By Lam Pak Lai Larry ; “The Waves, the Daughter and the Market”

Bohol and its waves

I heaved my backpack onto the roof of the rainbow jeepney called Allison. Despite the countless misfortunes from our travel from Hong Kong to Bohol, we finally made it close to our final destination, Tubod Mar. During the car ride, you can actually taste the ocean even when you cannot see it, and this was the sensation I have craved for months before coming to the Philippines. The jeepney turned up a steep slope path before I could enjoy the ocean view even more and we passed through the forest of coconut trees, then a scream of excitement came from one of the huts in front of us and tiny faces popped out from the bushes. We have arrived at our homestay village Tubod Mar.

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The rainbow jeepney Allison with our luggages on the roof

It was not until the third day we have had the chance to meet the micro-businesses that I and my teammate Mavis are in charged of, to help them in whatever they need. Supposed to be meeting them at 9am on our first day, both of our micro-businesses didn’t turn up on time, the JasMED officials reassured us that one of them was on their way and the second one was too busy to come for a meet and greet. Mavis hopped on a motorcycle without a word and rode off with the official to find the person in charge for the one who was not coming, hoping to get a brief idea what their business is about. On the other hand, I waited inside the gymnasium patiently.

First was my friends who left, they had done their work of introducing themselves that day. The other businesses left. Then, it was the officials. Last, it was only me who was in the gym. I didn’t give up on waiting for them, and after a few moments of struggling to leave the place for lunch, footsteps rang from the entrance and in came a lady pulling at her baby daughter behind her.

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Bohol and it’s waves

The Daughter and her UBE Business

“Sorry sir, I am late sir,” said Marsha, the vice-president of Jagna Women’s UBi Processors and Confectioners Assocaition; also the daughter of the founder  of the business. With broken English, she started to introduce what her business is about and we scheduled a meeting at her office the next day.

UBE (also called purple yam) polvoron, a type of candy was their main product. However, when we visited their processing place, there was no work in progress. Turned out they only make their product when there was any order from the Island City Mall in Tagbilaran. They wanted to only supply the required demand from their major customer. But for a business who wanted to grow and increase their profit they did not take any action in reaching out, staying by a stump waiting for more hares is definitely not a way of running a successful business.

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Behind the boxes is the Ubi plant, products also include UBE powder and polvoron

One good thing about their business is that they hold an open-mind with their products, from what they said, they were willing to change. Continually making different types of products like peanut bars, dimples and candies, they were quite successful in satisfying the market’s needs especially for tourists since ube was a popular and traditional food flavor in the Philippines. In addition to this, we were surprised to find out that they have detailed financial logs and records for every product they sell and ingredients they buy from the year 2015. However, when I asked about the most updated financial records, they seemed a bit lost and wanted guidance in doing so.

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Meeting the UBE enterprise. Right: Marsha with her baby daughter

The Market

To start in helping them with their financial logs and price costings, Mavis and I went to the market to look for the homogenous products. With the main tricycle station right outside the Jagna market, it took us some work to waddle through the crowd. The market was no market I have ever been to, pharmacies and groceries jammed into one tiny store and you can see some selling the same products stuck together side by side.

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The market and its crammed together stores

We thought this would make things much easier for us. We went store by store looking for peanut bars and polvorons but to no avail. Ube polvoron and peanut bars was not a popular type of food in Jagna. When we finally found a store that sells related products, their price was so much lower than that of Marsha’s product. After some exploration, we finally found their products on the shelf of the JasMED office, tucked away in a corner. This gave us answer to the question “Why couldn’t we find their products in Jagna market?” In truth, their products were targeted for tourists, not locals, and second they have set their product prices too high. It is close to impossible for Jagna locals to buy. Comparatively, Jagna is a less developed city in Bohol. How can we persuade these locals who were poor and barely getting by their lives to purchase sweets and pleasure foods? This, was our main problem.

The Solutions

When our meeting with Marsha was coming to an end, Mavis and I assured her that we will do the best we can to improve their business and we gave them some short term solutions to start from:

  1. In order to attract more customers and to increase the product’s market value we suggested to help in changing their different packaging design and make it consistent.
  2. To have a better price costing for their products, it is important for them to know all their competitors and we offered to do research in the market on such issues.
  3. We also offered help in marketing their products online, making a Facebook webpage exclusively for their own products and also a website to order online and promote their business on social media

Mavis and I were impressed in what Marsha and her team was doing so far, however we have yet to meet their founder and is looking forward to meet her next week. With more information and details about her and her mother’s company, we hope to make a good impact and leave behind something worthwhile and life-changing in the Philippines.

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