or flowers have to be emphasized. A hand embroidered fabric may look simple but the truth is that each fabric should undergo 3 to 5 processes during embroidery and another 2 to 4 before and after depending on the design.
Figure 3 – Lumban Embroidery Finished Product
With the complexity of the process of hand embroidery a laborer gets Php 150 a day. Her income depends on how fast she works and her strategies to generate a higher income. She may choose to completely finish all the processes related to a single fabric or just do some simple jobs that pays less and but done at a faster rate.
How about doubling the income? And this is how the successful Lumban proprietors have earned enough to afford their grandiose houses and cars. Basically, they invest in buying pina, jusi and cocoon fabrics from Divisoria. They can ask for “skilled workers” to do the designing, washing the fabric, embroidery and all other work. A raw fabric bought at Php 700 or even lower if bought on a large scale can be sold as embroidered for Php 1,300. If you have the edge on designing, it’s going to be an additional income in creating your own gown or barong and sell it for thousands of pesos. The simplest gown may cost only Php 4,000 while try to bluff your way into the world of sophistication by going into haute couture or high fashion which could easily earn you hundreds of thousands.
Hand embroidery is a promising industry in Lumban. With enough support and motivation, a lot more can be achieved in this field. There’s really improvement in the lives of people who persevere and work hard despite the difficulties.
Photo credits: Figure 1 facebook.com/lumban.laguna.3; Figure 2 baronglumbanpbnoodles.weebly.com; Figure 3 Ruby Anonuevo – a typical embroiderer who sometimes venture into buying and selling of embroidered fabrics for added income; Figure 4 gridcrosser.blogspot.com