Mindoro Occidental lies on the western part of the island of Mindoro. It is located south of the province of Batangas in Southern Luzon and Northwest of the Visayas. The province is bounded on the north by the Verde Island Passage, on the west and south by Mindoro Strait and China Sea, and on the east by its sister province, Mindoro Oriental.
Agriculture propels the economy of Mindoro Occidental and of, the various agricultural activities; rice farming is the most prevalent which makes the province the highest palay producer in Region IV-A and IV-B. It is among the country’s top agricultural producers, the so-called “Food Basket of the Philippines”. Major agricultural products include rice, corn, coconut, tobacco, garlic, onions, mango, banana, melons, and peanuts. Fisheries and aqua-marine products include salt, milkfish, prawn, tuna, octopus, and seaweeds.
The island of Mindoro is internationally recognized as an area for bio-diversity conservation. It has great potential foe eco-tourism for there are not only one but two well-renowned national parks in the province: Apo Reef Marine National Park, located in Sablayan, is the largest reef in the country and second largest in the world; and Mt. Iglit-Baco National park, which was proclaimed as Tamaraw Reservation and Bird Sanctuary in November 1970 and covers the Municipalities of Sablayan, Calintaan, Rizal and San Jose.
Other tourist destinations include the Pandan Island Resort, Libuao and Tabtaban Lakes, Malatong-tong River and Falls, Cabacungan Lake and Falls, and Parola Park in Sablayan; the Calawagan Mountain River and Falls in Paluan; the Tamaraw Gene Pool in Rizal; and for cave enthusiasts there is the Purnaga Cave in Magsaysay.
Mindoro Oriental is a tropical island paradise of the Southern Tagalog Region, the next big island to the south of Manila and the seventh largest island in the Philippines. Mindoro Oriental has been a home to the admired reflections of creation such as the solemn ambiance of waterfalls, the inviting splashes of white beaches, the thriving green forests, the mysterious adventure of caves, the delightful variety of seafood, the main home of the Mangyans and most especially the irresistible hospitality of the Mindorenos.
Mindoro Oriental’s bulk of outward merchandise consists of rice, banana, calamansi, livestock, and poultry, and fish products. Inward merchandise, on the other hand, consists mainly of petroleum products, basic and prime commodities, consumer electronics, motor vehicles and parts, and construction materials. The stability of the supply of these goods contributed a consistent single-digit inflation rate is lower than the regional and national averages. Major trading partners are the nearby CALABARZON provinces and Metro Manila which are currently the center of the countries’ economic gravity.
As the province envisions becoming a food basket, sixty percent (60%) of the identified products for development under the One Town, One Product (OTOP) program are into food processing which lies in the availability of raw materials, production areas and the presence of local labor. Noted are processed food consists of virgin coconut oil, banana chips, processed fish and meat, pastillas, buko pie, calamansi, dried mango, and dalandan juice.
Marinduque is a small heart-shaped island located south of Manila, between Bondoc Peninsula at the southeastern portion of Luzon and Mindoro Island. It has a total land area of 95,625 hectares including four major islands, three minor ones and five islets off the coast. It is considered the smallest territorial size among the provinces in the country. The main economic activities of the province are agriculture and fishing. Root crop based products such as sweet potato and arrowroot grow abundantly in the province.
In recent years, the province has identified several key priority industries for promotion and development. Buntal handloom woven products have been aggressively promoted here and abroad because these products have been commanding better prices in any market because of their intricate weaves and the obvious good amount of labor that went with them. In food processing industry, root crop-based products such as arrowroot and processed fish such as bagoong and patis have also been promoted.
The province of Marinduque is also famous for its Morion Festival, a quaint celebration of the Holy Week. Foreign and local tourists including homegrown Marinduquenos living elsewhere flock to the island to witness the theatrical presentations. However, more than the said festival, Marinduqu offers more: beaches lapped by clear, sparkling water; ancient caves accessible only to the intrepid; hidden waterfalls of rainshower coolness; scenic drives and picnic spots; Spanish churches standing and ruins of Baroque/Roman influences; a warm, friendly and hospitable people; and exotic souvenirs from indigenous materials.
Romblon is composed of three major and seventeen small islands situated in the center of the Philippine archipelago. The total land area of the province is approximately 135, 590 hectares representing three percent of the total land area of the Southern Tagalog Region. Romblon is famous around the world for its marble being one of the finest. But the province is not all about marble. Now, more people are discovering the quality of other products.
