Sunday, May 16, 2010

Laguna couple earns meaty profits

By Karen Lapitan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 22:05:00 05/15/2010

Filed Under: Food, Small Business

NAGCARLAN, LAGUNA, Philippines – When Manny and Virginia Valencia got married in 1993, they spent almost all their savings on their wedding.

Fortunately, they decided to keep P2,000 from the P7,000 they received from their principal sponsors and put that amount in a small meat processing business.

They never thought that Joshua’s Meat Products (JMP) would penetrate a significant number of stores and households in Southern Tagalog and nearby regions with its longganisa, tocino, hot dog, bacon and ham, and other meat items.

Manny, 42, says the biblical “Joshua” was the name he gave to a son.


When they were just starting, Manny says he just wanted to bring enough income to his family so they could make both ends meet.

“My wife and I tried making longganisa (native sausage) on our own without any formal training,” he recalls, adding that he would simply buy ground pork from a nearby wet market in Nagcarlan, one of the top sellers of pork in Laguna.

“Our initial buyers were our neighbors,” Manny says.

Nine months later, the couple acquired a house from their earnings.

In 1994, Manny met a businessman from San Pablo City who was looking for someone who could produce P20,000 worth of longganisa. He accepted the job, and the influx of more buyers began.

Since then, the Valencias have developed more products to address a wider number of target buyers.

Higher demand

Now, JMP distributes products not only in Laguna and Metro Manila, but also in Bicol and other places in northern Luzon.

With 70 employees, it currently makes six to seven tons of meat products—a far cry from its starting output of 20 to 50 kilos.

“We also buy raw meat from local sellers, so we’re helping Nagcarlan townsfolk through JMP,” Manny says.

He remains hands-on in managing the business, and imposes strict rules on food safety and sanitation. The welfare of buyers always comes first, he says.

“It was perhaps a combination of luck, perseverance and faith,” says Manny, when asked on JMP’s formula of success.

Monday, May 10, 2010

CamSur to wait until Monday to test connectivity of vote machine

Inquirer Southern Luzon
First Posted 19:15:00 05/09/2010

Filed Under: Eleksyon 2010, Elections, Politics

PILI, Camarines Sur, Philippines -- The testing of the satellite signal from the province to the consolidation canvassing center of Smartmatic and Commission on Elections in Manila has been postponed to election day despite the insistence of the Smartmatic technician to hold it on Sunday.

Lawyer Romeo G. Serrano, Camarines Sur provincial election supervisor, decided to postpone the connectivity testing upon review of the general instructions from the Comelec, which required that the consolidation canvassing system (CCS) box be sealed upon the convening of the provincial board of canvassers.

“Opening of the CCS box must be in the presence of all parties and the general public according to Section 26, page 13 of the general instructions on consolidation of canvassing,” Serrano said.

He said the CCS box contained all the electronic gadgets and laptop computer, which would be used in the consolidation canvassing from the municipalities, for the provincial and congressional positions.

Serrano said the consolidated canvassing results, which would be transmitted from the provincial center here, would be the bases of the proclamation of winning candidates for the governor, vice governor, board members and congressmen.

Ricardo M. Gamurot Jr., CCS technician of Smartmatic in Camarines Sur, said that testing the satellite signal on Sunday would give them time to resolve any problems.

Based on the protocol provided to Gamurot, the testing of the connectivity is when “the CCS technician will connect the laptop to the transmission media to be used on election day. If there is connectivity, the equipment will be registered in the DNS server so we will be able to validate that the site is okay.”

Gamurot said that in other provinces, the connectivity testing had been done from May 3-7.

But Serrano stood firm on not pushing through with the connectivity testing here because that would violate the general instructions from the Comelec.

He said the connectivity testing was finally set 12 noon Monday upon the convening of the provincial board of canvassers—composed of the provincial election supervisor as chair, provincial prosecutor as vice-chair and the provincial schools superintendent.

Serrano said the opening of the sealed CCS box must also be witnessed by concerned parties and the public.

In Los Baños, Laguna, the testing of the precinct count optical scanning machines, the machines designed to scan and record the votes for automated counting, generally went well with some “tolerable problems,” said election officer Randy Banzuela.

The testing and sealing of the 70 PCOS machines to be used by the town’s 14 voting centers was scheduled to start 9 a.m. Sunday, but some were delayed as the machines were set up late.

In Los Baños National High School (LBNHS), poll watchers and board of election inspectors of cluster 54 had to wait for about 30 minutes as the PCOS machine did not immediately work.

A message in the LCD read: “application terminated unexpectedly.” This happened twice before the PCOS machine worked smoothly.

Paper jam happened for the first two ballots fed into the PCOS machine.

Cesar Medina, poll watcher of Bangon Pilipinas, said “We had to wait for the machine to function well. I hope this will not happen tomorrow, but I think it’s just a minor glitch.”

Banzuela said there were no discrepancies when the tallied votes were counterchecked through manual checking, according to the reports he gathered.

Also in Los Banos High School, one of the mock elections participants mistakenly voted for 13 senators, when only 12 were needed.

The last senator voted in that ballot was not counted by the PCOS machine, but was read during the manual counter check. Hence, a difference in the results was recorded.

In Barangay Bagong Silang, the testing and sealing was delayed for at least an hour since there was no source of electricity.

Banzuela clarified, however, that the batteries that came with the PCOS machines should be sufficient for the actual elections.

The signal for the transmission, he added, was not an issue.

Barangay Bagong Silang is located in Mt. Makiling in Los Baños.

Banzuela said he expected the elections to go smoothly on Monday.

“There are technical support personnel who will be on standby to assist the teachers if problems arise in any of the PCOS machines,” he added.

