How banana leaves and salted eggs are empowering a Laguna township
The story of Binalot and Brgy. Buhanginan of Nagcarlan, Laguna began in 2006, when Typhoon Milenyo struck the Philippines and drastically depleted Luzon’s supply of banana leaves—the trademark packaging for Binalot’s food offerings. Recognizing the need for a steady supplier come typhoon, floods or other natural calamities, Binalot decided to go straight to the source in Nagcarlan.
On his search, Rommel Juan, CEO of Binalot Fiesta Foods, Inc., happened by Brgy. Buhanginan and there met Rodney Oriel, whose team of four (consisting of himself, his brother, and two cousins) agreed to produce 3,000 pieces of cut banana leaves for Binalot. This partnership eventually grew to involve the whole township and became Binalot’s own corporate social responsibility (CSR) program called the DAHON (Dangal At Hanapbuhay para sa Nayon) Program, which they formally launched in 2007.
Brgy. Buhanginan now regularly prepares 300 bundles – of cut banana leaves every week, which Binalot picks up thrice a week. Each banana leaf is cut according to Binalot specifications, which is then used to individually package their meals. Oriel’s main team now consists of 14 harvesters plus eight for cutting the leaves and two designated to tie the bundles, with additional assistance received from Oriel’s family and the rest of the barangay.
“A CSR should be sustainable. The secret to that is a fixed market,” shares Juan. “Just like they are for us, Binalot is a fixed market for them. All they need to do is produce, and we will buy everything. Our CSR is all about community development of cottage industries.”
Since its genesis, the DAHON Program has not only become a reliable form of livelihood for the inhabitants of Brgy. Buhanginan; it has also helped build the barangay’s own dahunan where the townspeople regularly gather to socialize and prepare Binalot’s weekly orders, and has even provided financial support to both students and teachers at the local daycare center. The success of the program has also opened doors for expansion in Pila, Laguna, although main operations remain in Nagcarlan.
Last Oct. 18, Binalot officially launched Eggciting Harvest, a livelihood project under the DAHON Program in partnership with EMBRACE in pursuit of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. With the introduction of salted egg production to the program, both parties strive to form long-term partnerships to further empower the community of Brgy. Buhanginan.
“We’ve been looking to expand the DAHON Program to more than just the banana leaves. Since we use a lot of these in our stores, salted egg production was an ideal way to go about this,” says Binalot Fiesta Foods, Inc. COO Irene Lucas. “For our research and development, we consulted the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) on the salted egg production process. We were also able to get in touch with EMBRACE, and we are grateful that they were able to support us not only with our salted egg production, but also with our daycare.”
For its partnership with Binalot, EMBRACE donated learning materials for students in the daycare center and helped fund the starter kits that would benefit 30 families in Brgy. Buhanginan. The kits will enable the locals, especially women, to start a business in making salted eggs. 10 women from the barangay are at the helm of this program.
Oriel, who witnessed the growth of the DAHON Program for the past 12 years says, “Ngayong magkakaroon na ng paggawa ng itlog na maalat, madaragdagan pa ulit ng trabaho sa amin. Magandang pagkakataon ito dahil lalawak pa ang kaalaman ng mga tao at mas marami pang matutulungan.” (“Now that salted egg production will be added, more jobs will be generated for us. This is a great opportunity because it will broaden the knowledge of the people and will help more people.”)