Wednesday, May 19, 2010

OTOP Visayas Island Fair: Marketing Visayan Creativity

It is amazing how Filipino manufacturers make use of indigenous materials to come up with world class ingenious designs that delight our aesthetic sensibilities despite economic constraints.

Still, in the vicious commercial arena, "world class" creativity counts for nothing unless it earns money.

This is the reason why product development and marketing are crucial. And for micro, small and medium enterprises, participation in trade fairs is important for business survival and growth.

At the One Town One Product Visayas Island Fair (OVIF) organized by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) every November, Visayan manufacturers show the world that they could compete with the best of the best products with unique propositions that please the eye or palate and win over the most discriminating buyers.

Footwear Manufacturing

Shoemaking is part of the heritage of Carcar. The town’s artisans based mainly in barangays Poblacion 3, Liburon and Villadolid have been churning out shoes and sandals for generations. However, it was only with the organization of the Carcar United Footwear Manufacturer’s Association, Inc. (CUFMAI) that shoemaking became a major industry in the town.

Today, Cufmai’s footwear artisans have expanded their market to include exporters and large retailers.

Elias Tecson, DTI-Cebu Division Chief, said that it is easier and faster for manufacturers who are organized to get assistance from government. Being members of an organization provides the manufacturers learning benefits and lends them a bigger voice in an advocacy to develop the industry and their business.

Today, there are around 16 active members of Cufmai majority of whom are from Barangay Valladolid and are employing an average of 15 shoe workers per member.

There are around 1,500 footwear manufacturers in Carcar, but only 16 are currently members of Cufmai, Tecson explained. “This is because the DTI wants to limit the members only to those legitimate manufacturers who have registered their business names with the DTI, pay taxes to the local government and are able to follow the by-laws of the association.”

At its permanent exhibit area or OTOP Center, shoemakers in Carcar have already received several orders from institutional buyers and exporters. There is a long line of shoe stores like Footfit (Ruth del Rosario), Jefferson (Hene Fernandez), Ariel (Elsie Sandoy), Kring’s Footwear (Melencio Lausa), Lesvie (Leslie Empasis), Jan Rey (L. Liadas), Beht (E. Wamar), Mellenol (M. Aldaya), RJE (F. Inanuria), Lear McGlear (G. Apura), Mary Grace (Perlas awardee M. Tangkay), Ryan (H. Retillosa),among others. The monthly average sales of the center is around Php 1.5 Millon.

Imelda Aldaya, manager of Melenoll’s, a member of Cufmai, said that through the efforts of DTI Cebu Provincial Office, the association was able to join prestigious Trade Fairs and has respectable turn out of sales generated and booked orders. “
The DTI has also sponsored a pattern-making seminar for the shoemakers and provided assistance in credit management, delinquency control and technical assistance.”

Tecson said that through President Arroyo’s Isang Bayan, Isang Produkto, Isang Milyong Piso program, Cufmai got a P1 million loan which the group used to buy raw materials in bulk and shoe components.

In response to the perennial problem of lack of capital, the DTI has introduced the shoemakers to government financing institutions.

Currently, Carcar now supplies shoes to the Visayas and Mindanao, particularly big malls in Mindanao, Tecson revealed. He added that some colleges, like the Southwestern University and the University of Cebu, now buy nursing shoes from Carcar.

Food Processing

Bohol, a favourite tourist haven, with its ubiquitous peanut kisses, banana chips and calamay, has also enjoyed DTI assistance.

The Boholano Processed Food Business Association, Inc. (BPFPAI), the first organization of food processors in the province which employs 1,200 direct workers, benefited from the creation of the Integrated Technology, Systems and Support Amenities for Food Enterprises (ITS SAFE) Center.

Members of this association further improved the quality of their food products with the establishment of the first Boholano Food Safety Team and Designers Pool for Product Packaging.

Nannette Arbon, DTI Bohol provincial director, said this introduction of food safety measures, food sanitation, good manufacturing practices, introduction and adoption of appropriate product packaging and labelling have contributed to the expansion of local food producers’ market penetration.

Bucarez Food Processing Corporation has seen the importance of high quality “pasalubong” products particularly with their Peanut Kisses.

“We used to have difficulty with increasing product shelf life until we decided to change part of the ingredients and switched to a more appropriate packaging with the help of government”, Manager Francis Serenas of Bucarez said.

Director Arbon said, “aside from the usual pasalubong products, we are also trying to increase the shelf life of the traditional calamay and ube food products. Also, we have facilitated the Bohol food producers’ participation in the trade fairs so they can network with food processors, exporters and consolidators.”

Bag Production

The pandan bags of La Libertad, Negros Oriental has only been in business for the last six years, but this all-women group of weavers at the grassroots, which comprise mothers, housewives, local dynamic and forward-looking women members of the La Libertad Weavers Association, has improved the living conditions of some 18 families or more.

The LALIWA regularly produces mats, bags, baskets and various accessories, with its members developing into entrepreneurs and businesswomen.

The association which began producing hand-made bags out of the raw material “pandan”, has empowered at least 18 women of two barangays in this Northern town of the province, DTI Negros Oriental provincial director Javier Fortunato said.

He added that close coordination with the DTI-Negros Oriental Office has greatly improved the group’s business through the agency’s product development initiatives and marketing assistance. “Their bags have now crossed borders and continents with their improved designs and quality.”

From the start of their operations in 2004, the group has been assisted and closely monitored by then Mayor and now 1st district Congresswoman Josy S. Limkaichong. With an initial capital of only P13,000.00 the group now has some P150,000.00 in assets, excluding the sales that they got from past and recent fair participations.

Today, the good congresswoman still provides assistance to the group through her livelihood projects, while DTI continues to expose them to business opportunities like the agency’s various marketing programs, such as the One Visayas Island Fair and other regional trade venues.

Trade Fair Participation

For these business organizations and many like them in Central Visayas, undergoing product development and joining trade fairs were keys to their success. They all agreed that such activities opened doors for them and allowed them to break into their target markets.

Helping MSMEs enlarge their market reach and sustain business has always been a major concern of the DTI.

Various DTI agencies have been tasked to design marketing programmes to increase the exposure of MSMEs in domestic and foreign markets, and to improve the distribution of MSME products between local manufacturing and trade sectors.

As part of the agency’s assistance to manufacturers and producers in the Visayas, the DTI annually sets up OVIF, a five-day, order-taking and retail selling fair. It showcases the best producers from Central, Eastern and Western regions of the Visayas in one venue... the atrium of SM City Cebu, an area chosen mainly because of its high visitor traffic. Here, the finest products of the Visayas are exhibited for the convenience of institutional buyers, exporters and export traders.

To enthusiastic buyers who visit the OVIF each year, exhibitors seem a bit practised or adept at what they do.

“Preparing manufacturers for a trade fair actually starts months ahead, Arbon said. Manufacturers and producers are provided with DTI assistance with regards to raw material identification to trainings in product design, market knowledge, among others. Prospective trade fair participants also undergo a screening process to determine readiness. Most first timers start with trade fairs at the provincial level and later graduate to the regional stage, before moving on to the national and international arena.”

To gauge the impact of trade fairs on exhibitors, DTI designed a monitoring system to document sales generated during a fair.

