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Fossilized Flowers Bloom in Quirino

To many, there’s no extraordinary use for the leaves and twigs of trees in addition to its shade-giving property. Once Pruned, these trimmings are considered as wastes, which are either burned or left on the ground to decompose.

But this is not the case to Joyce V. Leal and the enterprising women of Quirino province. They transform these ordinary leaves into something useful, beautiful and profitable: the fossilized flowers. These have become one of Quirino’s attractions and lucrative livelihood as well.

Fossilized flowers are made from fresh leaves that are scoured, bleached, and dyed. These are then crafted to resemble flowers using twigs as stalks or stems. They are termed “fossilized” because they have been preserved and dyed with colors that last.

Since 1995, Joyce has been making fossilized flowers out of the leaves of narra, guava, guyabano, mahogany, alibangbang (Formosa tree), and jackfruit shortly after she and a group of women underwent a local training on fossilizing leaves. Joyce has become one of the first producers of fossilized flowers in the province when she later put up her own business which she named J’s Craft.

She said that fossilized flower-making has eventually become one of the most established cottage industries in the province, helping entrepreneurs like them to earn money and at the same time provide employment to the people in the community.

How profitable fossilized flower-making is? Joyce said that they are buying fresh leaves locally at P15 to P20 per kilo. It would take 25 kilos of fresh leaves to make 50,000 flowers which are retailed at P5 to P20 per piece depending on the size.

For every flower, Joyce spends P1 to P1.50 for the labor. Deduct also the cost of scouring agent, bleach and dye which will not eat up much of the expenses. So just imagine how much money she’s earning from the ordinary leaves.

But Joyce is not the only one who earns. Aside from her five regular workers, she also helps other people profit by assembling the dyed leaves into flowers. Currently, she contracts more or less 50 households within the province to shape flowers for her and she pays them on a per flower basis. She added that these people, regardless of age, could comfortably work right in their own homes at any time of the day.

Joyce also shares the technology on making fossilized flowers by training individuals who are interested to learn the craft and eventually start a business on their own.

On the average, Joyce’s production rate now stands at a minimum of 1,000 pieces daily. She markets these on a consignment basis to various clients in Quirino and other provinces. Other insterested buyers, especially tourists, could also buy in retail. More recently, she has expanded her market by supplying some outlets in Trinoma Mall in Quezon City, Robinsons Galleria in Ortigas, and SM-Megamall in Mandaluyong City.

Joyce said that these can mainly be attributed to the optimization of the pretreatment and dyeing techniques taught to them by the experts from the Philippine Textile Research Institute (PTRI) of the Department of Science and Technology in 2003.

PTRI said that prior to its intervention, the fossilized flower makers’ pretreatment method took them seven days to finish. They were using hydrogen peroxide or hypochlorite in inappropriate proportion which compromised the strength and properties of the leaves. consequently affecting dye application.

On the other hand, the PTRI’s technology involved simultaneous scouring and bleaching which uses standard amount of scouring and bleaching agents. The leaves are neutralized to slightly acidified baths to obtain the desired whiteness and remove excess base and chemicals. Surprisingly, this process usually takes only an hour to complete.

They were also taught an alternative color application process using acid dyes which impart colors with superior color fastness performance compared to the synthetic dyes that they were using.

Likewise, they were introduced by PTRI to using natural dyes which gave their flowers unique colors. Among the colors that they obtained were yellow from yellow ginger, orange from atsuete seeds, red from mahogany bark, old rose from sibukao wood, blue from indigo leaves, maroon from sampalok bark, and pink from buko (young coconut) husk.

Joyce was also fortunate to have availed of a P50,000 grant from DOST Region II for the acquisition of a 30-kg capacity grass dryer and bleaching tanks to further improve her processing method. Through DOST’s Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program, she was later granted P157,000 worth of equipment to boost her production.

Through the years, Joyce has showed that dedication and constant innovation are important in one’s business, enabling her to contribute to the growth of the fossilized flower industry in Quirino which has been instrumental in changing the lives of the many people who depend on it for livelihood. And this is more than the colorful blooms that fossilized flowers bring.