Paper crafts build sustainable dreams

6 October 2023
ITC News

Transforming handmade paper into durable exports to Europe

Long-term plan

Lolita B. Cabanlet put her four children at the center of her dreams when she decided to start her own business Oro Handmade Innovations Inc. in 1993.

“My dream was to start a business for my children to take over when the time comes so that they don’t have to leave the country and work abroad,” Lolita shared the beginnings of her firm in Barra, Opol, Misamis Oriental Philippines.

CEO Lolita crafts sustainable designer lamps by merging handmade paper with indigenous materials such as abaca fiber, cogon grass, bamboo sticks, rattan vines, and other plant-based materials.

Innovative and biodegradable products

Unperturbed by the initially small demand for her products at home, Lolita persevered in realizing her mission to create sustainable and eco-friendly products.

“I was sure that plant-based handmade paper would have a great future considering that it is natural and biodegradable and therefore helps preserve the environment,” Lolita said.

Soon, she began venturing into markets outside the Philippines.

Rewarding trade fairs

Oro Handmade Innovation’s journey has been rewarding, from having participated in Manila FAME in 1998 to leaving a mark in international shows like Maison et Objet in Paris and Ambiente in Frankfurt in 2023.

International trade fair participation has given the company the opportunity to reconnect and find new buyers both from virtual and physical trade shows.

Lolita attributes this success as an exporter to various platforms and resources available with the Philippine government’s Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and private sector entities including the Philippine Exporters Confederation (PHILEXPORT) and Oro Chamber.

DTI’s Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM), Design Center of the Philippines (DCP), Small Business (SB) Corp. and Department of Science and Technology Region 10 provided much-needed support to the business, including product design improvement, research and development, business recovery plans, using solar energy for production, and a soft loan to boost business operations.

Availing the GSP+ for business in the European Union (EU)

Belgium, France, Italy, and Germany buyers patronize Oro Handmade Innovations products.

Lolita stressed the competitive prices of its goods in EU being a beneficiary of a tariff-free scheme under the Generalized System of Preference Plus (GSP+).

She learned about GSP+ through PHILEXPORT’s updates, seminars organized by the DTI Region 10, and the DTI website.

Her clients in Europe are excited about the company benefitting from this scheme.

“Our clients are happy to do business with us without tariffs,” Lolita shared. “It’s good for both. With every shipment, we make it a point to attach the Certificate of Origin which is a requirement for them to benefit from the GSP+.”

Going higher with ARISE Plus

Even though the company has gone beyond significant milestones, Lolita consistently stays abreast with current international market trends to keep growing.

Recently, with the help of PHILEXPORT, Lolita qualified for the ARISE Plus mentorship program where she was able to brush up her expertise in forging long-term plans and collaborating with other companies that focus on sustainability.  The benefits of GSP+ were reiterated during the mentorship.

The company aspires to pursue attaining eco-friendly practices to align with Europe’s “Green Deal” and empower rural women by organizing them as suppliers of raw materials.

These are Lolita’s dreams.


The ARISE Plus Philippines project is enabling Philippine exporters to take advantage of European Union (EU) market access and the trade privileges granted under the Generalized System of Preference (GSP+). It supports the overall EU-Philippines trade relationship and trade-related policies.

ARISE Plus Philippines is a project of the Government of the Philippines, with the Department of Trade and Industry as lead partner together with the Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration, Bureau of Customs, the Department of Science and Technology, as well as the private sector. It is funded by the EU with the International Trade Centre (ITC) as the technical agency for the project.