In The Same Boat: Artisan Platform Stays Afloat Through Typhoon With The Women It Serves - Meaningful Life

A couple of months later, the country continues to recoil from the impacts of typhoon Odette.

Odette’s brief but baleful stay in mid-December last year left the Philippines with more than it could bear.

READ ALSO: Call For Aid: Here’s How To Help Filipinos Affected By Typhoon Odette

Many areas still experience issues in power, water supply, and communication lines, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council’s latest situational report on Odette dated February 7.

The estimated cost of damage to infrastructure and agriculture are P29.33 billion and P17.75 billion, respectively.

Overall, more than 10.6 million people were affected in MIMAROPA, Region 5, Region 6, Region 7, Region 8, Region 9, Region 10, Region 11, Region 12, CARAGA, and BARMM.

These include countless businesses and the surrounding communities they were built to serve.

One such enterprise is Disenyo Del Sur, an online platform that highlights creative expressions of women in the Visayan Region.

But even a tropical cyclone was not enough to drown the platform’s vision of building a sense of community among women in the South.

Sink or Swim

Disenyo Del Sur offers specialty goods from in-house and partner brands all borne, developed, and made in the Visayan/Cebuano region. These include bags, clothing, jewelry and accessories, and home and self-care products.

As a platform, it develops brands and collaborates with women-owned enterprises that “relay messages of hope and empowerment.”

Surely enough, it was this same sense of corporate social responsibility that kept the brand afloat when it was forced to put all of its production on hold.

“Typhoon Odette was like nothing we had ever felt or seen. It destroyed so much and left us shaken to our cores. It was like being sucked back into the dark ages where people were literally thinking only of where to get food and water for days and weeks,” owners Amanda LuYm and Cacay Moras tell Lifestyle Asia.

“We had to stabilize our homes and our employees before we could even look at the businesses.”

Odette had literally and figuratively kept them in the dark, scared by the lack of knowledge on whether any of the producers or designers would be able to do anything for months.

Soon enough, their fortune had turned up.

Notwithstanding the fact that many of their collaborators work with community-based materials and workforces, they were able to swim through the poor circumstances.

Partners started chiming in by the end of December and early January, saying they could ship soon. “I was so impressed by the entrepreneurial spirit with which they moved,” Moras celebrates.

Moreover, Disenyo Del Sur has fulfillment centers in both Metro Manila and Metro Cebu. They were lucky to have their Manila operations up and running, which meant they could still fulfill their last orders before Christmas and deliver on their existing inventory.

Spirit of Giving

“That being said, the financial losses of a shortened Christmas holiday sale season are still being felt by all. It is not a case of ‘standing up and dusting yourself off,’ Odette felled many livelihoods,” Moras sobers.

Their circle of friends and suppliers had lost entire homes and factories, which proved to be short-lived gains during the COVID-19 financial drought that would ironically be washed away by a storm.

The losses, however, were not enough to bankrupt their humanity.

The owners held a monthlong sale of items from their jewelry brand, All That Glitters. They also personally contributed in the form of a founders donation.

“We knew we could not do much in the way of physical presence and building, but we knew that we could fundraise. Nothing is rebuilt without money to purchase materials, so we focused on that very quickly,” Moras explains.

The entire amount raised went toward purchasing roofing materials for the homes of the weaving community they work with in Argao, Cebu.

Together with private donors and their partner brand HoliCOW (Holistic Coalition of the Willing), they were able to almost completely cover the projected expenses.

Today, now that the small team of Disenyo Del Sur has resumed all operations and shipping again, they encourage everyone to also support their advocacy by giving back to the community.

Specifically, they advise anyone with financial capacity to choose a reliable and verified donation portal, shop from local producers, and patronize local travel safely.

Operation Liferaft

The platform gave what it could even when it had its own problems to worry about, because they had always wanted to be part of the solution.

“If we did nothing, and did not help, then our entire company culture would have been disingenuous,” Moras champions.

Their first brand in the jewelry trade, for instance, had created its Pink line where all proceeds would go toward cancer care. Even the process of preparing these pink gold items incorporated inclusivity and sustainability, with all packaging fabric sourced from Argao weavers.

Fast forward to Odette’s aftermath, all proceeds from the sale of All That Glitters pieces from the Floralia and Themyscira line benefitted the same Argao weaver community.

Disenyo Del Sur goes full circle through its symbiotic relationship with Southern artisans.

“When this idea was born on a beach holiday with Cacay, we knew it was always going to have a component of helping others along the way,” LuYm recalls.

“The company was my life raft. It’s what got me through it, and so opening up my ‘life raft’ to others made complete sense to me. It’s always going to be that way.”

As creative head, LuYm explained that Disenyo Del Sur aims to be more than just run-of-the-mill e-commerce. In times of crisis, it becomes “Operation Liferaft.”

This meant that instead of retrenching, the platform actively searched for more brands to collaborate with, reinvested and bought inventory from small-ticket producers, and pushed these names right next to their own.

“There’s more to this than making money. It’s the only way it’s worth it for me,” LuYm concludes.

Banner Photo by Disenyo Del Sur via Facebook

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