Hanging Loose, Au Naturel

Macky Calo decorates his imaginary surf shack with environmentally friendly items that are proudly made in Agusan del Norte.

By Macky Calo
July 05, 2011

My ideal home is a surf shack that looks towards the east, where one can see gnarly waves breaking on an uninhabited beach. Considerably far from the nuisances of civilization, this dwelling will sustain itself with a tiny vegetable garden, a small fish pond, and a few fat chickens.

In this humble cottage, modern-day conveniences take a back seat and Mother Nature and free energy reign supreme. Why have air conditioning, when you have the sea breeze?

Everything in the house shall strictly be recyclable (or recycled), economical, energy-efficient, eco-friendly, and still stylish. There's going to be driftwood furniture and some clamshell soap dishes. Flotsam and jetsam that have washed up on the beach bedeck the bamboo walls in silent protest against the hazards of irresponsible commerce.

A few products from Agusan del Norte will definitely make it into my humble abode.

Mercado Sudlanan ATBP



Functional and decorative home items are produced by Mercado Sudlanan ATBP using natural fibers from abaca and water lily. Among these items are tissue and toilet paper dispensers, utility and jewelry boxes, CD cases, document folders, and even wine holders--everyday things that are exquisitely designed, hand-made, and never mass produced.

Creator Jason Mercado uses abaca twines and "centipedes" (skin) as embellishment for his crafts. To produce the twines and the centipedes, Jason recycles dry scrap abaca fibers from Mahaba, Cabdbaran, Agusan del Norte. (The main abaca fibers are being exported to Cebu and used in their handicrafts and paper pulp.) These dry fibers, called bakbak, are soaked in water for half a day, after which the foamy and thick outer layers are peeled off to expose the fibrous stands and skin. As part of Jason's initiative to help clean the Agusan River, he has also started incorporating water lilies into his designs, which otherwise would just be clogging up the province's water channels.

The prices of Jason's eco-friendly crafts range from 50 pesos for small jewelry boxes, up to 300 pesos for set of three Decorative Utility Boxes (14cm wide, 9cm high).

Calo Candles


Another inspiring entrepreneur is Leonor Navarro Calo, who creatively crafts decorative scented candles in her backyard using wild plants that would have no commercial value otherwise. The candles, which are works of art, are designed by Leonor herself, who meticulously embeds air-dried petals, leaves, twigs, and wild grass into the wax by hand. Leonor also churns out realistic sculptures and paintings using candle wax.

The candles are now being exported to Metro Manila, Bohol, Bacolod, Korea, Poland, and the USA. Prices range from 100 pesos for a 3 x 3 inch cylindrical candle, up to 250 pesos for a 3x3x9 rectangular candle. Retail prices for these candles in Ayala's Greenbelt shops go as high as three times the local price in Butuan City.

Go to the CARAGA Product Depot and Souvenir Shoppe, located along J.C. Aquino Avenue, to check out the creations of Mr. Jason Mercado and Leonor Calo. This is the only outlet in Butuan City where local crafts from Surigao and Agusan provinces are showcased. Look for Mr. Jason Balacuit.

For a more personalized shopping experience, you may contact:

Mr. Jason Mercado
Mercado Sudlanan ATBP
St. Joseph Subdivision, Rosal St., Butuan City

Ms. Fe Leonor N. Calo
Calo Candles
P7 Sanghan, Cabadbaran
Mobile: 09196490678

More than the architecture, it is the little details that make a house what it is. These little things represent the person that lives in the house and what he stands for. Jason's abaca bottles, tissue dispensers, and utility boxes will definitely be frequent accent items in my beach hut. And in the evening, when the sun is unable to illuminate my living space, I will always have the moon, the stars, and Leonor's candles. To me, these are little things that are big in heart--things that, as we surfers say, hang loose!

Basta Pinas, Rock and Roll!


Macky Calo is a restaurateur from Butuan City. He owns a coffee shop, a restaurant, and a beer and wine lounge bar. He travels around the CARAGA region in search of secret surfing spots and local delicacies.