BMI Value Chain

Actors, Functions and Roles

The manufacture of musical instruments can be considered an ancillary service to the heritage, artistic crafts and music sectors of the creative industry.  These are three of the nine sub-sectors of the creative and cultural industries identified by UNCESCO (de Voldere 2017).  Provision of these services or goods supports the functions of the chain rather than being a part of the creative chain itself.  The production of BMIs has a short chain with the owner of the shop doing several activities – from procurement, production and marketing.  as an ancillary service The BMI value chain has the following core functions and activities.

Raw material procurement

BMI makers are very much involved in selecting the bamboo poles for their crafts.  Certain species of a specific diameter size for example, are used only for flutes while anklungs and marimbas would require another bamboo species with larger diameters. 

Most makers of indigenous BMIs belong to an IP community.  They gather the bamboo themselves following their traditional practices.  This gives them greater control over the quality by selecting only mature poles.  Cutting is done at certain months of the year only, claiming that the poles will be less prone to natural bio deterioration.  Camping on site for a week or two is common to maximize each trip.  BMI makers who gather their own poles follow regulations and acquire all the necessary permits.

BMI Value Chain Map

Another group of actors in this core function are suppliers/traders of bamboo poles and processed bamboo such as slats and engineered bamboo.  BMI makers producing non-indigenous instruments buy their bamboo poles from trusted suppliers, either traders or gatherers.  Relationship between the BMI maker and supplier is built by the flexibility of suppliers to provide the services requested such as pre-cutting poles to the desired size or producing specific parts of the BMI.  For example, bamboo sticks of different sizes used for anklung frames are ordered from a different processor.   Buying pre-processed bamboo materials shortens the processing time of the BMI maker.

Guitar/ukulele/bandurria makers buy laminated bamboo panels or bamboo slats from engineered bamboo producers.  Here again, quality of the material is an utmost concern as it affects the sound quality of the instrument.  Unlike BMI makers who harvest their own poles and have greater control on quality, luthiers rely on secondary processors of slats or engineered bamboo producers.  Not all luthiers are satisfied with the quality supplied by local e-bamboo producers.  Dissatisfaction with the engineered bamboo from a local supplier forced one luthier to import his material from China. 

Production /BMI making

Once the materials are procured the manufacture or production of BMIs begins. The BMI makers/artisans are the key actors in the BMI value chain. They are considered a highly skilled workforce.  The crafting of bamboo musical instruments by indigenous communities is attached to rituals and celebrations and the skill is passed down as heritage to community members.  These traditional instruments have found special markets outside of their communities and the opportunity to earn from making them has benefitted both indigenous groups and commercial non-IP BMI makers who also produce these instruments. 

BMI-making in the Philippines is still artisanal.[1]  BMI enterprises are small shops where the owner

[1] According to the definition adopted by UNESCO (1997), “Artisanal products are those produced by artisans, either completely by hand, or with the help of hand-tools or even mechanical means, as long as the direct manual contribution of the artisan remains the most substantial component of the finished product. These are produced without restriction in terms of quantity and using raw materials from sustainable resources. The special nature of artisanal products (…) can be: utilitarian, aesthetic, artistic, creative, culturally attached, decorative, functional, traditional, religiously and socially symbolic and significant.”

is also the head artisan or craftsman.  Common tools used by BMI makers are cutting tools such as bolos and knives, set of chisels, rip saw, clamp bar, sander, rubber mallet, blow torch, and power drill.   Making of indigenous BMIs, follow traditional production techniques that do not follow set measurements (for example, distances between holes are measured by the width of two or three fingers).  Production is on a per order basis and workers are hired when needed.  Number of workers ranges from one to three depending on the quantity ordered, except for the bamboo organ builder which employs more than ten workers per project.

The crafting of BMIs requires skills in handling woodworking tools and equipment.  Carving out bamboo to just the right hole size, angle and length to get the desired tone or pitch takes great skill. 

The quality of the BMI depends on the quality of the sound and tones produced from the instrument.  Tuning is thus one of the most important processes in making the instrument and doing this by ear may take years to perfect.  Although digital tuners are available for non-indigenous BMIs, the trimming, cutting and shaving of the bamboo instrument to get the right note requires an artisan with a good ear for music.

