Life Style

From banana bread to pineapple pizza: Filipino women look towards a better future

The Balaigay Women’s Production Cooperative includes local women from the fishing village of Lumbayanague as well as women displaced from Marawi, a nearby city, after an attack by Islamist rebels in 2017.

Front Small and Medium Enterprise Daymarked every year on June 27, UN News spoke to Beliante Matanog Cayongat, a long-time resident of Lumbayanague, and Nobaida Arig, who arrived after the terrorist attack, about their formula for success.

Nobaida Arig: I work one shift a week at the bakery, arriving at 4:30 a.m. and baking for two hours. We have six main products: banana muffins, Spanish rolls and coconut bread as well as chocolate cake, banana cake and standard white loaves.

I was one of 20 people in the cooperative who fled Marawi when it was attacked in 2017.

Nobaida Arig (left) and Beliante Matanog Cayongat, showcase their freshly baked products.

Nobaida Arig (left) and Beliante Matanog Cayongat, showcase their freshly baked products.

Beliante Matanog Cayongat: The cooperative operates the only bakery in the area and typically all of our breads and pastries are sold out by early afternoon.

We make 2 kg of each product. During Ramadan, our large loaves of bread are very popular and we sell out even when we make 60 a day. Large loaves of bread cost 40 pesos (0.70 USD) each, and because this is a very close-knit community, if people can’t afford to pay, we allow them to pay the bill later.

The main source of income in Lumbayanague is fishing.

The main source of income in Lumbayanague is fishing.

Nobaida Arig: We are a successful bakery because our breads, cakes and pastries are delicious and affordable. When you love your job, you bake delicious food.

I didn’t know how to bake before opening this bakery. We are provided with training and materials, including ovens, to put the training into practice. I am becoming a better baker through hands-on experience.

Marawi City in Mindanao was attacked by Muslim rebels in 2017.

Marawi City in Mindanao was attacked by Muslim rebels in 2017.

I can earn 200 pesos ($3.40) during my shift, which is good but not enough to support my family of six. I also run a small shop selling snacks and goods.

Beliante Matanog Cayongat: On free days, the bakery can earn 1,500 pesos ($25.50), but when we are busy with orders, we can earn 2,500 pesos ($42.50) a day. After salaries are paid, the remainder is returned to the cooperative.

Nobaida Arig: Baking is actually quite easy if you follow the recipe and I’m always looking for new ideas. I was so excited about baking that I watched a YouTube video at home that showed me how to make pizza with pineapple, mushrooms, and tuna. We baked a special order of pizza for Ramadan. I am very happy and proud when my pizza is loved and contributes to the community.

Beliante Matanog Cayongat: During the 2017 siege of Marawi, which lasted five months, we welcomed approximately 100 people who had fled their homes in the city into our community. Many have family ties, including Nobaida, whose husband fishes in this village.

A cooperative member prepares a cake recipe.

A cooperative member prepares a cake recipe.

Nobaida Arig: When Marawi was attacked, we heard gunshots and I thought it was a family feud, something we were quite familiar with. But after two days of the school burning, we realized the situation was more serious so we decided to flee. We have absolutely nothing with us.

There were many men dressed in black, carrying guns and flying IS planes [ISIL/Da’esh] flag in the city, but they let us pass and we returned to the village. It was unexpected and unimaginable that Marawi would be attacked in this way.

Beliante Matanog Cayongat: We want to build a bigger bakery and sell our products further. However, we also want to diversify and provide more jobs for women living here.

We want to provide tailoring and office services, so we really need a computer and a good Internet connection. Women here want peace, prosperity and a better future for their children, and we are working hard to realize these hopes.

Balaigay Women’s Producers Cooperative is supported by UNDPBangsamoro Food Security and Livelihood Enhancement (FSL) Project. The project, which aims to support and sustain peacebuilding and restoration, is funded by the Government of Japan, a long-standing partner for peace in the Bangsamoro region. The project was implemented with several institutional partners, including the Maranao Human Development Center, Inc., to empower communities through enterprise development. This initiative aims to promote sustainable livelihoods and create a solid foundation for lasting peace in the Bangsamoro.


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