The very first products I sold were the tenoyong (tiny bells). I was still learning the art of temwel (brass casting) then and if I made enough tiny bells, my Ye (mother) would take me with her to the banwa (town center). On some days we rode the owong (boat) but most of the time we would walk our way to the banwa to sell our handmade products. Sixty tiny bells could sell for 100 pesos.
At times, the storeowners would exchange our products for rice, and sometimes they would ask us to return at a later date to collect the payment. It was not easy, but we did not know of other places to where we can sell our products.
More often than not, they set the prices for us and they have always bought our products for the same price over the years. We did not have a choice then, and I would always tell myself that no matter how small we earned from selling our work, if it meant having something to feed my family, it was already enough for me.
When I was young, scrap brass was cheap, so we could earn more from selling our work. Eventually the cost of the raw materials increased but the prices of our brass cast products remained the same.
Because of these experiences, I always had a dream of running my own business, but I knew it was going to be impossible because I did not go to school. I did not have the knowledge and skills.
“It will forever remain a dream,” I would often tell myself.
To celebrate this unique process of cultural transmission, we share with you the story of Kuya Joel and his journey in becoming a Tau Temwel and co-founder of Sesotunawa. This narrative is a translated version of what he shared during one of our capability building/mentoring sessions in Lake Sebu.