“DTI provincial offices also monitor movements of post-fair sales. Intensive monitoring and follow-up support is provided to ensure conversion into actual sales of booked orders and orders under negotiation during the fair, Arbon explained.

OVIF will be celebrating its fifth anniversary in November this year. And because it is the last fair under the OTOP project’s five-year run, the showcase promises a more exciting array of items: souvenirs, gift and novelty items, furniture and furnishings, natural fiber, and fashion accessories such as bags, shawls, headgears, processed food and footwear.

DTI-Cebu provincial director Nelia Navarro said that trade shows has always been an opportunity for producers to enhance brand and product visibility, promote new and existing products, generate leads and drive incremental sales.

“Also, trade show participation enables the entrepreneurs to stay on top of the latest industry trends, gain competitor insights, make key industry contacts and further solidify relations with current customers,” Navarro added.

DTI regional director Asteria Caberte pointed out that attention to logistical details and coordination with the three participating Visayan regions have been vital to the success of OVIF.

For businesses that lack high level of marketing, an intra-regional exhibit like the OVIF is a good opportunity to showcase the best of Philippine made products, Caberte said.

OVIF is an ideal marketing event for OTOP products of various municipalities in the Visayas highlighting the tourism and market potentials of Central Philippines which attracts more than half of foreign tourists in the country.

This activity has generated significant sales, trained exhibitors in dealing and negotiating with local and foreign buyers and exporters, and developed new exporters from among the participants.

Success of any trade fair is always determined by sales and tangible interest from buyers. And I am proud to say that in the last four years, OVIF has served its purpose. With each year’s holding of OVIF, our local manufacturers and producers have continued to increase their market reach,” Caberte concluded.


Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Tubigon Loomweavers Association

What does it take to make P 5,000.00 grow into P 1.5 M?

Just 50 pairs of idle hands.

Until 1990, the wives of farmers and fishers in Tubigon town in Bohol used to sit out their days just waiting for their husbands to return from work. At times, some of them would get a chance to add to their families’ income by selling fish in the neighborhood.

But they never had a sustained means of earning money. Then, in 1990, they were organized into the Tubigon Loomweavers Association.

With a P5,000 grant from the municipal government and the rudiments of weaving that had been passed down for generations, the women built an enterprise that is now the Tubigon Loomweavers Multi-purpose Cooperative (TLMPC).

After years of self-improvement and hard work, P5,000 is what each member earns monthly from the business.

The Tubigon undertaking is part of the One Town One Product (Otop) program of the Philippine government, which partly accounts for hundreds of new jobs created each year.

OTOP started in the Philippines in 2004 following the success of the One Village One Product (OVOP) concept in Japan, which is also being tried in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Mongolia, some provinces of China, and some cities in the United States.

”We started with practically no skills on weaving raffia but we learned about basics of raw material preparation, handloom preparation and up to the product designing through trainings provided by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI),” TLMPC president Eutriopia Cosinera said in an interview.

”Now, we have a greater variety in our designs, and we also do requests from buyers. The women also received help from both the local government and the tarde and agrarian reform departments in building a facility that could accommodate 25 handlooms.”

TLMPC uses as raw material the raffia fiber, which is obtained from the young shoot or leaf of the buri palm.

Raffia can be made into wall coverings, upholstery and wrapping materials, hats, mats, bags, and decors, but the group concentrates on rolls of fabric, place mats, table runners, tea mats and coasters.

They sell to retailers based in Metro Manila but some export their products.

“To meet demand and delivery commitments, we also (subcontract jobs to) at least 100 non-members who work in their homes,” Arocha says.

Cooperative’s assets

Membership peaked to about 100, all women, but has shrunk back to 35 because some have relocated and some have “retired” and let their daughters take part in the enterprise.

At its peak, the cooperative’s assets—including the building, equipment, inventory and retained earnings allocated to working capital and operational expenses—reached some P1.5 million.

With 17 years of experience, TLMPC is again building up its size and value.

Cosinero says DTI-provided training helped nurture the business with product development know-how, which prepared the group for trade fairs, exhibits and other marketing activities.

Members were also trained to improve workplace organization and work processes, Cosinero added.

Within this year, TLMPC expects to move into a new building that can house twice the number of looms.

New Sponsors

The Philippine-Australia Community Assistance Program (PACAP) through the Focused Community Assistance Scheme (FOCAS) Approach provided technical and financial support expanding their production center adding another building that accommodates 40 handlooms. Apart from the production center, a new product display area has been set up to showcase the wares of the cooperative to visiting buyers and tourists.

Since the new production center’s opening in February this year, the cooperative hosts quite a number of tours and Lakbay Aral from students to local government units outside the province.

Ayala Foundation through Bea Zobel, Jr. and Fundacion Santiago also gave their share of support through skills training, product development, marketing support and the provision of improved handlooms for the new production center.


Friday, March 14, 2008

NERBAC-Cebu One-Stop Business Registering and Licensing


We're aggressively promoting the services of NERBAC-Cebu. Cebu NERBAC is being made as a pilot project by the government for fast business registering and licensing.

Created through the Republic Act 7470, NERBAC is an all-in-one center that houses all concerned agencies in the government. It processes all regulatory requirements in starting a business, provides investments information and data on investment promotion in Central Visayas.

I hope businessmen will support this government move and have their businesses registered at the NERBAC-Cebu to reduce graft and corruption.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Antequera, Bohol's Basket Capital

One of the must-buys when you are in Bohol is basket ware. To get a good deal, especially if you are buying in bulk, go to Antequera.

Hailed the Basket Capital of Bohol, Antequera is a small municipality which lies 18.5 kilometers to the west of Tagbilaran City. The roughly thirty minute ride to Antequera may seem to be so out of the way, but Bohol's stunning country side dotted with picturesque ancestral homes makes the time pass by unnoticed.

Basket weaving has been the municipality's main industry for years. Baskets ranging from the smallest to the biggest can be found and woven freely by locals who have been into the industry for years. These woven crafts are made out of wicker, rattan, bamboo, buri, nito and sig-id and other native materials.

The basket weaving industry, mostly home based enterprises, has been the main source of income for residents of the municipality since early 1900s with the skills of the craft having been handed down from generation to generation.

To date, there are approximately 10,000 weavers from Antequera who support three established firms in the industry.

As the basket capital of Bohol, the municipality is better known in the province as a craft village where children as young as five years old learn the intricacies of the craft from their parents and from adults. Over the years, the residents of Antequera have learned to weave even during their pastime --- while watching television or listening to radio. There is no common production center where they work, rather weaving is done in their homes.

Despite stiff foreign competition, Antequera baskets still find their way to the export market because of its good quality and design. Buyers have specific product requirements --- and SMEs in Bohol focus on a specific product line to cater to this demand.

These unique Antequera baskets will be featured in the coming Sandugo 2007, a festival of activities that will focus on the Boholano culture and lifestyle and highlight the One Town One Product (OTOP) of municipalities and cities.

The OTOP is a government program that seeks to promote entrepreneurship and create jobs through identification by local chief executives of specific products and services that have competitive edge.

The Sandugo 2007 events include the Sandugo Product and Lifestle Fair, Creativity agora, Creative Industry Forum, Bohol MagNegosyo Talk Show, Boholano Cookfests, Agricultural Entrepreneurship For a, Social Development Forum and Cultural Performances.

