Bottle of La Torre Iloko Vinegar

To Ilocanos, their very own native vinegar or the locally known sukang iloko is one of the many staple cuisine products primarily because of its role in the Ilocano culture and history particularly as their food condiment or food preservative. Sukang iloko which is made from naturally fermented sugarcane, has a strong acidic scent and turbid-color quality distinctive of other vinegars. Its unique taste complements mouth-watering delicacies such as adobo, paksiw, longganisa and a perfect match for empanada.

One of the major vinegar producers and manufacturers in the province of Ilocos Norte is the Malampa Agrarian Reform Cooperative (MARC) located in Brgy. Nambaran, Bacarra. Its members are farmers who have maintained various economic activities like palay trading, relending and of course, vinegar and basi production.

Malampa Agrarian Reform Cooperative

The story of the vinegar business of MARC has come a long way since it started in 2005.  Before the vinegar production business cooperative was established, some farmer-members are already producing vinegar in limited volumes and generally of lower quality for their own personal consumption. They were apprehensive that they will not be able to market their products. Still, DTI and Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) saw the big market potential of Sukang Iloko for the cooperative so they assisted and encouraged its members to engage in a large scale vinegar production.

MARC served as the marketing arm of the produce of the member-farmers engaged in the manufacture of vinegar which they later on named as La Torre Iloko Vinegar. With the support of  DTI, DAR together with all the other stakeholders, the cooperative came up with a marketing plan to support the implementation of the project. The assistance of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and the Department of Agriculture (DA) were also sought in order to address the technical aspects of the proposed project.

To further enhance production, equipment were provided to them by different government agencies. Though DTI’s Shared Service Facility Project (SSF) and Bottom Up Budgetting (BuB), a total of PHP 2.5 million worth of equipment were given to MARC. The provision of these projects enabled the cooperative to produce better quality and market driven products. Aggressive promotion and linkage with private institutions also helped in widening their market. Due to the improved packaging and labeling undertaken by all stakeholders, the product has gained market demand not only in the Province but to other places as well. Initial interventions were made with the different restaurants and groceries in Tuguegarao and has also tie-up with a dealer from Metro Manila.

SSF for Iloko Vinegar

With the support of LGU, the La Torre Iloko Vinegar is now adopted as the One Town One Product (OTOP) of the Municipality of Bacarra. The OTOP is a priority program of the government to promote entrepreneurship and create jobs. It supports micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to manufacture, offer and market distinctive products or services through the use of indigenous raw materials and local skills and talents.

It was envisioned that the Vinegar Project did not only present opportunities that increased the income of the household, nor a stop-gap measure in the short-run, but more importantly provided sustainability that served as the vehicle to uplift the economic conditions of the people of Nambaran. With the continuing development of their  entrepreneurial and managerial capabilities, the officers and members of the cooperative is now serving as inspirations to their community. A proof that even farmers can manage the operation of a business.

With these projects and the continued support of the stakeholders, the members of the Malampa Agrarian Reform Cooperative can only look forward to a better future.

Blacksmith Industry - Fierce And Strong All Through The Years

The loud banging sound, fire blazing and metal flares from the steel blade being honed in the furnace symbolizes that the blacksmith industry of Calasiao, Pangasinan is still flourishing. Coined from the Filipino term Panday or blacksmith, Sitio Pandayan of Brgy. Gabon, Calasiao, Pangasinan is known for its quality blades, samurai and other razor products. Blacksmithing has been one of the primary source of living of the majority of residents in the area who are also members of the Aliguas Blacksmith Workers Association (ABWC).

Region 1 Blacksmith

Although their association was relatively new, Ruben Magalong, ABWC President shared that the blacksmith industry of Sitio Pandayan has been in existence for more than seven decades now on which he described as reflection of valued tradition handed down to generations.

