Marie Joy Yu
Abre Linea was born after Typhoon Haiyan tore through Eastern Visayas in 2013. The business was established due to the tapering relief provisions and the scarcity of soft loans for Haiyan survivors. The goal of Abre Linea was paving ways to contribute to livelihood efforts.
The name Abre translates to “open” in Waray, in keeping with the social purpose to be served, i.e. providing market access and livelihood to artisanal communities in Leyte and Samar by sustainably producing handicrafts made of locally sourced natural fibres. To achieve this, Joy raised start-up capital to create an enterprise that fuses traditional weaves with contemporary colours and forms and applies them to functional items. Keeping alive the famed traditional weaving of Leyte and Samar regions, Joy and her partner use ticog grass and buri palm leaves as base materials in making colourful products like mats. They began by providing ticog grass in exchange for training sessions for the women of San Miguel, Leyte, with the ticog grass sourced from a friend’s farm in San Miguel, Leyte. Through the years, Abre has launched collections that proudly showcase collaborations between the weavers of Leyte and Samar and artisans throughout the Philippines.
Abre was started with the goal of helping others thus, Joy had very little knowledge or experience in the challenges of running a business. She faces many challenges that start-ups face but she faces past and present challenges with resolution. Keeping Abre alive remains a challenge, but Joy persists because the communities she works with in Eastern Visayas need alternative sources of income. The satisfaction and affirmation that she finds from building a place of pride and helping is its own reward.
Still reeling from the effects of the pandemic, Abre is pivoting in a new direction. Joy believes the most important step is the social impact aspect, i.e. the way Abre continues to infuse and help sustain values at the base of the pyramid by ploughing back revenue to partner weaving communities through commissioned repeat orders and new products, and by utilising additional revenue through commissioned orders from other underserved artisanal communities in Leyte and Samar.
Domestically, Joy is looking to work with a broader range of artisans from the province of Leyte, and help grow the ecosystem of creatives in the Eastern Visayas region. She would also like to expand into Western Europe, Australia and Japan as she did with the United States, Singapore, Dubai and Canada.
Joy finds herself fortunate to still be on this journey of building pride around traditional art-making processes that double as a source of livelihood for artisanal communities in Leyte and Samar. Since handicraft design and production is a celebration of creativity, it is a good entry point for advocates who want to promote cultural heritage with eco-friendly products.
I find meaning in the little acts of empowerment that I witness, the generosity of spirit of friends, family, and volunteers who happily pitch in, and the weavers and artisans themselves who tell how appreciated they feel whenever they see their weaves featured and proudly worn or utilized.