The willowy stem of the Lygodium circinnatum locally known as Nito fern are found abundantly in the forests of Mindanao. Dreams of a better life took shape when the locals found potential in this scrambling fern’s rachis (“spinal column” of the fern). The fern multiplies by spreading outward with 2 to 3 meter stems measuring about 3mm in width. These stems provide locals with options beyond illegal logging and entering into rebel groups.
Used before as lashing rope for boat outriggers, the material increases its elasticity when soaked in water, and yet grows stronger when dry; unlike other raw fibers that decay with moisture. Its stems can also be blackened by burying it in the mud for three to five days. The darkened stems, now called agsam can then be twisted and woven into designer bracelets, necklaces, wine holders, bags, vessels and other crafts.
Weavers from San Francisco Agsam Handicraft Weavers Association of Agusan del Sur attest that a week’s work of gathering the ferns, stripping the stems, drying, and finally weaving it can bring in P10,000 to P15,000 worth of income.
Preserving the native weaving heritage from generation to generation while ushering families to a better life. After all, old traditions do not have to die with progress. If you can’t beat them, synthesize them! And that’s exactly how a talisman for the Mamanwa tribes of Surigao Del Sur and the source of livelihood for the women of Davao’s Matigsalug tribe became a high-fashion accessory. All over the Philippines, this sustainable vine bracelet is going higher as it goes through the hands of creative designers. For this delicate climbing fern, there’s so much more left in store, because when it comes to dreaming: the sky is the limit!