BidiBidi Enterprise and the “Buhimian” Weavers of Buhi | Camarines Sur


I first heard of the creations of BidiBidi when I was given an embroidered face mask featuring a beautiful portrait of a woman on one side and a woven pattern on the other. If there's one good thing to come out of the pandemic, it’s the use of fashionable face masks, and the one created by BidiBidi tops all I've worn.

Camarines Sur Travel Guide
One of the women weavers in Buhi showing us a sample work of hers

Since then, I’ve heard nothing but praise about how this social enterprise empowers a network of more than 200 women in Bicol in harnessing their skills in weaving, embroidery and crocheting to improve their economic standing in their communities.

A TPB-organized Workshop

As luck would have it, I found myself half a year later in Buhi, Camarines Sur, the same place where BidiBidi Social Enterprise operates, to attend a workshop called “Marketing Enhancement on Sustainable Community-Based Tourism”. Conducted by the Tourism Promotions Board of the Philippines (TPB), it was attended by the members of BOKPA (Buhi One-town, One-Product Key Players Association).

Milet Miranda and Apple Allison
Thanks to TPB for conducting this Sustainable Community-based Tourism workshop in Buhi, Camarines Sur

In addition to enhancing quality control, designing, and workflow procedures, the workshop introduced the One-Town, One-Product (OTOP) creators of Buhi to the know-hows to sell their creations in social media. Apple Allison, a brand builder and idea accelerator, led the workshop. With her background in marketing, communication, brand-building, creative education and coaching — among her many hats, she was able to teach the women weavers many of the modern best practices for promoting and improving the quality of their products.

Camarines Sur Travel Guide
The weavers of Buhi incorporates their woven creations into stylish shoes

Some of the weavers of Buhi, Camarines Sur, invited us to their homes after the first day of the workshop to show us their woven materials, which are in high demand among designers of clothing and footwear, as well as other finished products, which included table runners and bedsheets to laptop sleeves and pouches.

Althea Tuano
These finished woven cloth will look good in your homes

There was a time back in the 1960s when the town of Buhi became famous for its handloom weaving tradition, which the locals called "hinabol". Timeless Filipino clothing like the Baro't Saya, Kamisa de Chino, and the ubiquitous sleeping essential kumot, became the most sought-after creations.

As told to us by Clarita Noble of BOKPA, the practice of handloom weaving quickly faded out when ukay-ukay garments from abroad and shopping malls displaced local clothing producers.

Located not far from each other were the four houses we visited. Each has their own weaving pedal looms. One creates purely table runners and bedsheets, the other specializes on bags and shoes while the others make a variety of both.

Clarita Noble of BOKPA shows us one of the weaving pedal looms they use

I also discovered that the more than 70 members of BOKPA and the creators of Buhinon Woven Products were not all women, as we met a male weaver whose voice cracks up with emotion as he told us about the economic benefits his family had gained from him learning to weave.

Brewing Art in BidiBidi Café

Bernadette De Los Santos, an artist, social entrepreneur, environmentalist and farmer based in Camarines Sur founded BidiBidi (based on Bernadette’s childhood nickname) in 2017, by teaching more than 150 women in her hometown of Baao, the skill of hand embroidery.

Armi Valdez

Unbeknownst to most, Baao was formerly the hub of embroidery in the Bicol region. By taking charge of the renaissance of the craft, De Los Santos' BidiBidi brings the craft's resurgence full circle, producing a seamless transition from that intriguing period in Baao's history to the present.

Charisse Vilchez
Who won't get "budol-ed" into buying this beautiful BidiBidi items?

"My target beneficiaries were the rural women, mostly wives of farmers. Being a farmer myself, I know that they need extra income to augment the family budget" said Delos Santos.

Things to buy in Camarines Sur
The unique artwork and designs of BidiBidi bags instantly pops out

By sourcing most of her sustainable materials from Buhi, BidiBidi formed and developed a lasting collaborations with the women weavers whose creations De Los Santos aptly describes as Buhimian”, a reference to the municipality of Buhi and a play on the word "bohemian," typically used to denote unconventional artistry.

Desa Tayting
We had cold brew and Bicol Express Pasta here

Located on the ground floor of De Los Santos’ ancestral house in Baao, BidiBidi Café not only brews coffee and tea but embroidered, woven, and crocheted works of art as well.

Martha Herrera
Inside BidiBidi Cafe, there's artworks found everything everywhere all at once. 

The showcased BidiBidi merchandise, featuring De Los Santos' signature hand-embroidered faces, hangs on the walls, and the eclectic mix of artworks, art installations, colorful yarns and textiles, and repurposed furniture gives the space an artistic vibe. It came as no surprise for our group to be willfully “budol-ed” into buying numerous items from large to medium-sized bags, laptop sleeves to smaller items. 

Marky Ramone Go
Groufie while holding our purchased items with BidiBidi founder Bernadette De Los Santos

The future looks promising for the communities in this region of Camarines Sur to market their long-standing traditional weaving practice as a major One-Town, One-Product produce through Sustainable Community-Based Tourism, thanks in large part to the workshop conducted by TPB and the already flourishing collaboration between BidiBidi and the Buhi-mian weavers of Buhi.