According to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) – Bohol, the added attraction of the cultural presentations will ensure that this year’s Sandugo will be a kaleidoscope of culture, crafts, food, agriculture, lifestyle, ideas, creativity and ingenuity.

The Sandugo Product and Lifestyle Fair showcases the best of Boholano craftsmanship and ingenuity with indigenous materials such as raffia and bamboo.

Aside from Bohol producers, producers of fashion accessories, processed food and home furnishings from other provinces within Central Visayas will participate in the trade fair this year, DTI-Bohol said.

The Creative Industry Agora will be a multi-media showcase featuring the crafts, agri-products, tourism destinations and programs of Bohol’s special six emerging productivity circuits: Northwestern Bohol, Anda Peninsula and Eastern Bohol, Interior Bohol, Panglao Island, Abatan River Towns and Tagbilaran City.

In the First Bohol Creative Economy Forum, speakers from the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), Center for International Exhibitions and Missions (CITEM), National Commission for Culture and Arts (NCCA), DTI, Asian Institute of Management (AIM) and the British Council will shed light on the nature, scope, implications of the creative industries on the local economy.

The Bohol MagNegosyo Talk Show will focus on the importance of entrepreneurship towards achieving economic growth and poverty alleviation and highlight success stories to serve as inspiration for the Boholanos.

The Agricultural Entrepreneurship Fair is a major marketing and promotional activity that highlights the display of fresh, organic, agricultural and processed products and tests the marketability of products and farm produce.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Success in the Souvenir Industry

Mr. Jonathan Jay Aldeguer, like many tourists, had a natural compulsion to buy souvenirs.

It was on one of his travels that his entrepreneurial eye spotted its universality and huge potential for a new bsuiness. He realized that souvenirs comprised a multi-billion dollar industry worldwide, yet there was not a single major brand that offered premium quality souvenirs, particularly in the Philippines. The industry lacked creativity in design, visual merchandising, quality and branding.

In 1992, Mr. Aldeguer established Island Souvenirs. The shop deviated from the ethnic-looking designs which were the norm, and showcased the Philippines as a sunny and tropical country. He packaged his products as a totality of the unique experience of a locality, reflecting its dynamic personality.

In just one year, Islands Souvenirs' sales grew by 300% and expanded to malls and in various places around the country.

The company also began operating internationally and opened outlets in Japan, Macau, US and Singapore at the invitation of the Singaporean government. Mr. Aldeguer has also created other tourism-oriented companies that complement Islands Souvenirs. These are Islands Souvenirs International, Inc.; Francis Ventures, Inc.; Islands Pasalubong Center; and Destinations Media, Inc. He also embarked on co-branding marketing efforts in tourism-related activities with Cebu Pacific, ABS-CBN, Globe Telecom, SM and Sony Ericsson.

Mr. Aldeguer has received numerous recognitions for leading the company. He was the youngest to be awarded as TOYM for Business Entrepreneurship. He was also awarded as Entrepreneur Philippines' 10 Most Outstanding Filipino Entrepreneurs and has recieved an Agora Award for Business Entrepreneurship. Recently, Mr. Aldeguer recieved the International Young Design Entrepreneur of the Year - Philippines by the British Council. He was also given the Tourism Kalakbay Award and the Entrepreneur of the Year Toruism award by the Cebu Chamber fo Commerce and Industry.

Islands Souvenirs has been cited three times as an Outstanding Retailer of the Year by the Philippine Retailers Association and the Department of Trade and Industry for its excellence in visual merchandising, operational excellence, customer service and store concept. The company has also been named into the Outstanding Retailers Hall fo Fame.

In the next five years, Aldeguer envisions Islands Souvenirs as a one-stop shop which sells souvenirs, novelty items, food and travel services. (source: Top Entrepreneurs)

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Thursday, October 05, 2006

Pag-asa sa Paglaya Multi-purpose Cooperative-Cebu

Whoever said that an ex-convict has no chance to live and be a productive member of society?

Yes, ex-convicts who have gone out of their prison cells and who have that determination to sever the tie that binds them to criminality and firmly assure themselves that they have passed through the “Bridge of No Return”, have all the reasons to be given second chances.

The objective of the Pag-asa sa Paglaya (PSP) Multipurpose Cooperative-Cebu is to give former prisoners another chance to become productive members of the society again.

It was in 1993 when PSP started its experimental livelihood project for ex-convicts and their families. They started with less equipment and less financial support but went a little much ahead. In 2004, they decided to go full-blast with the project even with the very limited resources.

As if in a miracle, the project grew beyond expectation.

Many generous benefactors helped PSP sustain the momentum of the project. PSP’s candle making venture grew with the help of volunteers and friends, until the people started to take notice that ex-convicts can be productive, honest, hardworking and creative.

Why candle-making?

Candles are aide memoirs for ex-convicts of what they desire: hope, freedom and life.

In January 2004, PSP won the “First Philippine Development Innovation Market Place” competition sponsored by World Bank. Now, the PSP Multi-purpose Cooperative has benefited more than 80 families of renewed ex-prisoners.

In August 2005, PSP received its new status as a National Cooperative,a status that gives them authority to extend operations anywhere in the Philippines.

The PSP Multi-purpose Cooperative has gone a long way since it started its struggling operations in 1993. The PSP farm in Tawagan1, Barangay Sirao,a mountain barangay in Cebu City, that temporarily served as the training and integration center of PSP, is now theirs as the farm was already donated to the cooperative in January 2004. It has an area of 10, 600 square meters.

Today PSP has its own machine that is capable of producing 60,000 dipped candles a day. Aside from candle making, PSP has expanded into organic farming and has included other services for newly-released convicts such as driving lessons, practical electricity, carpentry and biogas masonry, organic poultry, hog raising, organic food processing and many others.

The cooperative now has a total of over P6 million including capital for candle production.

PSP boasts of its own showroom for their finished candle products situated at 32 Gororodo Avenue, Cebu City.(business profile)

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Monday, October 02, 2006

Garing National High School's success in paper making

Students of Garing National High School (GNHS) of Consolacion town in Cebu province save and make money by producing their own writing paper out of waste paper.

This project was spearheaded by the local government and school officials in 1997. Despite the school’s lack of equipment, like shredder, cutter and grinder, students were able to produce handmade paper using their own creativity and improvised tools under the supervision of science teacher Rizza Palang and technology and livelihood education teacher Florencio Cortez.

Following a simple process, they shred waste paper into tiny pieces and soak them in the water to soften them. They pound the pulp and put this into the molder, smoothen it with a roller and let it dry. Finally, the handmade, chemical-free paper is removed, ready for use—without any cost except for the waste paper as its main material. The finished products are not only good for writing but they are also compatible with computer printing.

After teachers check the students’ paperwork, the students get the sheets of paper and recycle them. This project has had immense effects. First, it means no trash. Second, it helps students save money since they won’t have to go downtown and buy paper. Third, it develops the entrepreneurial skills of students because they learn to produce and sell.

For its implementation of a practical and environment-friendly project, GNHS won for itself a P200,000 Henry Ford conservation and environmental grant in January 2005.