Coconut is the number one crop grown in the province with a total planted area of 58, 345.50 hectares having 7,783,027 trees. Other crops grown in the province include bananas, mango, star apple, root crops, vegetable and other fruit trees. Local products in the province has found a home in Odiongan’s Pasalubong Center which caters to 26 micro entrepreneurs in the selling of their products ranging from handicrafts items and processed foods such as peanut butter, peanut brittle, ginger tea, candies made from local fruits like sampaloc and bukayo.
The fishing ground of Romblon is a migratory path of fishes from Sulu and the Visayan Seas passing Tablas Strait, Sibuyan Sea and Romblon Pass. The mountains are also teeming with non-metallic minerals like kaolin clay, nickel, magnesite, quartz, silica, mercury, zinc, copper, silver, laterite soil, limestone, and sulfide ores. Several of these non-metallic minerals have been explored, such as nickel and magnesium with total mineral reserve of around 13 million metric tons.
Romblon’s exotic blend of sun, sea and forest together with its peaceful and friendly people make it an enchanting destination for nature and adventure travelers. Both local and international tourists can have t heir pick of the diverse and interesting places and activities they can find in its 20 islands and islets. The province has white sand, beaches, secret coves and serene islets, waterfalls, historical sites, 400-year old churches and caves believed to be ancient burial sites. Mt. Guiting-Guiting National Park in the island of Sibuyan is a famous site for mountain climbing. Moreover, it is a center for plant diversity and home to many native, endangered, rare and vulnerable birds, animals and reptiles.
Palawan is an archipelago of 1,768 islands located in the western part of the Philippines, with Puerto Princesa City as its capital. Dubbed as the Philippines’ last ecological frontier, Palawan harbors vast track of tropical rainforests and a huge expanse of marine wilderness. It is also proclaimed as Fish and Wildlife Sanctuary and Habitat of 232 endemic species and named as World Heritage Site for its highly diverse collection of fishes and other marine life by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
The province has 176 fishing grounds, which supply 65% of Metro Manila’s fish consumption. Existing products where Palawan is known for are fresh and dried fish, “lamayo”, fish fillet, smoked fish, tuna cuts, spicy dilis, tuna sausage, tuna spring rolls, and delectable fish cuisine which are served in hotels/restaurants. Other marine products produced and exported are live grouper and seaweeds with an approximate production of 260,606 MT 9fresh). Cashew is one of the important crops locally processed into delicacies such as roasted, fried/salted, brittle, “bandi”, pulvoron, barqueron, cashew wine, cashew prunes and other delicacies with roasted whole nuts as the major product. Raw cashew nuts are also shipped out to India, Pampanga, Manila, and Antipolo cashew processors.
Other crops produced are rice, corn, coconut, and mango. It also has existing plantations of rubber and palm oil trees. It also produces ethnic handicrafts being supplied to Manila-based exporters and as souvenir items for tourists in support to the tourism industry.
Mining is another major industry in Palawan. There are large reserves of nickel. Palawan’s natural gas and oil deposits are the largest in the country. Other mineral deposits include chromite, copper, silica, marble, quicksilver, manganese, cement, uranium, limestone, barite, feldspar, sand, gravel, pebbles and guano.
Tourism is fast becoming a pillar of the local economy. Among the popular tourist destinations are Puerto Princesa City, El Nido, Coron, Busuanga and Port Barton. Most frequented tourist spots are the Underground River, Tabon Caves, islands and beaches, Tubbataha Reef, Natural Park and Wildlife Sanctuary.
Seaweed for a Better Life
Success did not come instantly to the members of Samahan ng mga Manggagawa sa Balatasan or SAMASABALATASAN when they venture in seaweed products business.
Marife dela Torre, one of the pioneer members of SAMASABALATASAN, recounts that before delving into seaweed business, farming and fishing are the sources of the families’ income in Balatasan, Bulalacao, Oriental Mindoro. The association which started with 17 members in 2005 came up with the seaweed noodles and pickled seaweed as their initial products. “Seaweed ang pinili namin na gawing produkto dahil wala namang ibang producer nito dito sa Oriental Mindoro kumbaga kami ang mauuna, walang kompetensya. (We chose seaweed as the material for our products because there were no other manufacturers of this kind here in Oriental Mindoro, meaning to say we will be the frontrunner, no competitors.)
