The water hyacinth is the most damaging aquatic plant worldwide because of its capability to reproduce at an extraordinary rate. It grows up to 2 meters wide which reduce light and oxygen, change water chemistry, affect local flora and fauna This is a vivid representation of water hyacinth communities in the Philippines, communities whose fishing livelihood has been hampered due to marine transportation and irrigation problems; Communities where fish kills are rampant; Communities who have experienced the need to evacuate due to high flood levels reaching as high as 6 feet deep, because the water hyacinth has clogged up the waterway; Communities who experience high rates of water-borne diseases like malaria or dengue; Communities where children are forced out of school. Who would have thought that this simple aquatic plant would cause such detriment in these communities?
Our group encountered this plant that summer of 2009. The founders: Anne Mariposa-Yee, Noreen Bautista, Patricia Lalisan, Ryan Pelongco, and Charm Cruz were enrolled under the business accelerator program of Ateneo. We thought of the idea of using Philippine indigenous materials because our country has so many abundant natural resources, but the potential hasn’t been fully tapped yet. Noreen’s aunt works for DTI and she advised us to take a look at the water hyacinth because it was one of the problems our government is tackling at the moment. This led us to travel to various areas in the Philippines with water hyacinth communities like Las Piñas, Pampanga, and Laguna where we saw this devastating image of the water hyacinth. We asked ourselves, “How can we transform the challenges of the poor into opportunities?”
DTI already had a headstart in solving this problem by initiating skills training programs to transform this pest into products with a commercial value like woven water hyacinth handicrafts. We thought there has to be something more than just weaving baskets and mats out of the plant. Not to mention the lack of appreciation by Filipinos towards native products. We realized that indigenous handicrafts can only be competitive locally and on a global scale through materials development and quality design. So we researched more about the plant which led us to our “AHA” moment when we discovered that it actually can be marketed as a plant leather!
Hence, this led to the creation of Jacinto & Lirio (J&L) which means "Hyacinth and Lily". J&L serves as a viable environmental, social, and commercial solution to the water hyacinth, poverty, and colonial mentality problem.
Through the creation of well-designed, functional, and Philippine-inspired plant leathergoods, Jacinto & Lirio aims to improve the lives of people from both ends of the spectrum—the water hyacinth communities who are empowered through meaningful work, and the people purchasing who are enriched by the eco-friendly products. We aim to work within a collaborative business model for the purpose stated in the mission – social impact in livelihood, environmental protection, and product innovation.