The grant is a legacy of the late American automobile maker Henry Ford, known to be an environmentalist during his time. With the support of Solid Waste Center, GNHS will use the grant to build a separate center for paper making in GNHS.

They are currently doing the paper production at their science laboratory donated by the Aboitiz Group Foundation Inc. They will soon propose this project to be implemented and promoted in other schools in Consolacion and eventually in the whole province of Cebu.

For now, the school’s student organization sells the recycled paper to classmates who don’t make their own paper. The school requires all students to use handmade paper.

In three months, they can earn P1,000.

They plan to sell their paper in the town once they can increase production. (SunStar Cebu)

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Serging's success in farming

Barangay Tabayag is an upland village an hour away from the town of Argao in Cebu, Philippines. In 1981, this was one of the first two villages assisted by World Neighbors. At that time, there were less than 100 families living in this village, which was almost devoid of the top soil needed for agriculture.

The story that follows is from Sergio Arobo, nicknamed “Serging,” a young man who grew up in the mold of a program that has inspired and helped community members improve their lives over 20 years.

“Traditionally in my village, farmers planted only corn, weeded their farms occasionally and used no form of fertilizer,” Serging said. “The corn produced by the farmers was never enough for their families. But that all began to change in 1981 when World Neighbors came to our village to teach contour farming. I became interested in the World Neighbors program when I witnessed the visible changes other farmers made in their farms. Their hillsides had become flat, making it possible for them to plow the field with carabao. I was very compelled when I saw the dull soil that had become fertile and productive.”

After graduating from elementary school in 1986, at 13 years old, Serging asked his father for permission to join an Alayon group that was practicing contour farming. Although he was very young, the group accepted him and Serging began to learn how to dig the hard ground and set stones along the contour lines.

His group was composed of seven members, and working only three times a week, they devoted one workday to each member’s farm. Because they worked on Serging’s farm only once every two or three weeks, it took the group 13 years to establish contour rock walls on Serging’s one hectare hillside farm.

After several years, more people began to participate in Alayon activities and they formed a formal community organization to keep the group’s momentum moving forward and address other community needs.

“Most people are now farming using the appropriate techniques because they were inspired by the food security that contour farming provides,” Serging said. “We have also seen many improvements in living conditions. When my grandparents were still alive, our corn harvest could not last for one month so we had to work on other people’s farms just to survive. I would get paid a can of taro per four days of work. My family mixed the taro with corn to extend our food supply. But now, we have corn from our farm all year-round and we do not have to work as paid laborers. Before contour farming, farmers planted three times a year trying to produce more corn. Now, we only plant twice a year, we have enough to eat and we even have surplus corn to sell in the town market. There have also been tremendous changes in our natural environment. We have more trees and an abundant water supply.”

After 10 years, Serging’s community could hardly believe they had accomplished all their plans. They now have a water system that provides water to all households in the village and electricity, which had seemed impossible before. They also have a cattle and hog fattening project, an added source of livelihood, which has developed assets of over $5,000. Vegetable gardens have generated around $1,500, and the women in the community now use abaca weaving as a special livelihood project.

Serging says that the most unbelievable accomplishments are the corn mill and the truck that transports their farm products to the city.
“Ten years ago when we started dreaming of a community-owned corn mill and a vehicle, some people laughed at us because they thought we were crazy,” he said. “Now, we have become a model in our municipality.”

Serging said that his secret to success has been raising livestock. “I think that this is key in paying for big family projects and creating a savings account,” he said. “We sell goats to be able to hire people to help me weed. We also sell chickens to be able to buy fish and other food supplies.”

The home that Serging and his family live in was built solely from money gained through raising livestock. First, he raised goats, sold some of them and then purchased galvanized iron sheets for the roof and plywood for the upstairs walls. He raised a cow and when it was sold, he was able to make concrete walls downstairs. To help pay for electricity, he raised a boar. Then he raised another boar so his family could add on to their home.

Serging’s family now has a formal savings account from the sales of smaller animals like chicken, goats and pigs.“People who migrated to other places are always surprised when they come back,” Serging said. “They say our village used to be bald where grasses hardly grow. They are amazed at how productive our soil has become. They also are inspired by the improvement of our living conditions, such as houses with roofs made of galvanized iron sheets instead of grasses and a working road network. People now have enough to eat from their own farms.”

After being in the program a few years, Serging got married, and he and his wife now have two children, 12-year-old Mary Grace and Glen Mark, who is 9.“My wife and I planned to have only two children, and we think that is enough because we do not want our children to experience the difficult lives we had when we were young,” he said. “We want them to get a proper education and finish college. We dream that Mary Grace will become a teacher in our village and Glen Mark will become a veterinarian because we need animal doctors in the rural areas. We are planning to do cattle fattening to help fund their college educations even though it is still years away.“

I cannot contain my happiness over all the success in our community. Our success is a gift from God after our hard work. We spent many nights developing our community plans and identifying resources to make them happen. Now, the lives of our community members have greatly changed. People’s ideas have expanded, and their visions are brighter. If World Neighbors had not come to us, we would have remained extremely poor, never knowing what we could become.”
(world neighbors)

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Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Rubber Farmers of Zamboanga Sibugay Province

Rubber farmers in upper Sta. Clara were CARP beneficiaries who became owners of a plantation once owned by Good Rich, a multinational firm. When the plantation was turned over to them, prices of raw rubber or field lumps began falling for various reasons.

When DTI-Sibugay came into the picture in early 2002, the situation was at its lowest point: the industry had no direction, no leader, just farmers uncertain of the future.

Some of them had started to cut down their rubber trees and sold them as lumber, while others tried to save on production cost by using battery solution as coagulant instead of formic acid.

Still others started to double-tap their trees, eventually killing them. Field lumps were being sold at two pesos per kilogram.

The first thing the OIC of DTI Sibugay Province, Edito Lumacang, did was to gather the farmers together, lecture them on proper tapping methods, and persuade them to use formic acid again to properly coagulate their raw rubber to ensure the purity and high quality of their produce, for which they could demand a higher price.

However, when Lumacang went back after two weeks, he discovered that the farmers had not followed his instructions and were still adulterating their field lumps.

His next step was to meet with the farmers' wives, telling them basically the same things he told the farmers. It was an inspired move. The result was immediate: on his third visit, the field lumps were absolutely free of impurities. It was then time to organize the farmers into "quality circles" and give them assistance in marketing, using the Internet for price comparisons.

Thirteen quality circles were organized, eight of which strictly implemented the recommended tapping methods and coagulating solution. These eight circles, composed of 256 farmers, were the ones given marketing assistance by DTI.

DTI also sourced and distributed 30 kilograms of coagulating taps to improve the quality of raw rubber. The funding for this came from Governor George Hoper and two prominent rubber traders.

For the training component, the DTI conducted 17 quality and productivity improvement seminars for 215 farmers, upon the request of the mayors. Mayor Eric Cabarios, members of Sangguniang Panlalawigan, and LGUs of four municipalities provided the funds for these seminars.

DTI also conducted the first Provincial Small Rubber Forum and organized nine bagsakan centers, manned by the barangay chair on the barangay level and a DTI staff on the provincial level. Bidding is done one day before the rubber market day (14th and 29th of every month). The floor price offering is set by DTI based on daily rubber price bulletin in the Internet.