Every business stories have its own ups and downs and SAMASABALATASAN is not an exception. Marife admitted that they struggle in the first year of manufacturing seaweed products, “Mahirap kasi limited lang kaalaman namin pati budget. Lumapit kami sa Department of Agrarian Reform-4B, tinulungan nila kami pati sa pag refer sa ibang agencies tulad ng Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Labor and Employment, at Department of Science and Technology. (It was hard because we have limited knowledge and budget for the production. We approached DAR-4B for assistance and they even referred us to other government agencies like DTI, DOLE, and DOST.)
With the help of the Department of Trade and Industry-Oriental Mindoro, the association has rendered various assistance such as Product Development training, Trade fair participation, Basic Computer Literacy Training, and Product Packaging and Labeling. They are also a frequent client in Negosyo Center located in Calapan City and a beneficiary of Shared Service Facility program.
“Talagang malaki ang naitulong sa amin ng Negosyo Center, sila ang nagbigay ng designs para sa aming produkto pati ang logo ng asosasyon sila ang nag-design. Palagi kaming bumabalik duon para sa business consultancy. (The Negosyo Center is indeed a big help to our association, they provided the designs for our product, they even designed the association’s logo. We always visit the center for business consultancy purposes.)” Marife said, adding that incremental sales were generated from new products developed and continuous marketing interventions such as trade fair participation and local market matching.
The Negosyo Center recorded 1, 710 clients assisted since it started operating in November 2014. It is a one stop-shop for the entrepreneurs and those who like to dwell in business, offering services like facilitation of business name registration, product development, entrepreneurship trainings and seminars.
“We can say that we’re far from what we were 11 years ago but our hard work will not stop here. We will aim for bigger opportunities.” Now with 90 members, SAMASABALATASAN has expanded their products from pickles and noodles to seaweed instant cup noodles, crackers, seaweed shampoo bar, and soap. It also reaches the markets in Iloilo and Occidental Mindoro. They are now complying with Food and Drugs Administration’s requirement for License To Operate to access more markets in Metro Manila.
Mama's Delight for Success
“Innovation is always the name of the game.” – Ellen Muros
Behind every success is a story of hardship, mishap, and determination. Ellen Muros, just like the other flourishing entrepreneurs, started her peanut butter business from small capitalization and extraordinary optimism.
Hailed from the island of Odiongan in the province of Romblon where peanuts abundantly grow, Ellen jumped into the peanut butter bandwagon when her direct selling business failed. Leaving her with large amount of money to pay for, her husband, Robert, prodded her to join the 7 Isles Progressive Entrepreneurs Multi-Purpose Cooperative (PEMPC) a cooperative established through the help of Department of Trade and Industry – Romblon Provincial Office to assist the budding micro entrepreneurs of Odiongan in product development and marketing.
Ellen used the opportunity that the cooperative offered in providing raw materials in making peanut butter including the packaging materials. She also used the product labels that the cooperative provided at a minimal cost. While the rest of the cooperative members were hesitant to use the product labels due to fear of additional cost in making the peanut butter, it did not stop Ellen from improving her product.
Her first big break was when the wife of former Romblon Congressman Eduardo Firmalo bought peanut butter from her and gave them as gifts to friends and colleagues. Due to positive feedbacks and word-of-mouth, her peanut butter spreads throughout the town like a wildfire gaining her bulk orders from curious buyers. True enough, the creamy texture and luscious taste of Ellen’s peanut butter won the hearts of many Romblomanons.
Ellen admitted that delving in this kind of business was never easy but one should always look to the brighter side, “Ilang beses yung trial and error stage nito. Kapag binibigyan ko ng sample ang kapitbahay namin tapos tatanungin ko kung masarap ba, sasabihin nila oo, minsan hindi ako satisfied kasi baka ayaw lang nilang saktan feelings ko so nag-strive talaga ko na makuha yung perfect na peanut butter. (This peanut butter went through several trial and error stage. I gave out samples to my neighbors and whenever I ask them if it is delicious they would answer yes but I’m not satisfied because I thought they didn’t want to hurt my feelings. So, I strive harder to achieve the perfect recipe for my peanut butter.)”
Seeing that her product could compete with other bigger brands in Metro Manila, she sought the assistance of the Department of Trade and Industry – Romblon Provincial Office in 2006. She was then tapped as one of the beneficiaries of the One Town One Product (OTOP) Program.
During this period, Ellen established her own business apart from the cooperative’s activities. However, she still paid tribute to most of the members of the cooperative who are mostly mother, hence she called her product Mama’s Yami Deli Foods. Yami was used to attribute to the yummy taste of the peanut butter and Deli short for delight.