Marketing and Distribution

This function involves activities that introduce the product to the market and bring it to the customer.  Major actors are the BMI makers, sales representatives and music stores. 

Bamboo flute makers bring their products to large urban areas like Manila and Cebu and peddle their wares directly to passers-by and tourists as souvenir items or to stalls selling local handicrafts.    The largest producer of bamboo flutes has a marketing or sales representative who looks for large, institutional buyers such as bookstores, department stores, and schools.  He negotiates for the best price and brings back the Purchase Order to the BMI maker.  BMIs are also sold through musical instrument stores.  Although products are not on display, customers place their orders through these stores.

On-line retail is another marketing medium for BMIs.  Selling through Facebook accounts is popular among makers of non-indigenous BMIs.  However, this is not the case for indigenous makers who rely more on referrals from previous customers and through word-of-mouth passed around through their academic and cultural networks.


There are specific markets for each BMI.  Angklungs and marimbas are played in an ensemble and schools, LGUs and government agencies are principal markets.  Indigenous or Cordillera BMIs are also used as educational tools to complement lessons on culture and music in the K-12 curriculum.     

Indigenous BMIs, particularly flutes, made by Cordillera makers are also bought by both local and foreign collectors and hobbyists who are willing to pay a premiun for their guaranteed authenticity and original designs.   This niche is “sought by consumers that have a structured knowledge of the product and are willing to spend more on the basis of this knowledge” (de Voldere 2017).

Non-indigenous flutes are produced on a more commercial scale and less personalized level.  These are bought by random consumers and tourists frequenting department stores, bookstores, and native souvenir shops.  Some schools who are approached by the sales representive may be persuaded to require students to buy one to enhance their music lessons.  This category is the “mass market where crafts are bought without much regard for authorship and are valued by price and utility” (ibid).

Support Services

Support services in the BMI production value chain are activities that facilitate or enable the flow of the core activities until the product reaches the consumer.  This includes activities to maintain products and enhance consumer experience.  In the BMI value chain, these services require special skills that can only be provided by the BMI maker himself, such as the repair and tuning of BMIs to maintain the integrity of the products. 

Enhancing consumer experience is important to sustain the business and attract buyers.   Teaching buyers to play the instruments ensures that the consumer experiences the product and gains satisfaction from it.  In the case of angklungs and marimbas, this service is extended by providing buyers (usually bamboo musical instruments band) with a repertoire for performances and musical arrangements of requested songs. 

 Enabling Environment

The activities of actors and the movement of along the value chain is either facilitated or hindered by the business enabling environment (BEE).  This includes norms and customs, laws, regulations, policies, international trade agreements and public infrastructure, among others.  Although the elements are individually identified, these are not static and the BEE is in a constant flow of actions and reactions all contributing to the viability of the value chain.

Educational institutions. In 1966, the Philippine Congress passed Republic Act No. 4723, popularly known as the Music Law, which provided for the teaching of music and art as a separate subject in the elementary level and the teaching of music once a week for one hour in the secondary level. Several versions of the law were already passed as years progressed.  Presenly, there are no individual subjects dedicated to the performing arts such as music, which is integrated in the  Music, Arts, Physical Education and Health (MAPEH) subject. In the newly revised K-12 curriculum of 2013 by the Department of Education, drama/theatre is still included but remains to be integrated in Music and Art for Grades 7–10 (Hornilla, ___).

The K-12 curriculum puts emphasis on building awareness and appreciation for Philippine culture through music using Cordillera musical instruments.  Modules for these have been developed. The module on Instrumental Music of the Cordillera for Grade 7, for example, aims to increase awareness on the instrumental music of Cordillera and how the Cordilleras express their feelings towards each other and the environment, their history, and their supernatural beliefs through the medium of the musical instruments (  However, the curriculum does not require actual playing of the instruments. 

Music education is enhanced through the formation of school bands.  Almost 100% of the buyers of angklungs and marimbas are schools.  However, lack of funding especially in public schools constraints this.  Not all schools can afford to buy the bamboo musical instruments needed to form their own small “pangkat kawayan” ensemble.  For the same reason, actual demonstration in the playing of Cordillera BMIs is not often done.

