Proudly Local: Crafts in the Midst of Filipino Overseas Migration

For the 2017 Canadian Association for the Study of International Development, Toronto, Canada

During my dissertation fieldwork in my hometown called Nabua (Philippines), I revived my grandparents’ defunct cottage bamboo crafts business. My initiation into the world of family business, while undoubtedly a capitalist enterprise that starkly contrasts with non-profit academic work, has led me to relationships and networks that predate my research, and which eventually had an impact on my research direction. As I became embedded deeper into the business, a different face of Nabua is revealed to me, often bringing confounding moments of introspection about my privilege both as a returning resident and anthropologist. The Nabua that I knew was close to how it is being imagined by its retirees, vacationing residents, friends and informants who like me come from the town’s centre. The bamboo basketmakers-farmers, residing in the outskirts of the town, introduced my fieldsite’s “other” face. I write about the accounts on basketmakers who are affected by receding livelihood support from the local government. While my fieldsite is regarded by its residents as the “Town of Dollars,” it is still home for many non-migrating rural poor — the kanagtitios (barely surviving) — who struggle everyday within the midst of the slow death of their main sources of livelihood: crafts and farming. Theirs is a remarkably different story of rural life in the age of heightened aspirations for overseas migration.

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