Local flavors are now easily accessible through the creativity and hardwork of the Mangyan tribes of Mindoro. The golden liquid of calamansi concentrate mixed into water will create a refreshing, sweet and acidic beverage. The saccharine and sour flavor of the guava can simply be spread on warm bread. The warmth and spice of ginger can be instantly made into a potent and healing drink. Complex flavors can now be seen in the pantries and table of an everyday Filipino family.
Yet, it was not a straightforward journey from the tribal farmlands to the cosmopolitan homes. Finding a sustainable source of income for the Mangyan tribes of Oriental Mindoro has been an arduous challenge. They had great products such as fruit concentrates, jellies and jams, and root powders, but it was difficult to get it to the right market for a fair price. Tugdaan, a community high school program, sought to improve the quality of life of the Mangyan people and empowered them to face the difficulties of the market system they were unfamiliar with.
Tugdaan was created in response for the need of the Mangyan people for education. It was established by the Mangyan-Alangan in partnership with various individuals, institutions, and volunteers in 1989. One of their graduates is 37-year old Ailyn Tupaz-Lintawagin who is now a coordinator for the production of calamansi concentrate, hibiscus concentrate, pure honey, guava jelly, and pineapple jam of the Tugdaan Mangyan Center for Learning and Development since 2002. The production now has a net income of half a million per year and can mostly support the enterprise and the school.
The production line however started out with processing only 50 bottles of calamansi concentrate and other products without a target market. The community didn’t know how to properly sell their products to potential buyers. The annual report clearly indicated significant monetary loss and the income wasn’t even enough to cover production costs. Ailyn’s income depended on private donations rather than the earnings of the enterprise. The Board contemplated on closing the enterprise altogether due to continuous losses, which would have been detrimental to the community. It was a dismal situation, despite having good quality products available.
Ailyn didn’t give up despite the challenges she and the enterprise faced. She, along with Cirilina Lintawagin, and Rizalito Benito enrolled in the Tugdaan Mangyan Center for Learning and Development under the IP LED Program. They underwent a 2-year certificate course on Leadership and Social Enterprise Development and Management. After every 5-day session, Ailyn, Cirilina, and Rizalito returned to their respective communities and shared their learnings from the sessions. This led to the development, not just of Ailyn and her fellow scholars, but also to the empowerment of their community. Slowly, the community learned how to produce and market their products that would enrich their shared enterprise.
Through the course, Ailyn and her community became proficient in business management. They started the regular purchase of raw materials in order to maintain continuous production. Keeping a regular inventory, as well as a systematic record of transactions, enabled them to operate an orderly business enterprise. They also conducted strategic planning, setting specific targets for their production and sales. Eventually, they discovered a high market demand in Manila, Calapan, and other nearby towns. Through a more efficient business design, they were able to get their products out in the market.
Ailyn’s success also means the success of her family and her community. She now earns her income through the enterprise rather than relying on private donations. She even managed to teach members of her family how to conduct business, such as record-keeping, buying raw materials, and selling marketable products. At first, Ailyn was doubtful of her capability in running a business due to the limitations of her earlier academic experiences. She enrolled in Computer Secretarial as an Assisi Scholar in Ifugao State University before coming back to serve the community. After studying under the IP LED Program and teaching other Mangyans about her learnings, she gained confidence and learned to truly love her work. She recognized the impact of of the success of the business for her community and for Tugdaan.
The Mangyans like Ailyn worked closely with Tugdaan to develop their enterprise for continued sustainability. The honey they harvested at the foot of Mt. Halcon were kept pure with the use of a dehumidifier that helped extract unnecessary moisture. This led to a very high quality honey product for sale and consumption. The parents of Tugdaan students were also laboriously involved in the development of the school as they plant and harvest calamansi, pineapples, and guavas in the demo farms designed specifically for such needs. The Tugdaan also directly buys the raw products from the Mangyans at a fair price, ensuring a good income for the Mangyan families and the continued sustainability of the school. This process of production is an unceasing growth for the Mangyan community leading to the betterment of their quality of life.
The Food Processing Center is now a major component of the Sustainability Program of Tugdaan. The enterprise serves as a mechanism to strengthen Tugdaan, enabling it to train and develop the entrepreneurial mindset and capacities of more students. Ailyn considers her learnings from the IP LED program thru Tugdaan as her wealth that she will always have. Her success is the success of the enterprise and community. Ailyn dreams that someday, the enterprise will fully fund and support Tugdaan for further education and development of the Mangyan community.
The complex local flavors that are now easily available in the pantries of Filipino household contains within it the hopes and dreams of the Mangyans like Ailyn. Though it was a long and difficult struggle, they managed to produce delicious products that are quickly becoming a staple for the Filipino palate. The sweet, sour, and spicy notes accord more life to beverages and meals, while sustaining and empowering Ailyn and her community.
• Tugdaan Mangyan Center for Learning and Development is an educational institution dedicated to serve 8 Mangyan tribes of Oriental and Occidental Mindoro
• Established in 1989 by the Mangyan-Alangan in partnership with concerned individuals, institutions and volunteers
• A response to the clamor of the Mangyan people for a kind of education that would equip them to pursue their own development in the context of their culture, dreams, and aspirations in life.
• The production and processing of jams and jellies, fruit concentrates, herbal powders, and other products are part of its sustainability mechanism.