Her initial capital came from the loans that her husband sought from the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS). Also, the DTI-Romblon Provincial Office under the leadership of then Provincial Caretaker and now Assistant Regional Director Rodolfo J. Mariposque introduced her to DTI assistance on production, market promotion and product development. With these, she was given different inputs on how she can make the peanut butter able to enter the mainstream of the market.
Since there is a close relationship between DTI and other national agencies, DTI endorsed Mama’s Yami Deli Foods to Department of Science and Technology (DOST) to avail the Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program (SET-UP) and availed the provision for machineries and other equipment for the peanut butter production.
Due to numerous demands, from backyard cooking Mama’s YamiDeli Foods transferred to a bigger and wider place that broadens the production with four employees. Now, they distribute not only in Romblon but also in the provinces of Marinduque, Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro and Metro Manila.
When asked for her formula of success, Ellen simply says “innovation is the name of the game.” Mamasyami Deli Foods always checks the market segment before embarking on new products.
Presently, Mamasyami Deli Foods is an active participant of Trade Fairs and still a recipient of the Product Development. They were able to produce new varieties of peanut butter like plain, crunchy, double zero (no sugar, no salt), 100% Coco Sugar, choco-peanut. Also, new product lines were introduced such as Salamagi Paste (pure Sampaloc paste), sweetened Banana balls, and turmeric powder.
Indeed, Ellen has embarked on the secret of success by getting ready when the earliest opportunity comes.
Of Progress and Processed Meats: Bansud Livestock Multi-Purpose Cooperative Success Story
Lies in the southern part of Oriental Mindoro is the municipality of Bansud, it was once a quiet town with hog farming as the main source of the families’ income. Not until 2000 came, the simple lives of Bansud townfolks bound to change when Bansud Livestock Multi-Purpose Cooperative was established.
The Bansud Livestock Multi-Purpose Cooperative or BLMC was founded by Alfredo Majaba, Odelon Macalindog, Jimmy Alcala, and other fifteen founding members. Alfredo Majaba, President of BLMC, looked back on how superficial their goal was, “We just wanted to raise hogs since majority of people here were into this kind of livelihood, we established the cooperative and used our initial capital to sell feeds (hog pellets) and medicines.” He admitted that they were able to achieve their goal but they did not stop there.
Due to increasing volume of hogs raised in the town, they decided to supply fresh meats in the public market. Everything went well until the cooperative felt they’re losing more than gaining, “Price of feeds and medicines kept on pumping up and our middleman from Batangas bought meats in a very low price. In a short span of time, we would be bankrupt if we continue on dwelling in that kind of situation.” Appalled by the idea of losing the business, the cooperative considered making processed meats.
At first the cooperative was hesitant in venturing to processed meat business saying that it’s too risky but optimism prevails, they were able to produce their first products – Longganisa and Tocino. These processed meat products were supplied in the market and received positive feedbacks from the consumers. The cooperative’s name was making the rounds in the province and was seen as a potential in competing other big names with same line of products. This served as their go signal to push through with the newly found business.
However, BLMC encountered problems in productivity due to the rigorous process of making processed meats. They reached out to DTI-4B for assistance and they were granted PHP 150,000 for the upgrade of their equipment. “We asked DTI for assistance because we’re getting high demand from consumers, manual processing slows us down. We’re not disappointed because the agency was very eager to help us.”
The DTI-4B saw the progress of the cooperative thus tapping them as the beneficiary of Shared Service Facility project on upgrading of meat processing facility. The project amounting to PHP 1,368,600 was expected to increase BLMC’s annual sale by at least 10%. And true enough by the last quarter of 2015, the cooperative recorded a total sales of PHP 4,659,338 the highest since they start the business in 2002. There is also noticeable increase in production volume almost four times higher before the facilities were established.
As to date, the processed meats are delivered to the near-by provinces like Cavite, Laguna, Aklan, Marinduque, Occidental Mindoro and some parts of Metro Manila. “It’s really overwhelming that our products are becoming a part of Mindoreno families’dining table.” said Macalindog when asked how do they feel about the progress of their longganisa and tocino. In addition to their growing variant of processed meats, they have recently introduced the BLMC hotdog.
With enthusiasm and pride, Majaba said that to be able to give back they are granting scholars to youths of Bansud, “Giving scholarship to the youths is our way of helping them become productive members of the community. It started with just a simple dream - to provide jobs and income to my compatriot but we’re receiving more than we asked for. DTI is a big part in achieving this success.”