FAQ -abaca

where is abaca coming from?

abaca is a natural fibre deriving from the abaca plant, a species of banana -but without the fruit- native to The Republic of Philippines. abaca is made in volcanic areas like the provinces of Albay and Camarines Sur in the Bicol Region.

The Philippines'  tropical climate, rich volcanic soils and high to moderate rainfall are particularly appropriate to the growing of the abaca plant.

abaca is considered the strongest of all natural fibers.

how is abaca grown?

the abaca plant consists of about 12 to 30 stalks radiating from a central root system. each stalk is about 12 to 20 feet high and the fibre is stripped from the stem rather than the leaf, with each stalk being cut into sheaths and then strips or "tuxies". the strips are then scraped to remove the pulp, then sometimes washed and dried. the outer leaves of the plant are wider and contain more but coarser fibre than the inner leaves.

harvesting of the stalks usually takes place between 18 and 24 months from the first shoots. the abaca plant to the untrained eye, can easily be mistaken for the banana plant - without the banana!

what else is abaca used for?

lamps, bags, slippers, hats, baskets, tea bags, sausage casing and even some high quality writing paper

other abaca products used for environmental reasons?

whilst most marine ropes and fishing nets for many years are made from cheap synthetic fibres, some countries (EU+) are now introducing stricter bio-degradable requirements for materials used in open sea, re-introducing abaca as a natural biodegradable alternative to synthetic fibres.

the car industry is increasingly using natural fibres like abaca as easier-to-recycle and safer-to-dispose-at-the-end-of-life components in cars.

is abaca known by any other names?

abaca is also known as "Manila hemp" or just "Manila" in short; Manila referring to the capital of The Philippines. and hemp referring to the fiber producing plant of "cannabis". 

and to make it absolutely clear: NO, "Manila hemp" is not cannabis!

maybe you have heard of "Manila paper", "Manila rope" and "Manila folder"? all are made from "Manila hemp", abaca!

fun facts

  • Japan use abaca pulp from The Philippines for its currency notes
  • a bale of raw fiber abaca weighs 125 kilogram
  • abaca fibers were already being woven into breathable fabrics and made into sturdy sandals long before the Spaniards came to the Philippines in 1521
  • in "Maid In Manhattan" movie, Jennifer Lopez is carrying an abaca bag