The City Government of Davao, in partnership with the New Zealand Embassy, on Friday held the groundbreaking ceremony for the Bahayahay Learning and Workshop Center for Indigenous Women in Barangay Pandaitan in Paquibato District.

The Bahayahay project is a two-story multi-purpose building funded by the government of New Zealand. Dressmaking, beading, and basket-weaving will be taught in the center.

The learning center aims to assist women of the Ata tribe in the creation of their traditional crafts as well as their promotion to potential markets.

Aside from being a workshop for traditional craftsmanship, the Bahayahay workshop will also serve as an exhibition center where Ata women’s products will be displayed for clients.

New Zealand’s Ambassador to the Philippines Peter Kell said the project was first conceptualized with then City Mayor and now Vice President Sara Duterte during New Zealand’s chairmanship of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in 2021.

“So out of that conversation with then Mayor Inday sprung the idea of something here in Davao City with the women of Ata tribe. We identified that they’re very good at craft, they’re very good at weaving but they needed a place to come together. Hence, we decided to build the center to make it easier for the women to come together,” Kell said.

“The immediate impact of this project is the demonstration value; to show that actually, if you organize yourselves the right way, if you have the resources and the support, not only from your local barangay but also your city— in this case Davao City and we very much value the cooperation and support from Davao City under the leadership of Mayor Baste— if you have the support from international partners like New Zealand, then actually there’s a lot you can do as a community, even in a remote area such as here in Paquibato,” the ambassador added.

Peace 911 Focal Person Atty. Jonah Presto said the local government is committed to see the women entrepreneurs of Ata tribe succeed in their business ventures. She said the Peace 911 program will continue to promote women’s organizations as well as promote their products online and match them with the right markets.

Meanwhile, Mayor Sebastian Duterte, in his speech, thanked the government of New Zealand.

The center, Duterte said, will not only promote the Ata tribe’s products, but will also promote the preservation of traditional weaving and bead-work craftsmanship unique to the Ata tribe of Paquibato.

Duterte added that the Bahayahay and other initiatives geared at empowering women to take a more proactive role in the socio-economic activities in society will inevitably create a stronger and more equal community.

Duterte said he hopes to see Paquibato’s Ata tribe enjoy the same opportunities and strong sense of identity as New Zealand’s Maori.

Biyo Alma Omo, President of the Ata Women’s Association of Paquibato District, said the center will help their association and their community in the production of their crafts and ensure an alternative source of income to their farming livelihood.

Omo said that their community is determined to pass on their traditions to the younger generations through the preservation of their crafts.

“Naa man gyud na sa among kultura. Kung unsa to ang maong nakat-unan, mao to among ipasa sa among kabatan-unan para mapadayon, mapreserba (We do have this in our culture. What we were taught, we will pass on to our youth for them to carry on and preserve),” Omo said. CIO