Ramas used to be the provincial manager of the Ministry of Human Settlements, then headed by Ms Marcos.
“I personally designed a doll of her replica, wearing the Philippine [baro’t saya] terno and sporting her hairdo. I sent her some samples,” said Rue Ramas, president of the Corn Husk Association of the Philippines (CHAP).
Ms Marcos called Ramas immediately and placed her order to be given as Christmas gifts to friends.
In fact, Ms Marcos, who has been designing jewelries from waste materials through her “Waste Recovery Program,” promised to help promote not only her replica doll but other corn husk products as well, Ramas said.
With the help of the Department of Agriculture, the CHAP has established a Cornhusk Business Center here two years ago.
Ramas herself started making various products from corn husks, which were then left in the farms to rot or be burned, five years ago to show farmers that art and money can be made even without cash capital.
She said her group has already trained 25,000 people on corn husk handicraft making all over the country, believing there is huge potential for the industry, both in the local and international markets.
Because of its ingenuity, CHAP was nominated for the Product Innovator Award in a city-wide contest.
Ramas noted that her group is not only helping the handicraft industry but the corn farmers as well.
Corn husks, she said, usually sell between P10 and P15 per sack. But husks from Bt corn (the controversial genetically modified variety), which are generally cleaner, sell higher at P20 a sack.
"Farmers are advised to gather the corn husks and sell them to flower shops in the locality as they can be used as materials for novelty items. Specifically, the husks are transformed into attractive decorations with vibrant paints. The creative mind and skilful hand can make this material come to life," Ramas said.
A handicraft maker, Edith Aguilar of Banga town in South Cotabato, said that corn husks are better better materials for bag, slippers, flower vases and Christmas decors than pandan leaves. Furthermore, corn husk products could last up to 10 years, she added.
Caption: Fomer First Lady Imelda Marcos places an order of 200 pieces of dolls fashioned after her using waste corn husks as basic raw materials from the Corn Husk Association of the Philippines based in General Santos City. (MindaNews)