As the quality of the cup lumps improved, DTI invited four outside buyers to compete in the local market. Their entry raised the price of rubber from P6.50 to P14.00 per kilogram. Things have gone uphill since then. The current price is P21.00 per kilogram. Sales monitored in the bagsakan centers reached P27.83 million at the end of 2002.

This is what one farmer said: "In 2001, we were selling our field lumps at P4.80 per kilogram; today the current price is P21.00. Before, we could earn only P2,055 per hectare per month; now we earn P5,700 per hectare per month. With the three hectares that I own, I am now able to feed and educate my children better." (DTI)

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Tito Mike's Food Company, Inc.

In 1998, Michael Cases left his lucrative job as project engineer in Brunei Darussalam to settle in his hometown, Dipolog City. He decided to help stem the rising tide of unemployment and solidify Dipolog's newfound status as "Sardines Capital of the Philippines." In July 1999, Tito Mike's Food Company, Inc. was born, with a workforce of four.

Now, eight more regular employees have joined the original four, augmented by more workers during the fishing season and other peak periods. The volume of fish processed rose from 40 kgs. to 600 kgs; production increased from the initial five cartons of the early days to 75 cartons.

Company clientele has extended beyond family and friends to supermarkets and specialty stores nationwide, as well as oriental and Filipino stores in the U.S.

It was the first to produce a whole line of MSG-free products in Dipolog city. The company is also accredited and certified by both the Bureau of Food and Drug (BFAD) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It also takes pride in the fact that from the start, it has operated on 100% equity.

The Dipolog School of Fisheries and the DTI have played crucial roles in Tito Mike's story. The Dipolog School of Fisheries provided technical assistance in the firm's first stages of operation. The DTI has included Tito Mike's in the Plus One Priority Program of the province.

Tito Mike's participated in the NTF 2001, where it drew the attention of two exporters, both of whom have remained valued clients. At the 2002 Asian Ethnic Food Festival, Tito Mike's was chosen by a Canadian firm, a certified CITEM VIP Buyer, to supply their requirement for sardines in jars.

Through the initiative of DTI-Zamboanga del Norte, the sardines manufacturers of Dipolog banded together to form ISDA (In-glass Sardines of Dipolog Association), which elected Mike as president for 2003-2004. Under his leadership, the association was given a grant by DOST for the purchase of two units heat shrink tunnel machines.

The group also received P500,000 under the SULONG Program, which Tito Mike used to buy raw materials such as corn oil and glass jars. These are sold to members at lower-than-regular prices. They also benefited from the recently concluded SME Caravan 2003, which featured a two-day seminar-workshop and free consultations on label/packaging design development.

Mike practices corporate responsibility and ensures that the firm does not spoil the environment. Care is taken to ensure that the creeks surrounding the firm's processing facility are kept clean for the fish and crustaceans that inhabit it. The company has an oil separator chamber that inhibits oil from flowing into these creeks. (DTI)

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Silver Handicrafts

Rose Flores Nepomuceno used to work in Manila as supervising corporate accountant at the National Food Authority (NFA).

Driven by the need to raise the family's income and her desire to be her own boss and to improve the quality of life of the people in her community, Ms. Nepomuceno established Silver Handicrafts in Numancia, Aklan in 1998.

Her products include loom woven raffia rolls, placemats, throw pillow cases, woven nito trays, coasters, placemats, boxes and home furnishings.

The company has actively sought and availed of government assistance in various forms in the past couple of years.

After several years of producing traditional designs of its products, Silver Handicrafts availed of Product Development and Design Center of the Philippines (PDDCP) assistance and came up with at least 30 new designs for the National Trade Fair (NTF), Fiber Festival, CITEM, and Kalibo Ati-Atihan Product Showcase.

These new designs drew the attention of local and foreign buyers, who had placed orders through exporters based in Manila. Sales generated for January-May this year reached P364,000, representing 22% increase over last year's.

The firm has been granted P1.3 million loan by SB Corporation, which is going into the completion of its factory, showroom and office.

Ms. Nepomuceno has taken advantage of One-on-One Consultation on Market Matching and attended trainings/seminars on Business Plan Preparation, Introduction to Export & Sales Negotiation (conducted by DTI in coordination with APFTI), and the SME Forum.

Skills trainings on nitocraft, conducted in coordination with LGUs, generated almost 118 additional workers/suppliers of nito products.

Silver Handicrafts now has 208 workers (regular and seasonal), representing an increase of 147% over last year's. Monthly production capacity of the enterprise has doubled, from 500 pieces to 1000 pieces.

All these have been translated to an increase in asset size from P2.5 million for 2002 to P4.45 million, just for the period January-May 2003.

Silver Handicrafts is planning to go into on-line marketing, specifically with the U.S. market.

It also intends to participate in the Selling Mission to Canada with the Gifts, Toys and Houseware Association to increase sales performance. (DTI)

Monday, September 25, 2006

A & J Seafoods and Marine Products

If Aurora Capitulo Amagan has become a successful entrepreneur, it is because her apprenticeship began when she was only 12 years old.

Born to a poor family of nine, Aurora helped her parents feed her siblings by selling candies, tira-tira, halo-halo, leche con hielo, and fruits. She also assisted her aunt in her grocery business in Angeles, Pampanga. Her father worked as train maintenance crew and did not earn enough.

Although she was third to the eldest, she was the one who did more for the family, simply because she was the most hard working. More responsibilities were placed on her young shoulders when her mother, who was sickly, taught her how to cook for her siblings, a skill that she also used to prepare food for sale to augment family income. This same skill put her on the road that led her to her current enterprise.

Things seemed to happen to Aurora earlier than they do to most people. Married at 16 and widowed at 21, she found she had to rely on no one but herself in supporting her five children. She tried her hand at many ventures before she finally found her niche. She ran a restaurant, went into real estate sales and the beauty care business, curling hair and doing manicure and pedicure. She also became what is called a "viajera," bringing imported products entrusted to her by her late husband.

In Zamboanga, where she tried her luck in 1976, she marveled at the abundance of seafoods and marine products. She bought fresh sea cucumber and shark fins, and processed them into ready-to-cook ingredients to be sold to exotic Chinese restaurants in Manila. She also became a barter trader in Zamboanga until the big players came in.

In 1980, she went to General Santos City, where banana export was becoming a booming business. She forged a link with some farmers, agreed to provide them with seedlings, fertilizer and chemicals for farm products, on the condition that these farm inputs would be paid with the farmers’ output, which were then shipped to Manila. Many farmers benefited from this arrangement, and business was brisk.

A few years later, however, when shipment of farm products to Manila suffered due to several devastating typhoons, and delays meant profit loss, it was time to look elsewhere for other opportunities. This decision was also prompted by the entry of big corporations into the vegetable and fruit shipment business.

In 1990 Aurora and Jose, her third husband, joined forces to establish A&J Seafoods and Marine Products. Aurora initially contracted the stocks of big companies which were rejected by foreign buyers. These she sold in Manila.

