Tatay Mario working hard to finish one of his masterpieces. 

Pieces of wood, chisel, hammer, and other carving tools are the reliable and constant companion of Mario G. Namaggo or Tatay Mario, a local sculptor, who grew up in Ifugao but now resides, together with his family, in Sta. Ana, Cagayan.

The scars on Tatay Mario’s hands are proof of his years of hard work in perfecting his craft.  He uses pieces of wood as his canvass, where he meticulously carves every single detail of his masterpieces. These creations have become his family’s passport to a better life.

Starting small

Tatay Mario married Nanay Maribel in 1995. The couple was blessed with six children. With a big family, the couple soon struggled to provide for the needs of their growing brood.

At that time, Tatay Mario worked as a sculptor in a private company and earned on a percentage basis.

More struggles came their way as the business of his employer went bankrupt which left Tatay Mario unemployed. To make both ends meet, Nanay Maribel sold vegetables, fish, and snacks in their neighborhood.

Wanting to be of help, Tatay Mario collected driftwoods, transformed these into souvenir items, and looked for interested buyers.  Day and night, he relentlessly worked for his family, unmindful of the discomfort brought by his physical disability. To make the most out of his skill, Tatay Mario, with Nanay Maribel’s approval, decided to accept orders and ventured in furniture making and wood carving.

The couple continued with their entrepreneurial project despite having meager funds and minimal tools to use.

From small to thriving business

In 2017, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) opened an opportunity for the couple to further expand their venture through its Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP).

The Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP) is a capability-building program for the poor, vulnerable, and marginalized households and communities to help improve their socio-economic conditions through accessing and acquiring necessary assets to engage in and maintain thriving livelihoods. SLP contributes to improving the economic sufficiency of poor households in developing employable skills, securing gainful employment, and earning steady and sufficient financial resources. It provides several modalities under its two tracks which are microenterprise development and employment facilitation.

The Namaggo couple opted for the microenterprise track. Under this track, Nanay Maribel underwent Basic Livelihood Training (BLT) to equip her with techniques to properly manage their business. After the BLT, DSWD extended the couple a seed capital fund amounting to P10,000.

The couple used the fund to purchase more raw materials and additional carving tools. To upgrade their previous products, they started making personalized wooden crafts, souvenir items, furniture, and home decors.

Aside from that, they also offered lumber/timber cutting and shaping services.  They now cater to clients in their barangay, as well as in nearby barangays of Dungeg, San Vicente, and Centro.

As the couple became known for their quality service and workmanship, big clients such as resort and hotel owners in Sta. Ana, and in the neighboring municipalities of Gonzaga and Sta. Teresita started to approach them. No less than the local government of Sta. Ana recognized their business and showed their support by becoming one of their valued patrons.            

As time went by, their business continued to become profitable. The couple now earns an average of P5,000 to P6,000 per contract for the custom pieces that they produce.  For labor alone, the couple gets an average of P3,200 to P6,000 per contract. The steady income is more than enough to support their children.

The Namaggo family has also improved their furniture shop and acquired additional assets such as  wood cutting and carving machines. They also bought a kolong-kolong or a local service vehicle to reach a larger market and cater to the demands of their clients outside of their municipality.

A fulfillment of the couple’s dream

More than the expansion of their business, the couple takes pride in successfully sending their eldest child,  Maricris, to college, which is something they consider as their greatest achievement, so far. Now, they have the very first degree holder in the family, a licensed teacher, which Tatay Mario and Nanay Maribel regard as a fulfillment of their dream.

Their daughter is currently teaching at the San Vicente Elementary School and is now helping the family especially with the school needs of her five siblings as a way of giving back for the sacrifices of her parents.

For Tatay Mario, he has a lot to be thankful for especially for his skill to carve creative wood pieces.

“Binigyan ako ng Diyos ng mga kamay na kayang lumilok ng obra, kaya naman itong mga kamay na to ang lililok sa kinabukasan ng aking mga anak. Nagpapasalamat ako sa SLP, malaking tulong sa amin ito upang mapalawak ang aming nasimulang negosyo,” Tatay Mario said. -30-