The Philippines is abundant in raw materials, including Raffia. This long undervalued fiber comes from the Buri Palm (Corypha elata Roxb), the grandest endemic palm in the Philippines. It is slow-growing, perennial. Its height reaches up to 20-40 meters and can yield three types of fibers: Buri, Raffia and Buntal.
A mature fan-like leaf, which can grow up to 3 feet, yields Buri when it is dried. The wide Buri fiber when flattened can be woven into the popular Lucban and Baliuag hats of Quezon, mats and rarely, as roof thatch. When the leaves are yet unopened, it can be harvested to produce Raffia. The leaf sheath is delicately hand cut and a thin membrane is extracted. This can be split into finer fibers, dyed and woven into fabric. The leaf stem produces Buntal fibers, hand-pulled to separate individually. However, the planter must choose which fiber he would like to harvest, either only Raffia or only Buntal. Buri palm cannot give both at once.
The harvesting of the leaf and leaf stem does not harm the palm. The labor intensive manual extraction of both the Raffia and Buntal fibers can develop the skills and employ a community. Furthermore, aside from the seeds of the Buri palm being raw materials for beads and buttons, its trunk can be used to produce sugar, starch and native wine.
The Buri Palm, also known to the Ilocanos as the century plant, flowers only once in its long life span. After it has produced seeds, it reaches the end of its life.