Journey to Philippines, Namnama
Name of village: Namnama

Journey to Philippines, Namnama

The learning express programme was held from 10th - 23rd March in collaboration with Isabella State University (ISU) to conduct a case study on how to improve the efficiency of the production of reeds grass products. In order for us to identify and solved the problems faced by the community, we had to apply design thinking process which we started with Sense and Sensibility during our learning journey and ending it with the prototyping of solutions.

Preparation for the trip

Before setting off to Philippines, the SP students had to attend a 1-day DT workshop. The workshop equipped us with skills which is necessary during the 14-day trip. Despite going through the DT workshop with my group mates, I still did not really bond with them. As a conservative person during the first few meetings, I was lucky and fortunate to have a few live wires in the group which keep us talking. Everyone was friendly and kind so it is easy for me to warm up to them. During the learning journey everyone was still a bit reserved as we still did not know each other well enough however as time passes by we get to know each other more and everyone became more opened.

The learning journey to Namnama village was truly an unforgettable experience for me as we created a lot of memories there and is the first time I have to fetch from a well. Now that I think about it, I was fearful that I might not be able to adapt to the environment as I hear from my parents that in Philippines it is like a kampong where you cannot get things you want as convenient as in Singapore.

Being able to participate in this overseas social innovation project (OSIP) was a great and wonderful opportunity for me as it will expose me to more problems that I usually won't face in Singapore. Throughout the whole journey, we learnt that the value of teamwork and the ability to reach out to the community so that we as a group can make a change by addressing their deep needs. On top of that we are able to truly immersed ourselves in the diversified culture and make more friends along the way.

Fig. 2 Namnama Village entrance

Starting the project
In Namnama village, we went around interviewing and conduct empathy study where we were told that the villagers are all full-time farmer whereas Mr Jose is a full-time farmer and part-time handicraft maker. My initial thought was that I could go there and create a new product for them so that they can increase their income. However, after careful analysis and observing their lifestyle, we managed to pin point some main issues. Some of the issues are transportation of raw materials, time management and tools. This led us to our deep need statement, “I need to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the handicraft production”.

Getting the raw materials

Fig. 3 Us harvesting the raw material in the hills

Firstly, getting the raw materials is very laborious as we have to walk for 20 minutes to get there and have to carry all the reeds back down the hills by hand. If the demand is very high Mr Jose will have to walk a few trips in order for him to gather enough materials to start his reed production.

Secondly, Mr Jose need to clean and dry the reeds. If the moist from cleaning is not totally dry it will start to rot therefore the reeds are not suitable to be used to make a product so it is important for him to dry it totally. However, the place where he stores his processed reeds have holes at the ceiling therefore if it rains, water will seep through damaging the dried reeds.

Thirdly, for most of them, their main income is from farming and not handicraft making therefore most of them won't be interested in making handicraft. However, on the other hand, Mr Jose depends on handicraft making but the income is unstable as it depends on the demand of his products. Usually Mr Jose only receive half of the payment to make the products and when he hands over the products then he gets the other half of the money. If he doesn't get the money, he won't be able to start another project therefore most of this projects are delayed due to unfinished payment.
Lastly, despite being skillful in making handicraft products, Mr Jose will get cuts as the tools are all made by himself and it is not safe. Also, his sitting position from making the handicraft usually cause him to have backaches for time to time.

Fig. 4 Some of the tools Mr Jose makes

Fig. 5 Some of the products Mr Jose makes

We came up with these two prototypes to improve his production

Fig. 6 Prototype one

Fig. 7 Prototype two

Prototype one is a multi-purpose chair which consist of a cutting table, clamping tool to hold the reeds together and a storage place for Mr Jose to put his tools. Prototype two is a multipurpose table which consist of a L-shaped clamping device, stand for his portable power drill, a slope for angle drilling and a movable jig for measuring the reeds and cutting it. Prototype two uses the user table and improve it into a working table. User could place all his tools, angle cutting for reeds (two 45° for both left hander and right hander and a vertical cut), a stand for power drill to ease the drilling. The L-shaped clamping device clamps the cuts reeds together, so that the reeds can be tied easily.

L-shaped clamping device

Inside the tool, spring is attached to the sliding block. When it is pulled out, the spring is stretched, the stack of reeds can be placed between the sliding block and the two fixed rods. Release the sliding block to clamp the stacks of frame in order to tie them together or two 45° cut reeds which will meet and fit nicely at the corner.

Angle cutting

There is a blockage at the end of the table to mark the starting point of the reeds and give an accurate measurement. Mr Jose could choose the best parts of the reeds to make his product and cuts it according to the length he need it.

Stand for power drill

The stand is used for vertical drilling so it is able to drill a specific hole. When the lever is pulled down, the spring will be compressed and move the drill downwards. A slope can be placed at the base for obtaining a different drilling angle.

Building the prototype went well at first however upon the completion of our first prototype, I came up with another idea which I think is more practical as it is not for Mr Jose only. The proper materials for building the second prototype is insufficient but we managed to finish building it in the nick of time. I learned to be flexible in the materials I choose as we only need to give them the idea and may not be the final working product. Even so our prototype is not fully functional the idea did send out to them and they did understand it and return us with their honest feedbacks so that the refinement of our prototype can better meet their needs.

In conclusion, this journey has met our initial goal of changing the community. We were able to deliver our two prototypes to them and thankfully they liked the ideas we have given them. I hope that I will be able to go back there to help them build their actual working product nevertheless, I am very thankful for my Filipinos buddies, the time and efforts they put into making our project a successful and enjoyable one which I will always remember in my heart. I was able to gain new perspective through the cultural immersion trip to Magat dam. Although working with individuals with different personality maybe tough but we managed to get through it and bond as a group. As a whole, our biggest barrier was the language as we don’t speak their dialects. During the homestay is where our discussion gets very aggressive as different people thinks different ideas as our data does not tally with each other which was a struggle for us. For me, it was a time realization that we must focus and work as a team in order for us to proceed on.

I am graceful for this opportunity to take part in this program, it has challenged me to break free from my comfort zone, changed me in a way I could never thought of and I truly enjoy the whole trip from start to end.

Written by: Ng Jian Ming