One Tribe At A Time

One Tribe At A Time

In this day and age where local is the fashion, Kaayo shares with us how they search for more tribes and women’s groups who are yearning to learn, work, share, and promote their culture and identity.


There are still so many women out there who we can help and empower. Marga Nograles’ Kaayo Modern Mindanao is a curated collection of different Mindanao stories. It is rooted in honoring the extraordinary skills of local artisans and transforming their traditional creations into modern, bespoke Mindanao fashion.


Established in 2017 by mother and daughter team, Mary Ann “Baby” Montemayor and Marga Nograles, Kayyo is a confluence of several factors that converged at the right time. Mother Baby is a staunch advocate of all things Mindanao. Marga, on the other hand, works with women for livelihood projects on top of her businesses engaged in fashion and retail. She was inspired to come up with a business model that would both empower and provide sustainable livelihood to the women. What started as a small partnership with a Tboli mother and daughter tandem is now a growing small enterprise.


Amid the steady and swift growth of the brand—mother and daughter remind themselves that it is easy to stay within their comfort zone and work with the same suppliers, groups, and tribes—but the essence of Kaayo is to inspire and dig deeper into the many other women’s groups who still need help.


Discovering a tribe, belonging to one 

A three-hour drive from Davao, then 40 minutes into a dirt road path led them to the talented Bagobo Tagabawa women of Bitaug, Davao del Sur.  Together they met, brainstormed, shared experiences, and slowly built a business system to create unique products that celebrate what Kaayo stands for: The beauty of Mindanao and its people.


The very first product they came up with was the reinvention of the Bagobo Tangkulo. This new scarf called the Kaayo Bitaug Scarf celebrates the hand beading and tie-dye techniques of the Bagobo Tagabawa. Kaayo now has an all white and an all black scarf in different textures.


According to Marga, “We wanted a solid color that is easily worn with anything but still with the elements of hand beading, handmade pompoms, and fabric textures to show the exquisite work of the tribe.” Each scarf is unique since the beading design and pompoms are made by different women of the tribe. Another product to look forward to is their Mary scarf which is inspired by the shawls from Baby’s past business with former Miss Universe Margie Moran-Floirendo named tribes of the east. Baby taught the tribe how to make her favorite scarf with what she says has the perfect length and width. This scarf will come in many variations, but for now, they share a sneak peek in vivid color of blues.


Meet the Women of the Bagobo-Tagabawa from Bitaug, Davao del Sur 

The Philippines is rich in a tradition steeped with artistry and creativity. One afternoon with the tribeswomen, we asked them what inspires them the most about their work and why.


Vivencia Mamites, 54

For indigenous tribeswoman Vivencia Mamites, it was a chance to see how her people’s lives could get better. Aside from farming, they knew something else—weaving and beading. “Magandang mabuhay kapag maganda ang buhay nila (It is nice to live when you know their lives are goos as well),” referring to her tribe in Bitaug, Davao Del Sur. Vivenciaalso trained under Salita Monon, a National Artist is known for weaving.


Sarah Mamites, 27

“I’m very happy with the livelihood, dati nagbabantay ako ngbata, ngayon busy na (before, I only care for children, now I am busy),” says Sarah Mamites. It has made them appreciate design too, she says of colors and patterns going together to express creativity.


Loriza Orbas, 17  

One of Kaayo’s bead designers says that aside from the job helping her send her daughter to school, the quality of work and looking at the beading she has done makes her happy.


Kimberly Algabre, 23

The brand’s first designer, Kimberly mentions that it has made her realize the value of design in products.


Kaayo Modern Mindanao is thankful and grateful for the gift of friendship they have with these women. Together they wish to grow, learn, and inspire each other while creating treasures to share with all of us.


Follow Kaayo Modern Mindanao on Instagram 


Original article by Manila Bulletin