Abaca, also known as Manila Hemp, is a tree-like herb which is of the same family as the banana plant and is indigenous to the Philippines. It is considered to be the strongest natural fiber in the world.
Various Philippine ethnic groups have utilized this material in making clothes, baskets, fishing nets and accessories even before the Spaniards came to the Philippines in 1521. Each with their own weaving techniques and dyeing processes. Although most of these traditional ways are not being practiced anymore, the fundamentals were kept, developed and improved into what is now a booming industry in the Philippines.
Initially it requires 2-4 years for the abaca plant to ripen, however the plant can grow shoots that become ready for harvest in 4-8 months after the initial crop. This makes the material a very sustainable choice in today's environmental conscious market.
- The stalk is the source of the fiber material used to make fabric textile, cordage or ropes, paper, fiber board, strengthening agent for plastic and glass, etc.
- The Abaca pulp is used in making currency and bank notes, tea bags, coffee filters, paper, lens tissue, insulation for computer chips, etc.
- Abaca corms can be used as planting materials and industrial starch.
- Seeds can be made into oil, body care products and food such as baked snacks, sauces and dips.
The dried out leaf sheath known as Bacbac or Havana can be used in making handicraft items such as: furniture, lamps, bags, hats, coin purse, slippers, trays, basket, decorative accessories and more.