Being an empowered woman is more than just a label. Anna Paula Chiong, in her own ways, managed to become one—successfully managing her time with her family and her business.

Ms. Anna Paula Chiong of Paula’s Bukidnon Delights empowers IP women in the community by hiring them as employees of her growing business. Photo from DTI-10 KMME Video Project.
Ms. Anna Paula Chiong of Paula’s Bukidnon Delights empowers IP women in the community by hiring them as employees of her growing business. Photo from DTI-10 KMME Video Project.

Paula’s venture in breaking barriers can be traced back to her roots as an indigenous woman of Bukidnon’s Talaandig indigenous group. Being raised in a financially challenged family, Paula built with strong faith and hard work her determination to make her family’s life better. She sold pineapple jams using her mother’s recipe during college for additional financial assistance to support her education as an indigenous person (IP) scholar.

The recipe was shelved and forgotten when Paula joined the corporate world. It was later revived when she married Dindo, an outdoor junkie and mountaineer. Her husband’s active lifestyle and expertise in organizing events with large number of participants inspired Paula to bring back her pineapple jam when the guests started to look for a keepsake that reminded them of Bukidnon. Her friends would later resell her jam which motivated her to do costing and eventually make her sideline business into a fulltime operation.

She joined the Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI) Kapatid Mentor ME (KMME) Program in 2018. It was where she realized the potential of her small business especially when one mentor challenged the entrepreneurs from Bukidnon on what they can offer.

Daghan kaayo kog na-learn sa KMME kay dili man ko business graduate. Didto nako na-structure kung unsa akong buhaton (I learned a lot from KMME since I’m not a business graduate. It’s where I learned to make a structure on what to do).” Paula said as she also recalled the additional labeling assistance provided by DTI to improve the packaging and labelling of her product.

The growing Mama Nene’s Homemade Delights became one of the top sellers during the Valencia Trade Fair on August 2019. Aside from that, Paula was able to close a deal with the Universal Harvester Dairy Farm, a company based in Manila that will use the jam as a fourth flavor of the company’s yogurt and milk products. The business further took off with Paula and Dino now producing more than 600 kilograms of pineapple jams monthly, with an estimated income of almost P180,000.00.

Everything was going well until the pandemic started. Despite the challenges, Paula found ways to move forward. Together with friends and employees, she brought the unsold pineapple jams from the cancelled Kaamulan Festival to the hinterlands and donated it to the Lumad community. And even with the almost zero sales during the lockdown, Paula refocused her goals to getting certifications for her business. In November 2020, after investing close to P450,000.00 worth of processing facility, Mama Nene’s Homemade Delights, now called Paula’s Bukidnon Delights, received its Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval.

Photo of Paula's pineapple jams
Photo of Paula’s pineapple jams

Paula continued her entrepreneurial spirit by extending her motherly love to her staff. “Dili mi open na magtangtang og tao. Nangita mig paagi kung unsay pwede namo ma-income nga dinhi lang sa lokal na baligya (We’re not open to laying off employees. We looked for ways on how we can get income even in the local level only).”

This led to the creation of more pineapple-flavored product variants: ensaymada, muffin, and even pandesal made from the pineapple jams that were about to expire.

Paula shares her crown of strength to her fellow IP women whom she also hired as employees in the business while recognizing that being an empowered businesswoman in the new normal is not an easy feat.

Kinahanglan maniguro gyud ta sa atong kaugalingon. Kinahanglan nato ibalance ang atong time para sa atong mga bata, ang time para sa atong bana, ang time para sa atong negosyo—gamay man or dako (We have to insure ourselves. We need to balance our time for our kids, our time for our husband, our time for our business—whether small or big).

“Being an empowered woman is not easy. But if you have faith and you pray, God will give you strength to help other people.” ♦

Date of Release: 6 September 2021