The Price You Pay

Named after the Tboli virtue that translates into "the spirit of working together", Sesotunawa embodies the culture, art, and stories of the Tboli of Lake Sebu in each handcrafted product. Our artisans harness knowledge that has been passed down through generations to weave it into a tapestry of collective identity that honors the past, celebrates the present, and gives hope for the future.

The entire community participates in the creation of each Sesotunawa piece. Making a Tboli brass jewelry, for instance, typically involves three or more brass casters in molding the wax and melting the metals. Charcoal and metal scraps are sourced from junk shops and neighboring communities. And after casting and cooking the brass, other artisans step in to clean and prepare the final product. This whole process can take up to 4 days to complete, and at least 8 families.

In the past, the Tboli of Lake Sebu thought a hundred or so pesos was enough to pay for the cycle of production that goes into the creation of each piece. They didn't factor in labor and material costs, and - in many cases - they let the buyer set the price.

Sesotunawa, as a social enterprise, believes in elevating cultures and empowering communities by recognizing the true value of these handmade products by the Tboli. Today, a Silang Kdaw is priced at Php 699; 23% of the price covers the materials and labor costs, and the remaining 77% goes towards the operating capital, community enterprise development, and funding for artisans' savings.

How does this new pricing model impact our artisans? For every profit of Php 541.50 (77% of the SRP) made from a Silang Kdaw pair, 52% is allocated to mentoring and capability building support for the artists, and Php 17.50 is set aside for a savings fund. This fund is accessible to the artisans for any emergency or need for money, such as for the education of their children, healthcare services, or new business opportunities. In the midst of this pandemic, this fund has been instrumental in providing a safety net to the Tboli of Lake Sebu, as they navigate these new socioeconomic realities.

The pricing also honors all the work that goes into the production of each piece. Materials and labor costs are pegged at Php 157.50 for each Silang Kdaw pair, including overhead and transportation expenses. 

Lastly, to the Tboli of Lake Sebu, fair pricing allows them to reclaim the helm of the dynamics that involve them. By knowing - and asserting - the true value of each piece of their handcrafted brass or bead product, they take charge of their role in their own stories, the stories that they offer their children, and the stories that we are lucky to witness.

Word Weaver Kat Petines

Visual Storyteller Oni Montejo