Friday, November 9, 2012

There's Something About Marinduque

      My itinerary says it would take 3 to 4 hours to reach Kawit Pier in Marinduque.  From there, somebody would fetch me and bring me to Gasan, home to my host,
Mrs. Lelia Bermundo Narvas.

     My spine shivered not just because that would be my first time to board a ship but because it was my first time to be in Marinduque.  I’ve never heard anything bad about Marinduquenos nor had I experienced any misdeed done to me by a native of this province.  What kind of people are they?  Will they be interested in the craft that I’m about to impart to them?

     I can’t help but recall my humble beginnings and the vow I’ve kept all these years – 

     " To help others find their creative niche and develop their talents to produce
hand-made quality toy products."

     I was in this stream of thoughts when I noticed I have reached Lucena Grand Terminal.  I immediately got off the bus and felt happy to find a Jollibee branch within the terminal grounds.  After having lunch, I rode a jeep which took me off to the Dalahican/Talao Talao Pier.  I was lucky enough to reach the pier on time for the last trip to Marinduque at 4pm.

     I arrived at  Kawit Pier at around 8 pm.  A young man, helped me find a tricycle that took me to my host’s house in Gasan.  Later, I learned that that young man is my host’s son, Mc Enroe.  Only upon reaching their house have I felt relieved , my fear subsided.  Seeing Mrs. Narvas for the first time, I knew that I’m safe.

     Mrs. Narvas is a very kind woman.  She toured me around her garden even though it’s too dark and I can barely see the pave blocks around her garden.  She then mused me to a room where I had a good night sleep after a sumptuous dinner of a native chicken cooked in curried coconut milk.

     The next morning, Mrs. Narvas and I proceeded to Sta. Cruz Parish where Father Allan Malapad and Father Gani greeted us as they took turns nibbling boiled peanuts spread on a wide bilao.

     Our first day of training occurred in the activity area of the old convent house.  There, I met the participants, all of them women from different parishes of Marinduque.  They were in their early 20’s, 40’s and some were senior citizens.

      Although there were only 16 participants, I felt the intensity of their desire to learn.  Everyone was prepared, even brought their own extra chipboards for the free patterns I promised to give on the last day of the training.

      DAY ONE, started with pattern making.  Distribution of templates and boards came so fast that within an hour, they were able to finish cutting their fabric pieces and were ready for their first project, the teddy bear.

      An old lady, Sister Cory, was generous enough to let the younger participants took turns first with the pattern templates before she started with hers. The day ended with each participant having learned the importance of lay outing, cutting fabric pieces neatly and toy assembly via various hand sewing techniques.

     On the SECOND DAY, we transferred to a different venue, much smaller but more comfortable and more conducive to learning.  The participants were able to cut and sew their dolphins.

     On DAY THREE, back to our original training site, we embarked in Bird Making and all the participants were able to finish their toys.  We took pictures of their products and before we part ways, costing and packaging were discussed as well as the sources of raw materials.

     Among the notable participants were Sisters Cory, Lelia, Beth, Vener, Elena and Mercy; all of them patiently followed the instructions given to them.

      I cannot help but mention the presence of Reverend Michael who called the Dolphins, Tulingan.  I also appreciate the 3 seminarians who visited us from time to time as part of their immersion.

     I am so grateful to Father Allan and Sister Lelia.  They are both hospitable, very accommodating.  Even the participants, they are all very loving, asking me everytime they had a chance, when am I going back to Marinduque.

     I can say this training is a huge success.  They are planning to push through with their production as they now receive orders from friends, neighbours and relatives.

     Again, I reminded them that this program couldn’t have been realized without the help of Assisi Development Foundation and if they have more request for additional trainings, don’t hesitate to call me or their SAC officer.


Sunday, September 30, 2012

I fell in love with Atimonan

     The Stuffed Toy Making Seminar Workshop took place in the activity center  of the Atimonan Church, located in Atimonan, Quezon Province.   About 30 participants, whose ages range from 12 to 71  (believe it or not, this is true! ), men and women from different parishes and barangays, attended the (according to the participants) much awaited workshop.

     The training proper commenced with a welcome remark by Sister Shirley.  Sister Shirley later narrated to me during our lunch break that whenever there is an event such as this, she’s the prime personage responsible for the accommodation of the guests and the preparation of the venue.

     Followed by my short introductory speech with which I welcomed everyone to the wonderful world and  lucrative craft of soft toy making,  the participants later were grouped into fives, with at least 1 to 2 male member ( there are a total of 6 male participants, 5 in  their early 20’s and 1 aged 71) to help facilitate in procuring their raw materials and manuals.

