A leap of faith for women | Inquirer News

A leap of faith for women

Recycling cigarette cartons

From cartons holding packets of cigarettes feeding a vice that is condemned by the Catholic Church for its health risks, the discarded reams have been turned into instruments of faith, thanks to women in Toril District in Davao City.

Elena Mabano and the other members of the Toril Kalambuan Association, have cut up the reams into small pieces, rolled them into beads and stringed these to produce a rosary.


“All I wanted was to clean up the environment,” said Mabano, who for years has been collecting used cartons of cigarettes to make rosary beads, ID holders and fashionable necklaces.

Mabano said she was so worried about the mounting garbage she often saw on television that she decided to find a way to turn discards, such as plastic bags, brochures, cartolina and cigarette boxes, into useful items and accessories.



The rosaries and other handicraft items are sold at the newly opened Pasalubong Center and can easily be mistaken for precious gems, the green beads resembling jade and the red ones, rubies.

Her impulse started years ago when she took a one-day training sponsored by the Philippine-Australian Community partnership, a project of the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. (DCCCII).

She learned how to knit a cell phone holder. After learning the basics of knitting, however, she tried experimenting with other designs, using only plastic grocery bags as threads.

“I was on my own, trying to discover the designs,” Mabano said. “In the beginning, I used to knit by trial and error, oftentimes, disentangling the things and knitting them back again until I came up with the right designs.”

She was the first to discover the designs for bags, hats and other handicraft items displayed on their booth, Magnegosyo ta, Day, a project of Mayor Sara Duterte when the then vice mayor tried to help women reach out to their market.

Magnegosyo ta, Day outlets are found at Pasalubong Center, Ecoland terminal and the Davao International Airport.


But how Mabano came up with the idea of rosary beads from cigarette cartons was a story of faith, itself.

A story of faith

Shortly after the DCCCII training, Mabano was diagnosed with a lumbar disease, which caused her severe back pains. In 2008, she was found with endometrical carcinoma.

She hardly saw other members of her group after the training because she was getting very weak.

But for some reason, she did not give up her knitting and her rosary-making. “I continued doing it because I simply liked it,” she said, “at times, continuing to string the beads deep into the night without feeling any exhaustion at all.”

It was ironic because most women regarded the work as “so tedious” and so demanding, they often avoided it.

She described herself as an “active Catholic” who often took part in the Mass as a “lector” or “communicator.” She used to give out rosary beads as gifts to children during the Flores de Mayo celebration in May.

That was how she started making them out of cigarette packets.

“I regarded this as a work of faith,” she said, showing one of her works at her house in Toril.

But her craft had made her survive the most stressful experiences, when she was battling against cancer, she said. “My husband used to say, ‘You have to take a rest, stop doing it,’ but I continued. It helped keep my positive outlook in life.”

‘Act of God’

Years later, her doctor was puzzled when he found out that her cancer was gone. Mabano said she did not want to find out why or how her disease disappeared; she was just happy to be rid of it and regarded it as an “act of God.”

“The rosary-making is in keeping with my being a Christian,” said Mabano, explaining why she chose rosary beads instead of merely concentrating on making necklaces and ID holders.

Mabano, who heads the Toril Kalambuan Association, showed how she designed and produced the beads, splicing a portion of the cigarette wrapper, rolling them into the shape of beads, stringing them before glazing them with lacquer finish to appear hard and glossy like real stones.

Even at closer scrutiny, no one can guess that the red beads came from cigarette boxes.

Mabano also said she had overlooked the irony of “rosary beads” for a noble intention—saving the environment.

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TAGS: Cigarette, Religion, Women
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