Support to Creative Industries.  The robustness of the Creative Industries influence activities in the BMI value chain.  There are about 12 laws and regulations that have direct and indirect effects on the creative industries.  The most basic of  these is the “Arts and Culture” Chapter of the 1987 Philippine Constitution. Section 15 which provided a legal basis in our current constitution to undertake conservation, promotion and popularization of the country’s historical and cultural heritage, even specifying “artistic creations” as one of the main components. Subsequent proclamations were issued to protect Philippine culture and the arts, Original Pilipino Music, National Living Treasures.  In 1992, the National Commission on Culture and the Arts was created to be the overall policy making body for the preservation, development and promotion of Philippine arts and culture. 

Recently, the Creative Industries Development Act was approved on the third and final reading of the House of Representatives. It aims to form a council composed of government agencies and private sector representatives that will craft and implement a plan to promote the growth of the creative industries covering audio and audiovisual media, creative services, cultural sites, design, digital interactive media, performing arts, print and publishing, traditional cultural expressions and visual arts.

Programs and policies to support MSMEs.  MSMEs account for 99.5% of the total number of business establishments in the country, contributing 35.7% of the total value-added or gross domestic product in 2018  To prop-up this significant sector of the economy, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) developed its MSME Development Program that aims to help create an enabling environment for the establishment, development and sustainability of MSMEs; increase access to financial products, services, and markets; and increase their level of productivity and efficiency. ( 2012-06-30-13-06-51/2012-06-30-13-36-50/1195-ff2020-19-msmes-in-the-philippines).

The Department of Science and Technology’s (DOST) SETUP program also supports MSMEs by providing: (1) seed fund for technology acquisition, (2) needed equipment and equipment upgrading, (3) technical trainings and consultancy services, (4) packaging and label design, (5) database information systems, and (6) support for establishment of product standards, including testing, and calibration of equipment (  DOST’s Research and Development Institutes, such as the Forest Products Research and Development Institute (FPRDI) generate technologies that improve the productivity and product quality of wood and non-wood based processing enterprises such as BMI makers. 

Policies and programs supporting bamboo plantation development.  A recurring concern in encouraging the establishment of industrial bamboo-based processors is the capacity to supply bamboo raw materials to sustain operations.  Recognizing the potential of bamboo industries to spur economic development in the countryside, the Philippine Bamboo Industry Development Act of 2017 was passed.  One of its objectives is to ensure that the “bamboo industry has sufficient supply of quality raw materials through the establishment and management of bamboo nurseries and plantations.”  The Act also provided for the creation of the Philippine Bamboo Industry Development Council (PBIDC).

Flow of Information and Money

In the BMI value chain, flow of information is two way and reactionary.  Information can either be promotional or transactional.  Promotional information such as product and service offerings originate from the BMI maker and are transmitted through person-to-person or digital means (social media and web sites) aimed at making and closing a sale. 

Transactional information is exchanged during purchase of raw materials and sale of products.  In the procurement of raw materials, information originates from the BMI maker who contacts the supplier to place an order.  Information such as volume required, price, mode of delivery and other special instructions are subsequently exchanged until the raw materials reach the BMI maker.   In the sale of products, information originates from the buyer who signifies his intent to buy or places his order for the BMI product on-line or through agents or traders. Transactional information extends to services such as repair and tuning of purchased BMI and originates from the customer.


Flow of money may originate either from the BMI maker to his suppliers for the raw materials purchased or from the BMI buyer to the maker.  There are three sources of cash inflows to the BMI maker – 1) from the sale of the BMI 2) from payment for repair and tuning services and 3) from teaching how to play the instruments in the case of angklungs and marimbas.