       As expected all expressed their enthusiasm especially when I recounted my early beginnings in soft toy making and the many rewards I received since I started making toys for gifts and souvenirs.

     Our coordinators, Sister Pilita and Sister Wilma joined the class and participated well in creating their projects. 

     The participants became excited when they found out that THEIR FIRST PROJECT is the RED BIRD stuffed toy !  I later announced that whichever group finishes first will receive a free PENGUIN PATTERN!

     Photo shoots occurred while working and during rest periods with Kuya Greg and Kuya Rico as our volunteer photographers.  Candid shots were taken with the participants all-smiled pose with their toys and patterns, giggledly excited about their newly found skill in toy making.

Specific topics were discussed on our last day of training:

1.       Closing Stitch
2.       Face Sculpting
3.       Cleaning & Trimming
4.       Costing and Pricing

     Then, the participants got busy with their last project – the Teddy Bear.  Fun and excitements loomed the entire training room as one by one presents his/her creation topped by Ms. Dolores Durana, again followed by four others, namely:

  • 1.       Jegger Martir
  • 2.       Ricky Almeyda
  • 3.       Marylo Tabi
  • 4.       Ofelia Santidad

           The total number of participants were 28 plus 2 ( Sister Wilma and Sister Pilita, 30 all-in-all) who happily accepted their Certificate of Participation given by Lucena Diocesan Social Action Center, Inc. (LUDISAC)  Director, Rev. Msgr. Melecio V. Verastigue,

           I’m so grateful to Sister Shirley, Father Msgr. Boy, Kuya Rico, Kuya Jason (the Church Chef), Father Dennis, Sister Pilita and Sister Wilma for their combined efforts in making this event successful.  Before we part ways, Msgr. Boy reminded us the important role of Hapag Asa and commended Assisi Development Foundation for coming up with this concept of Livelihood Training.

.     Five promising individuals, namely Jegger Martir, Ricky Almeyda, Dolores Durana, Leonora Veloso and Rufina Bacquial expressed their willingness to pursue this kind of business and share this to their co-parishers and barangay townfolks.  

           Ms. Lucy Quismundo, on the other hand, texted me as I aboard my bus bound to Manila, that she’s practicing all the three projects with alternative fabrics:

       “  Marami pong salamat sa ibinahagi mo sa aming kaalaman.  Naga practice po kami ng anak ko sa paggawa ng teddy bear para maituro ko po dito sa amin.”

      Mr. Ricky Almeyda said:

          “  Pinaliit ko pa po ang pattern ng Angry Bird para mas madali pong gawin, ituturo ko po kasi sa aking inay at sa mga taga rito sa amin upang mayron kaming dagdag kita.”

             Jegger Martir texted:

         “  Ingat ka po sa pag uwi sir.  I te text po kita pag magpapabili ako ng mga materyales.
             Magtuturo din po nito sa amin sa Tayabas.”
             Leonora Veloso texted:

“                     Thank you very much po.  Prayer is my special gift for you.”

      I replied those who texted me with encouragement not to give up if they encounter problems with stuffed toy making.  I promised that I’ll be meeting them again soon to continue to assist them as I gave them additional pattern :  Panda, and promised to give more when I return.

     God bless the Diocese of Lucena and more power to LUDISAC, INC.!!!  Being with Quezonians certainly is another wonderful and an unforgettable experience!!!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Reason To Share This Skill - Part 1

     The long journey from Marikina to Las Piñas covered almost four hours (waiting time included due to heavy flow of traffic in EDSA and Makati) but the long wait to arrive at the training venue proved to be worthy as I was greeted warmly by women representing different parishes who convened at the Good Shepherd Parish for the Stuffed Toy Making Seminar Workshop.

     Ladies aged between 20 to 55, seated accordingly, patiently listened to my lecture on the Basics of Toy Making.  All exhibited enthusiasm especially when I recounted my early beginnings in soft toy making and the many rewards I received since I started making toys for gifts and souvenirs.


     Our host, Sister Violy, a very affectionate and thoughtful woman, who kindly fetched me from the subdivision entrance on the first day of our training, together with Sister Debbie, joined the class all throughout the course. 


     Day One, went smoothly as participants enjoyed their first hands-on exercise in Pattern Making.  Pattern templates for dolphin stuffed toy produced from chip boards formed the core of the pattern making process.  As soon as their first exercise were finished, the class was divided into three groups and assigned a specific task – that each group, with their combined skills in cutting and sewing must produce one dolphin stuffed toy, which will later serve as their guide when it’s their turn to create their individual projects.