In this business, nothing ever gets wasted, because although only 30 percent of each tuna can be sold for sashimi export grade, the rest can be processed into different food products. Now her products include tuna sashimi (all grades); seafoods (frozen abalone, octopus, squid, cuttlefish and assorted marine products); value-added products (longganisa, siomai, lumpia, tocino, sausage, embotido, barbeque, and patties;) and cooked fish loins.

A & J Seafoods has come a long way from the company that had initial capital of P1.5 million to a P40-million business in 2003. It now has 12 regular workers, three of whom are her children, and 50 to 100 seasonal workers.

Aurora recently availed of a Land Bank financing which she used for the ongoing construction of a processing plant at the General Santos City Fishport Complex. When completed, the plant will enable Aurora to double her production output and improve on the quality of her product.

In 2002, A & J Seafoods received the "Most Outstanding SME" in the Medium Category by the SMED Council.

A & J Seafoods has joined trade fairs, both national and international, in places like Greece and Dubai. Its market has now expanded to the US, Japan, Korea, China, Hong Kong and the Middle East.

When the firm was invited to display its products in the WOW Philippines exhibit in 2003, the organizers extended their stay longer than the required one week per regional exhibitor. It has also gotten a lot of mileage for being featured in the TV program The Working President.

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Calbayog Smoked Fish

The Department of Science and Technology, through its Packaging R&D Center (PRDC), in collaboration with the Office of the President for the One Million Jobs, Regional Offices of DTI & DOST, and the City Government of Calbayog extended technical assistance to the smoked fish industry in Calbayog City.

Prior to this undertaking, the PRDC had initiated a packaging project with Pingping's Tinapa in Calbayog City. It was a project attuned to the thrust of President Gloria Arroyo. Her instructions to develop the packaging of Calbayog Smoked Fish therefore, simply enforced the goals and objectives of the PRDC.

Intervention of the PRDC included the development of a packaging system for smoked fish; graphic design; labeling requirements; carrier box; and a technology-based business plan. With this intervention, the smoked fish industry of Calbayog City created an impact to the economy of its City in particular.

The Office of the Mayor, Calbayog City spearheaded the operation and organization of a cooperative of fishermen dedicated to supply fish for the producers of "tinapa". The move generated additional jobs for both fishermen and tinapa producers. This resulted to an increased production, which enabled them to penetrate more and bigger markets.

The finished product came in a much-improved package that contributed to the product's extended shelf-life from 5 short days to 6 months. Their production volume increased from 2,730 to 4,095-5,460 kg/mo.

The estimated value likewise increased from P 244,800 to a range of P 367,200-489,600/mo. The product definitely became competitive and saleable to markets outside of the region and eventually, outside of the country.

Currently, the product is distributed in 10 outlets in Metro Manila; 2 outlets in Tacloban City as well as in Calbayog City.

The vacuum-packed product (after PRDC intervention) proved its viability in Bahandi Festival, which was held at the Mega Trade Hall in Mega Mall, Mandaluyong City.

It generated sales amounting to Php 89,000 and attracted big investors like Ayala Corp. for its Cebu Operation. In a trade exposition in Cebu, the same product was promoted and it generated sales amounting to P50,000. These ventures led to trial shipment to Hongkong.

Today, the Calbayog smoked fish is being exported to Singapore, Brunei and Australia.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Canlambo Women's Multi-purpose Cooperative

A few years ago, a group of women in Canlambo, Larena, Siquijor underwent training on basic dressmaking under the Non-Formal Education Program of the then Department of Education, Culture and Sports (DECS). They used their acquired sewing skills in their homes, for the benefit of their families.

Then, in January 1998, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) set these women on the road to entrepreneurship when it organized 20 of them into the Canlambo Women's Association and facilitated its registration with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) as a rural workers group.

In August of the same year, DTI turned over to the association six Singer sewing machines and one Disc-o-matic as Common Service Facilities (CSFs) costing P50,000.

This was followed by Skills Training on Quilt Making, which gave them the impetus to start the production of quilted household textile items, using the house of the president as production center.

Then in 1999, DTI initiated a move to solicit assistance from government officials and local businessmen to fund the construction of a makeshift common production center.

The group manufactured quilted covers of various home appliances, throw pillows, sofa and bed covers, with buyers in Larena and neighboring cities.

DTI sustained its assistance through skills upgrading seminars and workshops in quality control and productivity improvement. The program also extended marketing assistance in terms of market linkages and participation in trade fairs and exhibits.

In the third quarter of 2000, the association graduated into a cooperative and registered with Cooperative Development Authority (CDA) as the Canlambo Women's Multi-Purpose Cooperative.

Seeing the potential of the project, DTI prepared proposals for fund sourcing which led to the group's identification as one of the recipients of the "Lingap Para sa Mahirap" Program.

In October 2000, it was granted a financial assistance in the amount of P100,000 which provided the cooperative the long-needed additional working capital for the project.

In 2003, the group was able to access P100,000 financial grant from the DOLE for the expansion of the production center.

With all the fund support, the cooperative expanded product lines. Now, the group produces curtains, baby comforters and bed sheets. There is also a plan to go into mass production and expand the cooperative's market base to other places.

Although the cooperative's economic venture is only a part-time undertaking for the members, it has provided them with an additional source of income, contributed to family's earnings, uplifted their quality of life, and given them a sense of well-being.

Canlambo Women's Multi-Purpose Cooperative is offering to supply quilted textile items. The products are available in different colors. They include the following: cloths, threads, zippers, fiber fills, foam ribbons.

Prices and other terms of trade will be discussed directly with interested parties.

The organization can supply 1 000 pieces each of small items, and 300 pieces each of big items per month.

The organization has 22 members.

Contact address:
Canlambo, Larena
6226 Philippines
Mrs. Letty B. Vicoy, President
Tel: (6335) 4809065 (63917) 7474614
Fax: (6335) 4809065

Thursday, September 21, 2006


Coco husks, which is considered as waste material, can now be turned into exportable commodities with the intervention of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

This after DOST's research specialists and technologists extended an assistance to PITAD, a group composed of professionals in Northern Samar, in a bid to contribute to the development of the province by stimulating the coco coir industry.

Filipino-run firm based in Catarman, Northern Samar is now actively engaged in manufacturing and marketing world-class soil erosion control nets or geotextiles.

PITAD (a waray word means “a step forward”) Foundation Inc., is composed of small barangay cooperatives and foundations independently producing top quality coco coir fiber twines and export- class coconut fiber-based handicrafts.

The Technology Application and Promotion Institute (TAPI), DOST's umbrella agency, supported the PITAD Inc. in converting the coconut husks into high value products, with the first coco husks decorticator installed in Mondragon, Northern Samar.Coco coir, a durable fiber extracted from discarded coconut husks, is now widely used as basic material in making nets, rolls, and mats as protective covers for soils and slopes. It is becoming popular in USA and countries in Southeast Asia. Coco coir is preferred over concrete bricks and peat moss because it is cheaper, renewable, and completely organic. It is also an excellent growing medium for landscape plants and grasses since the fiber has natural rooting hormones and good water-holding capacity.

PITAD Executive Director Samuel Galera revealed that the coco coir production in the province started to flourish when the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) funded the purchase of one unit coco husk decorticating machine and one unit fiber twinning machine in 1997 and 2001, respectively.

