Freedom is what male and female inmates of the Mindoro Provincial Jail in Calapan City, Mindoro Oriental experienced while on training for natural dyeing technology by experts from the Department of Science and Technology’s Philippine Textile Research Institute (DOST-PTRI). Particularly, the inmates were given freedom to unleash their creativity and to find opportunities in natural dyeing technology.

The 53 inmates, 75 percent of them in their early 20s, pounded not steel bars but fresh coconut husks, cogon, guava leaves, annatto seeds, turmeric (luyang dilaw), mahogany barks, and talisay leaves to extract natural dyes. Their free-spirited efforts resulted in a variety of colors such as old rose, emerald green, orange, yellow to brown and black, that gave life to abaca fibers.

One of the inmates, Regie, 24, realized the importance of the training to them. “Taos-puso po akong nagpapasalamat sa mga taong nagbigay sa amin ng oras upang turuan kami… dahil sa kanila ang ordinary kong buhay ay nagkaron ng kaalaman.”

Engr. Adela Montalvo, head trainer, also remarked on the inmates’ genuine enthusiasm to learn. “These kinds of activities are perfect for them since they have a lot of idle time,” she said. “These are also very helpful in uplifting their morale and their sense of self purpose.”

“They really need extra help in marketing their products,” she added.

The training was requested by Mindoro Oriental Provincial S&T Director Jesse Pine to further improve and widen the bamboo-based novelty products created by the inmates. The items, sold in the local market, gave the inmates some income and bigger hope to break into the market with finely crafted products.

The S&T intervention provided by DOST-PTRI through the Mindoro Oriental Provincial S&T Center gave the inmates opportunity to expand their products to include a plethora of naturally colored home décors and gift items. The intervention also helps them work towards their rehabilitation and equip them with skills useful even after they leave the prison.

“It is for this purpose of reaching out to the people who need S&T technologies the most that we intensify our countryside technology transfer programs,” explained PTRI Director Carlos C. Tomboc.

The two-day technology training was complete with lectures, demonstrations, and hands-on activities on the actual extraction and application of the natural dyes. The first few hours of the training was dedicated to theoretical discussions making sure the participants understood the importance of the science of exact measurements in the preparation of the chemicals needed for the dyeing process. The rest of the afternoon and the following day were allotted to hands-on exercises to develop the participants’ practical skills on the pretreatment of the fibers and the extraction and application of the natural dyes.

Other than natural dyeing for indigenous fibers, PTRI also offers various training courses on synthetic dyeing, basic and advance handloom weaving that are conducted in the regions and at the Institute, and a number of textile technology processes from fiber and fabric testing evaluation to knitting and spinning technologies. A complete listing of the Institute’s training courses is available at


PTRI’s Mr. Noel Saguisag, assistant trainer, demonstrates the proper preparation of mordants for the natural dyeing process of the abaca fibers.


The participants eagerly tear-up the talisay leaves in order to extract the natural hues of the plant. The talisay leaves yield the color black and yellow.


Samples of naturally-dyed fibers in a rainbow of colors produced from locally-available materials.


A symbolism of his much awaited parole, an inmate jubilantly shows his trainer Mr. Saguisag his handiwork, a parol (lantern), made from talisay-dyed abaca fibers.

Pin It