Bahandi Sandals: Transforming Floating Lilies to Stylish and Affordable Footwear
After spending many weekends exploring the various parts of CARAGA region for secret hideaways and potential tourist locations, the husband and wife team of Jimbo and Shayla Sanchez one day turned their attention to the dense existence of water lilies floating along the Agusan River.
Aside from the hats they wore from their daily professions; Jimbo – in the academic profession and Shayla who is an established writer and photographer, the couple also dabbles in community based and environmental projects. It didn’t take long before an idea to harness the nuances of water lilies overgrowth into something beneficial turned into a vision.
The Agusan River
It didn’t take long before Shayla was able to introduced the concept to a fledging community project called Bahandi and ended up becoming the group’s primary consultant for product development and marketing. “The group Bahandi (Butuan Agusan Handicrafts) was formed in 2014 after the members of the community were able to undergo training that was initiated by DTI and ACLC College of Butuan. After their trainings, members of the group started to sell their slippers individually. It was September last year when I felt that in order for the business to be more sustainable, we needed to tap the different markets as a group, no longer making slippers individually but incorporating the “assembly line” concept where each group was tasked to do something specific. By doing so, a person/group got to be an expert in a specific area of slipper making and they were able to work and deliver in volume. Last December, they were able to deliver their first bulk order of 300 pairs of slippers” Shayla said.
Bahandi: Take me anywhere. Photo Courtesy of Bahandi FB page
Today, the trained artisan workers of Bahandi – which is mostly composed of mothers from low income families all over Butuan City, are now manufacturing Bahandi sandals in an increased production since its inception. Because it is sourced naturally from the durable components of water lilies, the cost per pair is driven down to affordable rates.
“Bahandi slippers are made from the water lilies that are found along the Agusan River. The water lilies that usually clog the waterways are collected, dried, dyed, cut up and braided in order to be made into slippers. Each pair of Bahandi slippers are carefully handcrafted by the members. It makes the perfect “pasalubong” when coming from our city because these water lilies are abundant in the region” Shayla adds.
Imbibing influences from the staple sandals found in the grandparent’s homes of our childhood and added with a touch of contemporary design, by fusing in lively colors – the finished Bahandi sandals now appear like a beautiful mesh of both the traditional and the modern.
Shayla explains the simple designing process as pretty laid back but focused more on the quality. “Since there were a lot of trainings given to other groups on slipper making, we wanted Bahandi to be able to stand out from the rest. We don’t have design inspirations specifically but we just improved the designs by making them simpler and yet more attractive. We also made stricter guidelines so that the community could deliver more quality products.”
Shayla Sanchez – the consultant for product development of Bahandi
The steady growth of Bahandi doesn’t only mean less water flow obstacles at Agusan River, it also means a source of sustainable livelihood for a number of handicraft workers in Butuan. Mirroring the now seamless flow of Agusan River, this whole project also spills over to the consumers who can now purchase an affordable footwear without sacrificing style and quality.
“So far, we have a Bahandi Page on Facebook where people can order individually or in bulk. The slippers are also displayed in a small souvenir shop inside the Watergate Hotel and at the Outdoor Exchange Store in Robinsons Mall, both of which are in Butuan. In the future, we hope to have our slippers exported to countries like the UK, Australia, Japan, etc. We would also like to expand the group in order to help more Butuanons stay in the region. We believe that there is opportunity here, sometimes, we just have to make it ourselves so that we can have more local talents stay instead of going to Manila or to other countries in order to provide for their families.” Shayla shares excitedly.