By Gina V. Rodriguez
LEGAZPI CITY --- A “puto” (rice cake) maker from remote Barangay Balza, a remote village in Malinao, Albay, who has helped neighbors in her community earn a living as well, is a contender of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in Bicol in the nationwide search for “most successful livelihood beneficiary in the individual category” being implemented by (the Department of Labor and Employment) DOLE.
Raymond P. Escalante, DOLE-Bicol labor information officer, said the agency’s bet, Wilhelmina Reyes, is an enterprising and hardworking mother of four who ekes out a living making and selling puto, a native fare concocted from rice flour.
He said Reyes used to travel 15 kilometers from her house in Barangay Balza to the nearest city in the province to avail of the services of a rice grinding machine so her rice could be turned into flour, the main ingredient of puto.
Escalante said those were the times when Reyes had to do everything by hand and start working at the crack of dawn.
“With only her hands and some members of her family helping, time in puto production has always been the enemy,” he said.
Reyes recounted that her travel of 15 kms was equivalent to taking a 30-minute full-packed jeepney ride.
“The ride from Balza to the city four times a week was tiresome but I did not have choice,” Reyes said.
She said she had to endure the difficulties because she has four mouths to feed.
In December 2014, however, Reyes was chosen as one of the beneficiaries of DOLE’s Integrated Livelihood Program or DILP and was awarded a heavy duty grinding machine that cost P13,500.
The livelihood grant resulted in increased production and increased income for Malinao’s puto maker.
Out of the increased income, Reyes managed to buy a generator set and a motor vehicle. The generator was important because power shutoff in her village was intermittent.
Aside from the added machineries and tools, Reyes was also able to generate jobs by way of availing on consignment basis her product to 20 puto vendors in Barangay Balza.
From P400 a day, Reyes’ income increased to P1,000 a day due to the DILP grant.
Escalante said before Reyes was chosen as bet for the nationwide search, she was honored by DOLE-Bicol as one of the best and most successful entrepreneurs in the Bicol region in its “2016 Oragon Awards.”