From Civet Cats to Coffee
Camilo and Zita Digay of Magallaya Mountain Specialty Coffee
Camilo and Zita Digay created Magallaya Mountain Specialty Coffee to take a chance on an opportunity with the Philippine wild cats or musang.
But the Digays’ entrepreneurial journey in end-to-end coffee production and processing business was also a learning experience for them.
This experience took the couple and their coffee products from the mountainous landlocked province of Kalinga in the Cordillera Administration Region to Baguio and beyond.
Coffee and cats
Camilo and Zita started out with P5,000.00 in capital for a sari-sari store business and decided to go into the buying and selling of the roasted coffee beans.
They made the decision after seeing the growing demand for civet coffee as they traveled to Baguio, even if it meant dealing with the musang in order to create the required coffee variety with its unique flavour and aroma.
Fortunately, the natural habitat of the civet cats was the forested highlands between Kalinga’s Tanudad town and Tabuk City.
The couple then decided to supply the mushrooming gourmet coffee shops throughout the country by processing and packaging their own brand, as well as distributing it.
Thus was when the Magallaya Mountain Specialty Coffee was born, named after the peak overlooking their home in the outskirts of Tabuk.
Trial and error
To process (and eventually expand their coffee line with a robusta variety), the Digays had to undergo a series of trial and error in creating their coffee starting around 2009. That is where the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) came in.
“We attended the DTI seminars and that was how we learned to process coffee,” Camilo said. He added that they attended more than 30 trainings for this.
“The department was a huge help to us. I burned so much coffee in the early days when I was still learning (the roasting process),” Camilo revealed with a chuckle.
The Digays were doubly lucky as not only were they the first beneficiary of the DTI’s World Bank-funded Rural Microenterprise Program, the DTI also helped them obtain a loan for the packaging of the Magallaya products to be showcased in a trade fair.
By 2009, the Magallaya brand got introduced at the One-Town One-Product (OTOP) Luzon Island Fair in SM Mega Mall where it generated P108,000.00 in gross sales.
In 2010, the Magallaya brand raked in P350,000.00 in a fair at the Festival Mall in Alabang and in 2012, they booked an order of P700,000.00 in another event in Greenbelt in Makati.
Present and future
The Magallaya Mountain Specialty Coffee has already accomplished a lot to serve as a success model for the rural coffee industry in Kalinga. Its achievements also serve as an inspiration to the local industry suffering a decline because of weak export demand, low farmgate prices, long gestation period from planting to harvesting, and competition with other crops.
From starting small, the couple has gone big as they have constructed a building and purchased equipment for processing and packaging, even as they acquired additional lands to expand their coffee plantation.
More importantly, the business offers hope for the resurgence of Kalinga’s coffee industry.