Homegrown Mindanao products on sale in Makati

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MANILA — Homegrown products from numerous micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) from Mindanao are on display at Glorietta 3, Makati City for a four-day Mindanao Trade Expo (MTE) until Oct. 9.

Yvette Marie Celi Punzalan, MTE Foundation Inc. board of director, said the 2018 expo features more than 80 booths from Mindanao and some parts of Visayas.

The fair, housed at the mall’s activity center, showcases local products, such as home decor and furnishings, furniture, architectural fittings, visual arts, fashion accessories, fashion textile, and local food products.

Punzalan boasted that the initiative has been growing steadily since it was conceptualized 20 years ago.

“We are growing slowly but surely. It’s 23 years now. In the past, we just stay in Davao. Now we are showcasing our products here in Glorietta,” she told the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

Meanwhile, Punzalan is positive that the MTE will make it international, saying the organization is on track in “molding the exhibitors” before they engage with foreign markets.

“We really do the product development for them, so we can showcase it here in Manila and eventually abroad,” she said.

A portion of the expo’s space, dubbed “Mindanao Pavilion,” is one of the 2018 MTE’s special feature, acknowledging the world-famous and emerging cacao producers from Mindanao –from Malagos chocolates to several promising cacao brands.

The pavilion will also hold events, such as seminars, food tasting, and product demonstrations and preparations.

The organizers said the export-grade chocolate variants offered in the expo are rarely seen in community supermarkets.

Examples of these are Wit’s coco sugar-coated cacao nib clusters and Cacao de Davao’s durian-filled chocolate bar.

Edwin Baqurigo, Assistant Regional Director of the Department of Trade and Industry office in Region 11, said Mindanao is currently “positioned as the main producer of cacao” in the Philippines, thus the effort to strengthen its promotion.

“This effort is part of our strategies in promoting a competitive and sustainable cacao industry,” Baqurigo said.

Empowering people

Punzalan, who is also an exhibitor and owner of Yvette’s Bags and Beads Collection, said one of the MTE’s focus is also empowering individuals — for her business, women prisoners from Mindanao.

“I conducted a training program for 20 women in Davao City. Back then, they were only 10 and after 11 years, they increased to more than 100,” she said.

“From the moment I started, the passion and the love for work never faded. I’m inspired because when we see those workers inside the prison — seeing their children every week and handing something to their children from their income — we knew we change lives,” she added.

“So it’s not only business, we reform a person’s life,” she said.

After 11 years of crocheting bags from recyclable plastics as a hobby, her products are now being exported in the United States, Japan, and Italy.

Like Punzalan’s, Crissander Accessories, a member of the MTE Foundation Inc., is also changing daily lives by providing livelihood to the locals of Bohol.

“All of our workers are from our local community,” said Virgilio Yabut, sales officer of Crissander Accessories, referring to dainty earnings, rustic bracelets, carved wooden bookmarks, and more.

He said these “all are made sustainably” with old and dead jackfruit (langka) or madre de cacao wood. (PNA)

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