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Young “Entreps” and Mayon

Proclamation Order No. 75, signed by then President Elpidio Quirino on June 19, 1948, declared June 19 of every year the “Filipino Youth Day.” 

Two bottles of freshly concocted chili sauce and pieces of corsage delicately handcrafted from fresh now-dried citronella leaves from the People’s Farm are displayed in front of me on the conference table. Ella Loquias, president of the youth group, Bugkos ng Kabataan, shyly smiles as she sits up straight and eagerly shares her new-found experiences at a recent seminar-workshop on food processing. They started growing/selling plants, handmade accessories, etc in 2021. They organized during the Pandemic for mental health and for safe environment.

I had bought the sauce they tentatively call Chilicioso for a hundred pesos for each bottle, and the Eliza 99 event organizers commissioned 70 handmade corsages at twenty pesos each instead of the traditional commercially available ones from the bookstore.

These - the chili oil and the corsage-- are new locally made products of Ella’s group Bugkos as part of the evolving alternative livelihoods that Tabang Bikol Movement promotes and encourages among its community-based organizations whose members are primarily from farming families in Camarines Sur. They are an addition to the citronella essential extracts in small and big bottles that their older counterpart People’s Organization of Disaster Survivors, began producing as anti-mosquito repellent in 2019 when the Department of Agriculture awarded four distillation machines to TBM for the start-up citronella social enterprise. The citronella-scented candles of the Ilaw ng Kababaihan are another. Ella’s mother, Winnie, is an active officer of Ilaw.

I am now presiding over a meeting with the budding social entrepreneurs who participated in a two-day seminar on Start-up and Development of Social Enterprises (SE) two days before at the Food Lab of the Bicol State College of Applied Science and Technology (BSCAST) in partnership with Social Enterprises Development of Mariners Polytechnic Colleges Foundation, Central Bicol State University in Agriculture and Tabang Bikol Movement. Together, they form part of the two-year SED project with the Commission on Higher Education central office. 

Before the meeting, Dr. Cely Binoya, the program leader, and the SED staff reported about the successful SE training held at Libmanan and Canaman, where the workshops yielded happy and satisfied new “entreps,” especially among the women and the youth. The members’ enthusiasm grows as the variety and frequency of SE training and development increase. At the BSCAST Food Lab training, the newly inspired members immediately organized themselves into various colorfully named Masarap Social Enterprises and the Kasali-KABUTI-han Group, among others. They come from the marginalized and underserved groups in the communities who are eager to learn new things to survive and live. Social enterprises are “people-owned,” ideally run collectively by the farmers, the women, and the youth organization. Their production, supply, and sales are their own. They participate in market economics to earn profits to be shared by all. As I always want to say in these times, “nothing to lose, everything to gain” if you join start-up social enterprises. Everybody should earn and benefit.

Young entrepreneurs and challenges

As I listened to their new learnings and discoveries in creating their products and enterprises, I realized the intense excitement, ardor, and energy emanating, especially from the young social entrepreneurs who have now committed to succeeding, not failing. They look up to the practices and experiences of successful and failed social enterprises.

How can they not learn from the women social entrepreneurs of Ilaw ng Kababaihan, some of whom are their mothers and relatives, organized in 2019 and the PODiS? Jane and Alma of Ilaw shared the many pitfalls of starting up their citronella-scented candles from a small patched nipa hut in a flood-prone barangay in Baras, Canaman, up to join local, regional, and national trade fairs of the Department of Industry and Department of Agriculture. They learn that good governance and grounded leadership are essential ingredients for success. They need to be grounded in the locality, in agriculture, specialized products in niche markets, and looking outside - to export! I always say, “Learn the supply chain and play to our strengths—a vast challenge to the newly elected Ilaw officers and other SEs. The SED project, fortunately, addresses this issue of developing a framework of social entrepreneurship among disaster survivors, tempered with the local conditions in Bicol.

Learning and Mayon

Over lunch, the meeting progressed into a lively exchange about the Bugkos- produced chili sauce. Once opened, the bottle quickly emitted a strong hot spicy smell of puréed chili peppers, thickened with vinegar cooked with salt, garlic, pepper, some sugar, and other spices. Like the chili sauce, the youth is precisely like it - a spicy hot condiment made from chili peppers that give a spicy kick, a hot trigger to learn new enterprising adventures. 

Only a few know that June 7 is an officially declared Filipino Youth Day in the country, which also marked the 162nd birth anniversary of Dr. Jose Rizal, who once described the youth as the “fair hope of the Fatherland.” 

Meanwhile, over at San Andres Elementary School in upland Sto Domingo in Albay, Fidel Surtida quarrying group members, and the Lidong youth await the SED and TBM team for their own social enterprises development seminars for alternative livelihood and social formation. If settled permanently well outside the permanent danger zones (PDZs), they stand better chances to learn and survive.


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