                                            Swannie Mae, a participant, proudly shows her dolphin!!!
     Day Two, considered as their most challenging day, the participants got busy making Ellie, the Elephant.  Due to its many puzzle-pieced templates, it took them so long to finish joining the toy’s body parts.  Nevertheless, two groups finished first with their prototypes and won a free cupid boy stuffed toy patterns!!!

     Meals and photo shoots occurred while working and during rest periods.  With Sister Debbie and Sister Lea volunteering as “official photographers”, candid shots were taken with the participants all-smiles posed with their toys and patterns, giggledly excited about their newly found skill in toy making.

     The rest of the topics were discussed on our last day of training:

Closing Stitch
Face Sculpting
Cleaning & Trimming
Costing and Pricing

     All the participants were given 2 additional patterns (Swan and Panda)


        This batch of trainees learned fast.  They neatly joined fabric pieces together and finished the toys with less supervision.  Three promising individuals, namely Josie Llarenas, Rhonilyn Vargas and Jelyn Dumapig always finish first followed by Ate Helenita Cedilla, Emalyn Lozada and Angela Merendad.  

     Before we part ways, Mrs. Cedilla and Mrs. Llarenas deeply expressed their interest to continue in enhancing their craft.  While others stated that they would want to start making toys in anticipation for Christmas season.

     I also expressed my gratitude and reminded them that Assissi Development Foundation will always be here to help them acquire new knowledge and skills and I promised to continuously support them with the technical and marketing aspects.

     God bless the Diocese of Parañaque.  Meeting them, teaching them, having fun with them, is certainly a wonderful and an unforgettable experience, a reason enough why I share this craft!!!

Understanding Patterns

     I have always been fascinated with soft animal toys and often wonder how they were constructed in such a way that they resemble real animals.  When I took my Basic Course in Soft Toy Making I learned from my mentor, Mrs. Dimatulac that assembling a soft toy is like solving a jigsaw puzzle and that this 'game' starts with a set of patterns.  Here are some important tips and trivia, all about patterns.

  • Patterns are usually made of card board, hard enough to withstand wear and tear.
  • An average-size soft animal toy would have a set of patterns consisting of  7 to 12 pattern pieces or templates.
  • One can normally see markings, letters of the alphabet and instructions written on one side of each template.
  • A 1/4 inch seam allowance is already included on each template.

     More on understanding patterns on my next blog - Understand Patterns Part 2.    

A Reason To Share This Skill - Primer

I believe there are lots of reasons why I need to share this skill in soft toy making.  In a community where kids are a plenty, it's pretty obvious that spreading the news about the seminars I conduct create certain sparks and smiles, just what I imagine in each mom's caricature.  Read my latest blog, A Reason To Share This Skill and see mompreneurs sewing their way to make beautiful toys.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Me? A Stuffed Toy Repair Specialist?

Emergency !!!  Emergency !!!  Broken bear found !!!

Here in the Philippines, rag dolls proliferated for many years since the 70's.  Sometimes these special friends have been loved to the point that oftentimes, they need a little extra care or repair.  Their 'stuffing' is no longer fluffy or soft, may be missing an eye, nose or limb, or ripped by pets and rough play.

Through the years, Philippine soft toy designs have evolved.  Thanks to the influence of our American and European friends whose hearts were captured by the famous Teddy bears and other stuffed animals.  And up to now we enjoy different varieties of toys, there's just too many to choose from! But even so, the same problems continue to beset Pinoy kids:  a bear's broken neck, a ripped ear, another limb of their toy detached from its 'main' body!

Such is what I saw when I visited my brother in Concepcion, Marikina.
With expert sewing and mending skills I've developed through years of constant toy making and the availability of  modern materials and replacement parts, their broken teddy bear and ripped stuffed horse were carefully restored.  I can never forget the smile on my nephew's face as he saw his beautiful toy revived to its original state.   From then on, every time someone approaches me for repair, I see to it that the toy is treated with the utmost care, because I understand how some toys are irreplaceable and repairing them for our loved ones is a rewarding endeavor that brings us great pleasure.  

Monday, April 9, 2012

What You Need To Start This Hobby

Ever wondered who started it all?