Price Setting

Price impacts not only the economics of the enterprise but also on how its products and/or services are perceived.  As in any enterprise that produces goods or serivces, the pricing of BMIs takes into account all costs incurred in producing the product – raw materials, labor and overhead, among others.  In the BMI value chain, the owner is most often also the worker or artisan and performs almost all the functions in the chain.  He sets the price of the product by considering the cost of raw materials used, the number of workers, the time spent in producing it and the cost of labor.  Although these are direct tangible inputs with coressponding costs, the final price not only covers all these costs but also reflects how the BMI maker values his talent, expertise, and the unique qualities of the product that he alone imparts.  Price setting factors in considerations such as innovations in the product, the stature of the maker in the industry or the degree to which his skill is regarded by his customers, and the positioning of the product in the market.  Thus, lowest priced flutes are those that are “mass-produced” and distributed through retail stores or sold as souvenirs.  However, the flutes made by a “master craftsman” of the Cordilleras are made-to-order and flutes with one-of -a-kind etched designs can be sold for as much as Php 5,000.  

Links to the Creative Industry Value Chain

The BMI “industry” value chain is characterized by a short chain wherein actors perform almost all of the functions of the chain.  BMI manufacturing,  as an ancillary service or good has overlapping links with several domains in the Creative Industry. Each domain has its own value chain

Cultural Heritage[1]

In 2003, the Las Piñas Bamboo Organ was declared a National Cultural Treasure of the Philippines.  This declaration or creation falls under the first function in the Cultural Heritage value chain.  The second function, “conservation, restoration and maintenance of tangible cultural heritage,” is performed by an important group of actors – “the heritage conservators and conservation organisations. These actors are heavily involved in managing the protection/preservation and maintenance of cultural heritage, either in their ownership or in their formal custody.”  The BMI maker provides an important service in the repair and tuning of the Bamboo Organ, acting as conservationist and restorer.

Cultural Heritage may also be intangible (see footnote). In the BMI Value Chain, one ancillay service is teaching or education.  One initiative taken by a BMI maker to preserve intangible cultural heritage is setting up the ”Cordillera Music Tutorial and Research Center (CMTRC), which aims to coordinate the preservation and transmission of cultural knowledge such as in teaching how traditional or indigenous bamboo musical instruments are crafted and played. 

Artistic Crafts

While skills can be learned and mastered, creativity is inherent to an individual.  In the generalized BMI manufacturing value chain, creativity is manifested during the production of indigenous BMIs. Traditional story-telling designs are carved by the master artisan (who is also the owner) on their flutes and bamboo zithers for customized instruments bought by hobbyists and collectors.    The makers, being members of an IP community, lend authenticity to these instruments which become a medium for cultural exchanges. Indigenous BMIs in a way attaches itself to the artistic crafts sector. 


The last core function in the Creative Industry value chain is Exhibition/Transmission leading to Consumption/participation (Fig 1).  Exhibition provides live experiences to audiences by allowing them or selling access to cultural activities such as plays, concerts, festivals (for example, staging of the annual Bamboo Organ Festival and Cordillera Kalinga Festivals).

Consumption/participation occurs when audiences and participants view these concerts and festivals and derive enjoyment and satisfaction from viewing or   consuming these.  Direct consumption/participation also happens when the buyer derives satisfaction or utility in playing the bamboo musical instrument.  Bamboo flutes, as solo instruments, provide the musical experience directly to the buyer.  The printed instructions and simple melodies that come with each flute allow the buyer to immediately play a tune and derive enjoyment from the music produced.  

Angklungs and marimbas are more appropriately played in an ensemble and for consumption/participation to happen, participants have to be taught how to play simple pieces and melodies in a group.  Popular tunes, arranged to adapt to these BMIs are taught to the ensemble participants.  This is an important service of the BMI maker since the ability to play these instruments ensures business continuity.  In the BMI value chain, being able to play the instruments and produce music provide the consumption and participation experiences to both BMI players and live audience.


[1] Cultural heritage is categorized into: “1) Tangible movable cultural heritage, including cultural objects and sources such as artwork, artefacts, historic objects, but also books, archives, etc. 2) Tangible immovable cultural heritage, including culturally or historically significant real estate, historic towns, archaeological sites, monuments, etc. and 3) Intangible cultural heritage, which according to UNESCO 97 means the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills – as well as the instruments, objects, artefacts and cultural spaces associated therewith – that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage. It includes oral traditions, and expressions, including language as a vehicle of the intangible cultural heritage, performing arts, social practices, rituals and festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe or the knowledge and skills to produce traditional crafts.”