DOST provided a total grant-in-aid of P435,000 to PITAD. The machine, according to Gelera, has answered the need for bigger number of twines that will be used in the weaving of geotextile nets. Gelera revealed that there are five coco coir processing plants in the region, all located in Northern Samar.

PITAD, is one of those micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) assisted by DOST through its Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program (SET UP) in technology transfer and product quality development.

PITAD was established in 1996 by local engineers with the technical aid of Technology Application and Promotion Institute (TAPI), an agency of DOST.

“With the technologies provided by DOST, the production capacity of our laborers has become more efficient. Now, we were able to increase the production of coco fiber twines from 200 kg to 300 kg a day,” Mr. Galera said. This production efficiency has escalated the firm’s annual net income from P664,000 to P1.2 M.

To cope with the increasing market demand, PITAD has increased its number of hired laborers from 15 to 168. Majority of them are contracted for coco coir twines production while the others are engaged in making coco fiber-based handicrafts like bags, potholders, and woven plant containers from their homes.

To date, the firm is earning a net monthly income of P160,000 from coco coir production alone, wherein 60% of its production goes to indirect exporters of coco coir fiber.

According to Mr. Galera, many foreign countries have become aware of the versatility and durability of our coco coir products, owing to the fact that our fiber was tested to have high-grade tensile strength and length.

Here in the Philippines, several government public work projects have been adopting the geotextile technology using coco coir as “soft engineered” structure in controlling landslides and soil erosions. A square meter of coco coir net only costs P60. Its efficiency and durability usually last for three years but the pads tucked underneath the wire could be replaced when they start to decompose.

To this point, the firm is targeting to acquire additional 60 units of twinning machines aside from its 12 units currently in use. This, according to Mr. Galera, is in preparation to cope with the increasing export demand for our coco coir products. “Hopefully, our coco coir would find their way to the markets of France, Italy, and Japan in the near future, “ Mr. Galera added. (DOST)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Negros Oriental Arts and Heritage (NOAH)

Divinagracia Yee could have just accepted the fate that befell her family after a series of business setbacks hit the Yee family during the mid-'80s.

Their establishments in Dumaguete City-a restaurant and a department store-were losing money heavily until they had to be closed down.

She and her husband Romulo consoled themselves that the inheritance from their parents would be enough for them to get by and send their children to school.

Several months later, Didi, as Yee is popularly known, was still reeling from their losses and at a loss on what to do. She and her husband were too afraid to go into another business. But fate had other plans.

One day, a man approached her looking for a job. "He was a displaced worker from a local stone craft factory which had also closed shop," recalls Didi adding that many businesses at that time were having a hard time and closures were common. The man had a family to support and was desperate to find a livelihood. "I wanted to help the fellow so I tried looking for what he could do," she relates. The guy gave her a stone tablet he had made with an inscription from the Bible made of India ink. The quote was from 2 Kings 3:17 which states: "For this is what the LORD says: You will see neither wind nor rain, yet this valley will be filled with water, and you, your cattle and your other animals will drink." "It was like God talking to me telling me that it was what I should do. God gifted me with an eye for nice things," says Didi.

The tablet became her inspiration to do more. She began crafting more of those stone tablets with inscriptions of Bible verses. Soon, friends started buying them using them as gifts or decors to their homes or offices.

After a few more experiments using stones of various colors in new designs, the stone craft factory went into full operation in 1989 with only two workers. Still inspired from the verses from the Bible, she named her factory NOAH. The four letters also stand for Negros Oriental Arts and Heritage.

That year was also the time when the Department of Trade and Industry and the Negros Oriental Centennial Commission were aggressively promoting handicrafts and other locally made products. Thus, Didi was able to get as much assistance from the two government agencies. From stone tablets, the factory began producing other stone craft items like jewelry boxes, costume jewelry, wall decoration, coasters, mirror frames and picture frames, paper weights, and beautiful chests and furniture in-laid with stone.

Along with new stone craft items, her designs also became more elaborate. Thus, one stone craft takes a longer time to finish. Various precious stones are also used in each stone craft depending on the design and color. Jade is used for color green, a red coral for red and a blue coral for blue. In one wall panel, stones of various colors are utilized. Paint enhances a stone craft's design and each is laminated to protect it.

A small jewelry box, for example, takes about two weeks to finish, a bigger one, from one to two months. A paperweight takes three days while one of the bigger wall panels, with "The Last Supper" took almost a year to complete.

In choosing the designs, Didi says that she always make sure that each has a touch of being Pinoy. Sometimes, designs come in a series, like the wall panels that carry themes like "Coco Gatherer," "Cane Gatherer," "Fishermen," and "Planting Rice." These are popular among foreigners. "This prompted me to hire more workers. I tapped the local folk from Bacong, a town in Negros Oriental, where the factory is located. I was happy because I was able to give them livelihood," she says.

Two years after it went into full operation, NOAH already has 140 skilled and semi-skilled workers in its factory in Bacong. It now has more than 200 workers. Didi says that after creating more stone products, she developed her distribution network. "I joined trade fairs both here in Negros Oriental and in Manila. People then recognized the quality of our stone crafts. Some distributors began to place a few orders, then they doubled it, tripled it ... So when the orders grew, I was again compelled to add new workers."

Later, department stores such as Rustan's and SM and local handicraft shops like Balikbayan Handicrafts and Tesoro's started to carry NOAH's products. The export market, she says, definitely would not be left behind. Presently, the stone crafts exported to Italy, Spain and Germany and the United States.

"The bulk of our produce now goes to the export market. I attribute it to the quality and the design of our products. Besides, we would not be able to penetrate the export market if not for those characteristics," she proudly beams.

Didi says they have continued to participate in trade fairs such as the National Trade Fair being held annually at the Megatrade Hall of SM Megamall. "Our efforts in trade fairs did not go for naught because every year we are able to get new and bigger clients. We are also able to showcase the best Filipino-made crafts to foreigners as well as to the locals," relates Didi.

During the last NTF, NOAH did not only get new clients, it also bagged the fair's top seller award for the third consecutive year. Didi is Noah's general manager while her husband Romulo is the production manager. Romulo is in charge of processing of the stone crafts-from color management, design to the overall finish. He also makes sure that each hinge or hook is in its proper place and functions according to its purpose.

At the start of each week, he prepares all the materials needed for production and even attends to the specific request of each worker. Their son Kerwin handles NOAH's Manila office while their daughter Marjorie is based in Dumaguete. They have two other sons, Michael and Ritoniel, who are in the US.

Didi says she and her husband could have just accepted their fate when their first businesses closed. But she believes that the man who came knocking at her door desperate for a job was God's instrument for them to go back to business.

Their faith proved its worth because as Didi puts it, they have been showered with so much blessings. But what's more important, she says, is they have been able to share these blessings to more and more people, especially the Bacong folk in Negros Oriental.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Salay Handmade Paper Industries, Inc.

The quaint town of Salay is in the province of Misamis Oriental, in green Mindanao of the Philippines. It is a fourth class municipality. So very typical of most rural towns, Salay is quiet and the people live simply, engaging in traditional agriculture and fishing.

In 1987, however, clashes between the New People's Army (NPA) rebels and government soldiers displaced the mountain people who depended mainly on their small farm lots for subsistence. The people had to move down to the Poblacion, where they had no adequate food and other necessities.

