GK Sooc’s trash to trendy bags in Boracay

Trendy high quality and high fashion bags made from discarded tarpaulin that GK Sooc families make as a livelihood as displayed at PJ Aranador's Nautilus Boutique at D'Mall, Boracay Island.

What Project Zero is all about. CLICK TO ENLARGE

“We are so happy. It was a dream come true for us! Not only were we able to come here for the first time in Boracay, we were doubly proud of seeing the products that we made ourselves being sold to tourists,” Ate Hermie, 59 years old exclaimed with excitement as she first set foot in Boracay’s fabled shore as well as seeing their labor of love, a series of fashionable bags that she and her neighbors made displayed at a designer’s shop at D’Mall.

A former scavenger in Manduriao’s dump in Iloilo province, Ate Hermie, together with other 66 families now reside in the PLDT-Smart Amazing GK Village, in Sooc, Arevalo District, or GK Sooc for short. This is one of PLDT-Smart and Gawad Kalinga Foundation’s project sites and a hub for their newfound livelihood.

“When we started our partnership with Gawad Kalinga, we gave homes to several families in Sooc but did not stop there. We did not just build homes, we helped them build livelihood,” said Darwin Flores, Smart’s Senior Manager for Community Partnerships.

International designer PJ Aranador, left; GK Sooc residents who made the bags, right during launch night last 18 April

A model shows off one of the bags

With trainings conducted by Philippine Business for Social Progress, the largest corporate-led social development foundation in the Philippines and in collaboration with international lifestyle designer PJ Arañador and GKonomics, a Gawad Kalinga partner in social enterprise development, Project Zero was born with the aim “of creating livelihood projects through innovative design and product development with a market in mind.” This with zero electricity, zero carbon footprint and zero waste, makes this an eco friendly and sustainable project.

Just imagine, all of Smart’s discarded billboard and banner tarpaulin advertisements around the country shipped to Iloilo and stored in two huge warehouses. With the trainings select GK Sooc inhabitants got and the guidance given by PJ, they have transformed these into fashionalable evening bags, purses, knapsacks, pouches, and small handbags. All under PJ’s Nautilus line.

And the good thing? Tourists and locals can buy these at PJ Arañador’s hip lifestyle boutique at the popular D’Mall. You not only get a trendy high quality, high fashion bag designed by PJ, who is of international caliber, you also get to help GK Sooc families earn an honest living as well as save the environment.

These bags are currently available at Nautilus in D’Mall, Station 2, Boracay Island and will also be available soon in GKonomics’s showrooms nationwide. Check out GK Sooc’s Facebook page.

Estan Cabigas is freelance photographer, blogger and writer based in Makati City, the Philippines. A true blue Cebuano, he makes stunning images and meaningful photo stories. His work has been published in local and international publications including National Geographic Magazine, Geo (Germany), Sunday Times Magazine (London) and other publications. He is also a peripatetic traveler and has traveled to all 81 Philippines provinces. I'm open for work, collaborations and inquiries, including hotel, restaurant and site features and reviews.

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