The origin of the Teddy Bear concerns a German soft toy manufacturer, Margarete Steiff, who at a young age was stricken with Polio. One day Margarete Steiff made a tiny elephant which she would let her little visitors play with. Since toys were very rare back then and the children loved playing with them, Margarete's mother began giving her orders for copies of the elephant as well as other toy animals. As time went by she started to train other women to help her and eventually set up a small factory.  

Here's what I promised, the list of Tools and Equipment to begin your stuffed toy making.

Tools & Equipment:

·         A clean work table, Formica-lined if possible 
·         2 pairs of scissors
·         Assorted colors of nylon thread
·         Assorted sizes of needles
·         A nap metal brush
·         A rubber mallet
·         A metal mallet block
·         A plastic or wood stick
·         A magnet
·         A puncher

     Raw Materials:

·         Pieces of cardboard or used folders
·         Ball point pens
·         Paste or glue
·         Fasteners

      Specific Raw Materials (per toy design)

  • ·   Plush fabrics (assorted colors and fur lengths)
  • ·     Plastic spangles (plastic eyes and plastic noses)
  • ·     Open weave polyester fiber (white, Class A/supersoft)
          Note:  A box containing all of these, with patterns and instruction manuals for 5 projects, is available upon request for a very affordable price.     
                         You may e-mail your request at

Come Join Me As I Walk Back . . .

If you love stuffed toys
and would like to make your own at home,
then welcome to the wonderful world
of soft toy making !

I began making stuffed toys for my nieces and nephews back in 1992.  They became so popular among their friends and classmates.  My room was taken over by my soft toys collections and orders from the entire neighborhood kept pouring in I have to mass produce in 1994!

Pretty soon, my collections of toys were noticed by  friends and friends of friends.  They encouraged me to submit samples to big manufacturers.  I did. Sure enough, I was hired as a Product Developer in a stuffed toy factory in Muntinlupa City.  Among my creations were Smiley Hang Toys, Moose, my version of Tarsier and a lot more.

Remember when I told you I was surprised to find sewing machines back in our workplace at CITC?  Because I was afraid to use them.  Being mechanical, electrical and all that...the thought of me operating those machines made me shiver down my spine.  I'm an accident freak and so I'm always afraid whenever things, gadgets (that could inflict or injure) which I'm unfamiliar with were presented to me to utilize.

Thank heavens,  hand-sewing techniques will do for beginners in soft toy making.

So, I invite you dear readers to come and join me as I recount my early beginnings in this wonderful craft that tickled my imagination, brought me so much joy and plumbed the depths of my passion to create beautiful toys for all ages.

Are you ready?

Let's go !

First, let's take a look at the Workplace.

Be sure to have a suitable working space with proper ventilation and free from noise and other disturbances such as noisy kids, roaming pets and, of course, the TV set!  One must be focused because the entire stuffed toy making process requires concentration.

On my next post, the Tools & Equipment and specific Raw Materials used in stuffed toy making will be discussed.

I Fell In Love With Stuffed Toy Making

Stuffed toys - plush buddies sewn to perfection.  Made to depict both common and rare species of living creatures for the delight of young and old alike.

Soft toys encourage play, which is an essential part of a child’s exploration of the world.  But above all, a cuddly toy is a gift bringing both comfort and joy to its happy owner, likewise, satisfaction and pleasure to its happy maker.

It is for these reasons that I indulged myself into this craft.  Pretty soon, I discovered why a lot of people these days consider soft toy making, a rewarding activity and a profitable craft.

How It all Began

I started my journey in soft toy making back in 1992, when I discovered Cottage Industry Technology Center.  Located at #20 Russet St., SSS Village, Marikina City, I found it to be a perfect place for an enthusiast, craving to learn lots of crafts.  Formerly called NACIDA or the National Cottage Industry Development Authority, it is a hub for exporters as well as producers of different handicrafts.

My training will last for 5 days only.  For me, that's not enough to master this form of art.  But I was assured by my trainer, the very talented and patient, Mrs. Anita Dimatulac, that she always welcome students whenever they have questions regarding a certain pattern or procedure.

Each day, I was informed, that I'm supposed to finish one project.
The list of my projects goes:

Day 1 - Teddy Bear
Day 2 - Piggy
Day 3 - Monkey
Day 4 - Doggie
Day 5 - Bunny

I almost jump out of excitement!  But when the tour along the workplace began, my jaw nearly drop....Aghast!!! I saw sewing machines...!  And I don't have the slightest idea how to use them!

How I survived my 5-day training in stuffed toy making?  Watch out for my next post.  There,  I will describe in detail what I have learned during my training.