In the midst of this condition, civic-minded individuals heeded the national government's call for the people to organize the People's Economic Council (PEC) so they could help themselves. Thus, PEC-Salay was born and came to the family of Dr. Reynaldo and Loreta Rafisura.
Loreta was then recuperating from mastectomy. Dr. Rafisura was serving as the Municipal Health Officer.

Being natives of Salay, the couple felt their hearts "wrenched" when they saw some of their town mates begging for food. This tragedy had never occurred before. Food was always available, at the very least in the form of backyard root crops and vegetables. But in 1987, even these were lost when the people left their farms and livelihood to evade the fighting.

Providence must have guided Dr. Rafisura one night when he saw an exhibit of livelihood projects. He was on his way home from a medical seminar in the nearby city of Cagayan de Oro. The exhibits, which included instructional film shows, were presented in the municipality of Villanueva by the Design Mobile of the Product Development and Design Center of the Philippines (PDDCP). One of the movies was about the process of making handmade paper using cogon grass (Imperata cylindrica exaltata).

Dr. Rafisura was convinced that handmade papermaking was the answer to PEC's search for a livelihood project, one that could solve the unemployment problem of Salay. In Salay, grass was (and still is) more abundant than anything else! "Cogon is a pest," Dr. Rafisura said, "but if it could be made into something beautiful, something that could help our people, then we have to exploit its potential."

A month later, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) sponsored a three-day workshop on handmade papermaking in Salay. The trainer was Ms. Elizabeth Tagaylo, a chemist. Fifty-three people attended the course, but they were surprised and dismayed at the result of the workshop: The sheet of handmade paper was coarse like an egg tray.

Consequently, only a few participants persevered to finish the training.
Still, 10 people decided to stick together and continued the effort. To sustain the project, all the workers willingly sacrificed by receiving pay that cash flow allowed. A raffle draw was made, resulting in an initial capital of P6,000

It was the DTI, especially Provincial Director Alfonso Alamban and Regional Director Ninfa Along-Albania, who kept the morale of the group always high, enabling the group to meet the daily challenges. Other agencies who became friends were the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Fiber Industry and Development Authority (FIDA), PDDCP, and other local and even foreign non- government organizations (NGOs).

Starting with the lowly cogon grass, the group conducted experiments and successfully made original formulas using fiber of abaca (Musa textilis), leaves of pineapple (Ananas comosus), sawdust, bark of salago (Wikstroemia lancelota) and other indigenous materials.

The group then peddled the products and displayed them on consignment basis at stores in Cagayan de Oro and even in Manila. They also joined trade fairs and networked with any agencies willing to help them. Still, it was very difficult to sell handmade paper sheets per se. No one in Mindanao knew about them or appreciated their environmental value.

Hoping to increase sales, the group started converting the handmade paper sheets into artistic handicrafts. This practice began after Loreta, who loves nature, took the weeds and flowers in her garden and pressed them.

Afterwards, her sister Carmen Capistrano, a local high school teacher in Salay, decorated a sheet of handmade paper with pressed flowers and leaves. She then added some writings, and turned this combination into a Valentine's card -- the first greeting card of the group. The process was meticulous and time-consuming, but the finished product did look much better than the plain sheet.

This procedure of pressing plant parts on handmade paper eventually became the trademark of the group. If there was a paper heaven, Salay is it!



The dream of the 10 people who grouped together in the Handmade Papermaking Group of the People's Economic Council of Salay Misamis Oriental, Philippines in 1987 was to form a Cooperative or a Foundation.

Lack of money in the form of equity and bank account prevented it from being so. Instead it was registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission as a Corporation in 1990.

Its founding leader, Mrs. Loreta Rafisura, did so just to be able to secure a legal personality. Then, she learned from books what a Corporation is and how it functions.

The aspiration that its workers should be part owner of the company where they gave their time, talent and resources to was not shelved away.

Salay Handmade Paper Industries Incorporated functioned as a Corporation with a Cooperative heart.

Through the years, 14 workers became stockholders by way of stocks salary or stocks bought from salary deduction. In 2003, its 14 stockholders own a little more than 15% of the capital stock. Mrs. Rafisura and her family has about a third of it. They, too are workers: Dr. Reynaldo G. Rafisura as its Chairman of the Board and Mrs. Loreta Rafisura as President. When their 3 children finished college they came in to help. Neil is its General Manager now. Loreen Marie was its Marketing Officer until she left for the US to work as a nurse and J. Emmanuel is now a member of the Board of Directors and its treasurer.

The social concerns of SHAPII have never been forgotten . Where there are activities in the town, province, region or in the national scene that concerns the development of the Filipino, SHAPII workers would be there too.

On July 3, 2000, the Salay Handmade Paper Industries Foundation, Inc. was registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. This formally separated the social arm of SHAPII from its business activities.

It had 9 members, again composed mostly of the members of the family of Dr. Reynaldo and Mrs. Loreta Rafisura and children. With close relatives Pocholo Capistrano, Recolito Perocho , Fritz Hortelano and Alfonso Alamban.

Members of the Administrative staff of SHAPII worked extra hours with it for very little compensation. In year 2002, all the other stockholders of SHAPII opted to be a member of the SHAPII Foundation with a minimum contribution of P100.00 per year. Now there are 60 people working together.

The primary aim of the Foundation is to have linkages and give scholarships to enable poor but deserving youth to pursue higher education.It also wants to organize/ sustain or support livelihood projects so that rural folks can have an alternative source of income within the rural setting.

It limits its scope primarily within the town of Salay. Its first activity is the Alay-sa-Bata Program (Offering for the Child) which sponsors scholarships from the elementary to High School in the local Salay National High School.

Alay-sa-Bata has committed to a $150.00-support-per-deserving-student, renewable every year until the child graduates from the 4 year secondary schooling. It deliberately does not intend to take all the financial responsibility from the parent as the Programme is conceived only as a grant-aid.

Amazingly this modest programme aimed at having only 12 scholars in 4 years grew too fast! Now, in school year 2003-2004 SHAPII has 27 in the roster and 7 of them are in College.The most significant networking the foundation had was with Fr. Terry Barcelon S.J. of Xavier University's NKVS scholarship program that enabled 4 of the brightest students who graduated from Salay National High School to enroll for medicine and nursing course at the elite university for free this year.

Truly, the foundation is holding on to the dream that the youth are our hope. The SHAPII Foundation is the workers' legacy to the future.When Vivien Carroll, who was connected with TVET in TESDA Region X of the Philippines, enabled the foundation to receive a donation of 20 used computers from Swinburne University of Australia, the SHAPII Basic Computer Services was created in Salay in 2001.

To date, SHAPII had trained 38 of its 350 workers to become computer literate on its own. Salay does not have internet or computer schools, so the foundation devised its own modules, bought its own units as the SHAPII export-oriented business prodded it to develop in IT.

In the field of Agriculture and Population activities, SHAPII has been active along with the Local Government Unit officials.

SHAPII Foundation's activities cover not only along the line of livelihood but also education, health, agriculture, information technology, population, values, and the youth….and just about anything that affects the development of the town’s people. (Salay Handmade Paper Industries, Inc.)