Abaca fiber, more commonly known as Manila hemp, is considered as the strongest among the natural fibers. It is obtained from the leaf sheath of the abaca, a plant indigenous to the Philippines which is similar to banana in appearance except that the leaves are upright, pointed, narrower and more tapering. The tropical climate of the Dalaguete highlands is very suitable to the abaca industry that it indeed used to flourish in the area until the 1960’s, when the invention of the nylon spelled the downfall of the abaca demand, and with it, the Dalaguete growers’ abaca industry. Recent technological breakthroughs, however, has revitalized the industry’s annual abaca requirements. Abaca pulp has become a tested material for the production of various kinds of specialty papers like tea bags, meat and sausage casings, stencil paper, electrolytic paper, cigarette plug wraps, filters, vacuum cleaner bags, surgical gowns and masks, and other non-woven disposables, security and currency papers.
Lately, the Philippine currency is now made up of 80% cotton and 20% abaca as per authority of then President Gloria Arroyo dated May 10, 2000. To this end, the municipality is conducting site assessments and has identified eligible farmer-recipients at seven selected pilot barangays in the municipality which will eventually become a viable abaca growers’ organization. The Fiber Industry Development Authority (FIDA) will provide the technical assistance in matters of training as well as in the actual marketing of the abaca fibers.