Some of the Panday in the area still do the old and very rigid process of metal honing. Although this method as incomparable and part of the rich tradition of blacksmithing, members of the ABWC recognized the need to upgrade their knowledge and facilities to cope up with the demands of the market and maximize the advantages of technology. In 2013, DTI introduced to them the Shared Service Facilities (SSF) Project. Established primarily to help MSME groups and cooperatives, it aims to improve the quality and productivity of microenterprises by addressing the gaps and bottlenecks through the provision of processing machines and equipment for the common use of the MSMEs.

Region 1 Blacksmith

DTI saw the potential for growth and development of ABWC, thereby, identified them as one of the SSF recipient. PHP1.2 million worth of machine and equipment like welding and sewing machines, metal cut-off,, forging hammers and others were provided to the association. Trainings and seminars were also provided to enhance their entrepreneurial skills. Aside from the increase of sales and production, the number of members also increased from 83 to 126. It included few from young generation who showed interest in blacksmith industry. Their present market include Pangasinan, La Union, Bulacan, Metro Manila. Orders from abroad are also starting.

Salamat po dahil sa suporta ng DTI, hindi napag-iwanan ang sector ng pagpa-panday!” (Thank you! With DTI’s support, the blacksmith industry will not be left behind!”)

With the new technology introduced to the hardworking blacksmiths of Sitio Pandayan, they are now more driven to continue and develop the blacksmith industry. Hence, strong as the metal steel they honed, fierce as the fire in the furnace, their future will remain bright.

From Farmer To Agri-Preneur

For an ordinary farmer like Rolly Mateo, farming is his way of life. But with the growing demands and needs of his family, what he generates from the seasonal harvest coming from the small rice field he toils can barely sustain their needs. Rolly believes that more than the farm work, farmers like him can still maximize their potentials to become agricultural entrepreneur or agri-preneur.

United with the same desire to provide a better living for their respective families, Rolly together with other the farmers of Brgy. Bantog, Asingan, Pangasinan formed the Bantog Samahang Nayon Multipurpose Cooperative (BSN-MPC).

Pangasinan Dairy

Known as the farmer’s bestfriend, carabao is the ever reliable farm helper and companion of Rolly and fellow farmers. To maximize the worth of their carabao, they started to harvest milk from it and sold it fresh around their neighborhood. Determined to expand their carabao-based enterprise, BSN-MPC seek the assistance of DTI and Philippine Carabao Center (PCC). PCC provided them additional imported buffalo carabaos to milk from. Through DTI’s Shared Service Facility (SSF) Project, the cooperative received tools and equipment for dairy production and milk processing. BSN-MPC received milking machine, chest freezers, ice cream maker machine, stainless tables stamp sealer and water purification machine all amounting to almost a million pesos.

Trainings and seminars were also given to enhance the entrepreneurial expertise of the members. The member-farmers turned agri-preneurs were also invited to attend crash courses on basic entrepreneurship, product labeling, good maunufacturing practices, book keeping, accounting and even work values.

Pangasinan Dairy

“Malaking tulong sa amin na nagkaroon kami ng tuloy-tuloy na hanapbuhay habang hinihintay naman ang pag-harvest sa aming pananim.” – Rolly Mateo, cooperative president. (It’s really a great help that we now have continuous source of income while we wait for the harvest season.”)

Prior to the provision of SSF, they can only produce 15 liters of milk in a day, most of it gets spoiled because of the then limited machineries they have for the milk preservation.

With the new milking facility, they can harvest an average of 70 liters of carabao milk everyday, equivalent to almost 500% increase. This development urged other farmers in their area to join the cooperative. From the original five cooperative members, there are now 84 members. A great increase on their sales can also be attributed to the assistance they received. From their usual PHP600 sales per day, they are now earning PHP4,000 daily net income.

Market opportunities for their products also widen especially that the shelf life of their dairy products improved. Moreover, they introduced innovation by putting flavors like chocolate, pineapple, strawberry and others to make it flavored-milk. Other dairy-based product variants are also available like pastillas and ice cream.

DTI’s technology assistance to the carabao industry created sustainable enterprise that can provide more income and employment.