The Comelec provincial supervisor in Laguna has expressed optimism that the automated elections Monday would succeed because all the PCOS machines were already in place in 29 municipalities while the mounting of the memory cards were also being worked out the whole day on Sunday.

Lawyer Dioscoro Pajutan, Comelec Laguna provincial supervisor, said he was optimistic the elections would go on smoothly based on his observation of the successful testing of the PCOS machines in Cavinti and Luisiana in last few days.

Pajutan was positive that the other PCOS machines in the rest of the towns in Laguna would also work out well.

He said his personnel in the Comelec were working overtime in the weekend side by side with the workers of Smartmatic to ensure that elections paraphernalia would be tested and ready for the automated voting.

A PPCRV coordinator in San Pablo City, however, expressed sadness that the PCOS machine in one of the barangays failed the testing because the serial number of the document being fed into the machine did not match.

Romeo Narciso, PPRCV coordinator in San Gabriel Parish, said that in Barangay Santiago 2, also in San Pablo City, the testing of the PCOS machine did not materialize in the morning due to power failure in the vicinity of the elementary school, the localation of the polling precinct.

An electrician in the area was tapped to fix the problem so that the PCOS machine could finally be tested and be ready for the elections.

Reports filed by Juan Escandor Jr., Karen Lapitan and Romulo Ponte, Inquirer Southern Luzon

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sarilikha does RP proud with unique high-end bags

By Karen Lapitan
Inquirer Southern Luzon

Posted date: May 01, 2010

VICTORIA, LAGUNA—CESAR PASCO, 60, still exudes enthusiasm when talk turns to business or training potential entrepreneurs.

A former head of a Laguna-based nongovernment organization (NGO), Pasco has not lost interest in extending help to those in need—particularly those who are unemployed.

In early 2009, Pasco, with partner Renel Batralo, 29, put up a venture called Sarilikha to produce native bags and accessories.

Sarilikha products have already started to penetrate the international market.

It took only P255 to start up the venture. The amount covered the raw materials they needed.

Sarilikha products are made of indigenous materials, such as water hyacinth and pandan leaves. There is a showroom in Barangay Balite, Victoria, Laguna, where products are on display.

But the venture does not only produce native bags and accessories. Since its inception, Sarilikha has also trained budding entrepreneurs, most of whom come from impoverished communities.

Affiliate trainers

It was an exhibit in 2008 that started what turned out to be Sarilikha.

Pasco was still with an NGO that he had established himself, when he decided to join an exhibit in Sta. Rosa City, Laguna.

The exhibit had a theme that called for a cleaner Laguna Lake and the development of economic opportunities in the vicinity of the lake. It was a year before the issue of the overflowing lake was brought to the public’s attention.

Pasco says that even before the onslaught of Tropical Storm “Ondoy,” he was already concerned with the problems not only of Laguna Lake but of other lakes in the province.

He was referring to the seven lakes in San Pablo City, where he used to initiate employment opportunities for residents.

“Several years ago, I observed how certain factors had affected the means of living of those who were dependent on the lakes. One of their problems was the presence of too much water hyacinth,” Pasco says.

He then thought of how he could help the residents get rid of the problem. One solution was to turn the surplus of water hyacinth into a profitable venture by using the material to produce bags.

According to Pasco, the main issue then was massive job loss.

The government at the time was trying to provide jobs for displaced workers, so an emergency employment program was relevant back then, he says.

Pasco and Batralo decided on promoting their water hyacinth idea in an exhibit. Their booth caught the attention of provincial officers of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

“DTI saw the potential of our projects and products to help displaced workers,” Pasco says.

This also signaled the start of Sarilikha.

Eventually, the two were tapped as affiliate trainers of the government agency. From then on, they would be frequently invited to train people how to produce native bags and accessories.

They have also been tapped by a number of private institutions and nongovernment organizations such as the Child Fund International (CFI).

After the devastation of Ondoy, Pasco and Batralo were asked to train CFI beneficiaries in Laguna. Most of the trainees were badly affected by the storm, but they were taught how to make native bags, which helped them earn additional income.

“Orders from our clients are outsourced to our current and former trainees so they could apply their acquired skills and earn at the same time,” Batralo says.

The products that were bought by clients were actually the result of a collective effort of Sarilikha and their current and former trainees, he explains.

Sarilikha keeps in constant touch with their trainees, past and present. In this way, Batralo says, the trainees are given the opportunity to apply what they have learned.

He clarifies, however, that students are highly encouraged to start ventures on their own, with the guidance and support of DTI and Sarilikha.

High-end native bags

Pasco claims that he feels both humbled and proud that their products are now starting to penetrate the international market.

Sarilikha has become a partner of Cora Jacobs, a designer based in the United States with an eye for high-end bags made of water hyacinth.

Now, Sarilikha is into producing native bags with a leather look.

Batralo shares that it merely takes trial and error to come up with products that will sell.

Sarilikha blazed the trail in producing native bags with a leather look, Batralo claims. The bags have caught the attention of buyers from other countries like the United States.

Pasco and Batralo continue to share their innovations with their former and current trainees.

“Through motivation and values formation, we were able to create jobs for people,” says Pasco.

They have also asked their trainees to share their ideas and designs with others, he adds.

Sarilikha buys raw materials like water hyacinth and pandan leaves from residents around Laguna Lake, helping them earn extra income, according to Pasco.

“Your talent is useless if you don’t know how to share it with others,” adds Pasco, who cites self-fulfillment as the greatest profit a man can get from his business.

“In a way, this venture can also be considered financially rewarding. But this did not make us filthy rich. Still we are happy how this effort has turned out.”