The Trail of the Rattan

A young boy living at the edge of the forest traverses through the roots and rocks with his grandfather.  They are there to earn their keep harvesting wild Rattan. The boy’s father used to be a logger but with the ban, it had been difficult to put food on the table.  But the old man and the young boy can still band together his experience and the latter’s strength to augment the family’s income.  Thank God for Rattan!

With a couple of slashing and tugging, the Rattan bundles are then brought to the hands of traders who collect the vines from all over town and sell it to the purchasers from the big city.  The Rattan change hands a few times before they reach the bodega of a furniture designer, where it is bent into shapes by the inspired laborers.  The elegantly silhouetted cane finds itself proudly sitting in a showroom surrounded lovingly by lamps and lights.  A few people stood to admire its smooth, natural finish.  Suddenly, the chair finds itself surrounded by duplicates of…itself.  All bumpily taking a shipping trip across the ocean.  An exporter had found its beauty quite lucrative.

Another place, another showroom.  This time at the home of a family with a 2 year-old girl.  The chair was turned into a mountain for the toddler to ascend.  Or a ship to sail the seas.  Some of its places became bent out of shape from the jumping and thumping.  The chair became worse for wear as the toddler turned to teen; and adolescent into adult.  It is time to retire the Rattan wicker.

A rummage sale buyer found treasure in this trash. The weavings were unrepairable but the supporting cane found its way into the grandmother’s garden.  Upcycled into a flower and herb bed.  A companion for the birds and bees.  At least until rot finds its home on the dried bones of the Rattan cane and melt it back into the soil.

Many hands feed many mouths.  Rattan passes through a lot of them.  The Rattan trail is the story of the supply chain.

The dwindling reserves of wild Rattan has pushed many industries to cut this supply chain in a push to look towards synthetic materials.  However unnatural and unsustainable that may be.  Whether we like it or not, we do not command the supply chain when we do not have the supply.  As Parag Khanna, today’s foremost global strategist names it “The Independent Republic of Supply Chain.”  Meaning, it is not we who control the supply chains after all, but the supply chains that control us.  All countries are dependent on the movement of these supplies.  The winners no longer wage territorial wars but the supply chain wars.  He who can supply through sustainable stocks, strong infrastructures, shipping security, and ease in business will claim the future.

The question to answer for the Philippines is: Which part of the trail do we choose to belong to?


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