As the head of the family, fathers serve as the providers and protectors of the household. With their strong and robust characters, they are the foundation of a solid family, reinforced by love, compassion, and selflessness.

Such are the roles that these men from Pugo, La Union are willingly able to take. They are a group of wood carvers and furniture makers — a livelihood which has been providing income for their families for generations.

“Ito na ang kabuhayan na nakalakihan namin, minana na din namin sa mga tatay at lolo namin,” said Roger Aguat, 52, President of the Cares Indigenous People Association – Woodcarvers (CIPAW) in the town’s Brgy. Cares.

To support them in their livelihood, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) granted the association with nearly P1 Million for the procurement of tools and equipment.

Through the DOLE Integrated Livelihood Program (DILP), the group received high-powered equipment which helped intensify their wood carving and furniture production.

With a total amount of P999,940, the DOLE Regional Office I in October 2020 gave them electric motors, planer, router, aim compressor, grinder and other tools.

“Malaking tulong itong mga kagamitan na binigay ng DOLE. Tuloy-tuloy parin ang aming production kahit may pandemya dahil mataas parin naman ang demand,” Aguat said. “Lumaki ang kita ng mga miyembro namin dahil sa tulong ng DOLE.”

The furniture makers produce sala sets, cabinets, and other household staples, which they sell for P17,000 to P25,000. They used to sell through bazaars and trade fairs, but they now shifted to online marketing due to the quarantine restrictions.

“The DOLE endeavors to help in reducing poverty and vulnerability among poor and marginalized workers by providing them access to enhanced livelihood undertaking,” said DOLE ROI Regional Director Atty. Evelyn R. Ramos.

The Local Government Unit of Pugo led by Mayor Priscilla Martin also extended help to the skilled carpenters, as it sponsored P250,000 for the construction of the tools’ storage facility, and the workers’ enrolment to micro-insurance. The CIPAW members also took a training which equipped them with the formal knowledge on business development and bookkeeping.

The CIPAW is an 80-member association of furniture makers registered with DOLE in 2019. Majority of the members are men, whose craftsmanship has placed Pugo in the world market for quality and intricately-made wood products. Furniture and wood carvings have also become the One-Town One-Product of the town.

With the intervention given by DOLE, the group of men are now hopeful that their livelihood shall flourish and prosper.  With their combined hard work, skilfulness and resourcefulness, the Pugo wood artisans are carving better lives for their families and the rest of the community. END/Justin Paul Marbella. Photos courtesy of Pugo PESO Manager Verina Lopez.