The global crisis of marine resource depletion is a serious problem in Palawan. We witnessed this during the early days of Tao – from a sea that was once abundant scale fishermen began returning home with little or no catch. Alternative sources of income are urgently needed.
Working with local communities is an integral part of Tao’s business. Ten years ago we began looking for sustainable, culturally appropriate work for women which they could do from home or fit around their household responsibilities.
The local tradition of “hilot”, healing massage, has been passed down through generations of Filipinos. We saw that this was a way local women could get involved in our business, share their skills and benefit economically. For all those who wanted to join, we arranged trainings in relaxation massage techniques which could be combined with the women’s traditional knowledge
“Becoming a masseuse, for Tao has had a great impact on my life,” says Gemma Fabrigas, the daughter of a traditional hilot therapist in Pangaraykayan Village. “We now have extra income for bringing up our seven children and I also really enjoy meeting such a wide variety of people. I’ve even learned English from doing massage.”
With the support of Tao the women have expanded to a range of other activities. In the village of Daracuton, located in a coconut grove, they now produce cold press coconut oil which is used for massage and made into natural soaps. Women on Cabuli Island produce cashew nut and cashew vinegar products. In San Fernando we have organized and trained women’s weaving and sewing groups producing bed linen materials, curtains, and school bags to supply the our operations. They are now moving onto clothing designs for our crew and guests.
According to the UN, investing in women’s economic empowerment leads towards gender equality, poverty eradication and inclusive economic growth. This year the Tao Women’s Association has taken the initiative to form a cooperative to formalize their organization and earning activities.