by Gio Anton T. Barroga (September 28, 2020)
When it comes to mangoes, Guimaras knows best. Dubbed as the “Mango Capital of the Philippines”, Guimaras is home to more than 50,000 mango trees that are known to produce some of the sweetest mangoes in the world. With help from a certain PHilMech technology, a business such as McNester Food Products can produce more mango pasalubongs for everyone to enjoy.
TURNING A THOUSAND TO MILLIONS
A 20-minute drive from the port of Jordan, Guimaras, will bring you to McNester Food Products, which is located in Brgy. San Isidro, Buenaventura, Guimaras. Specializing in creating food products that utilize mangoes, calamansi, and pineapples, and other commodities, McNester makes sure that their products are of high quality for people to enjoy.
Behind the success of McNester is Rebecca Tubongbanua, a woman agripreneur who started McNester back in August 2003 with a small capital of Php 7000 that she took out of her savings. A chemist graduate, Rebecca is able to create variants of her products by applying what she has learned, as well as applying what she’s read from various information materials.
McNester’s humble beginnings started in the kitchen of Rebecca’s sister-in-law until she was able to purchase McNester’s current building, which was previously owned by a Korean Bible School who specifically wanted Rebecca to purchase the building as they believed that her project would be of great benefit to the community. Now, McMaster is transformed into a multi-million food firm that, not only produces quality food products but also focuses on helping out the community.
UTILIZING THE MCSTD
As part of a grant with PHilMech, Rebecca received a Multi-Commodity Solar Tunnel Dryer (MCSTD). The technology is designed to efficiently dry various commodities, with a design that also protects the drying commodities from being contaminated. Not only is it easy to assemble and dismantle, but it also uses locally sourced materials, making it cheaper to produce, while also using the natural power of the sun to dry the commodities.
Rebecca received the MCSTD around June 2013, which, unfortunately, was the offseason for mango. It was only in 2014, during the peak season of mango, that she was able to use the technology. To combat the offseason of mangoes, Rebecca would use the technology for drying calamansi peel and seeds, which they also process and turn to pasalubongs.
One of the problems she encountered with the MCSTD was with the material that was used to cover the products being dried inside. The use of plastic sheets became problematic as it had the tendency to melt and leave holes after being under the sun for so long – which, according to Helen Martinez of PHilMech, became a problem for MCSTD users across the country. The plastic also collected moisture when there’s rain, which ruined drying mangoes by turning them black. To combat this, she substituted the plastic sheets with polycarbonate sheets (which she adapted while on a trip to Thailand through the Department of Trade and Industry), and that instantly solved the problem. This was also adapted by PHilMech.
Even with the MCSTD in her possession, Rebecca said that she still uses her rotary-type dryer when drying her mangoes. In an ideal setting, she uses the two technologies in tandem, allowing her to dry more mangoes. However, the MCSTD does have its limitations compared to her dryer.
Rebecca explained that MCSTD is very weather-dependent. When the temperatures are high, she has to check the products being dried more often. For mangoes, if they are too dry, they become too hard. Ideally, Rebecca wants her dried mangoes to have a gummy-like texture. Unlike her rotary-type dryer, she can control the temperature to achieve the ideal dryness of the mangoes. However, both technologies would take 8-15 hours (with ideal conditions for the MCSTD) to dry mangoes.
Regardless of the factors that make the MCSTD different from her rotary-type dryer, Rebecca has praised the MCSTD as it has allowed her to expand her business to what it is now. So long as the weather is good, the commodities being dried will come out good. Apart from that, the acquisition of the MCSTD allowed her to serve as a resource speaker in their region to discuss making squash and onion powder (commodities that she ventures off to, especially with the latter as she uses this to create her ketchup).
LENDING A HELPING HAND
Rebecca’s mission is to help out the mango farmers of Guimaras. Despite having a small mango plantation of their own, Rebecca still buys the majority of her mangoes from mango farmers in their community. The mangoes that she buys are mangoes that are rejected for export, which are either undersized, oversized, scratched, or deformed.
Her objective is simple: she doesn’t want to compete with the price of the goods. She makes sure that local mango farmers will be compensated fairly while at the same time, she gives herself the opportunity to add value to the product – a win-win situation for both parties.
The beauty of Rebecca’s work is that even she has no idea how big a help she’s really giving out to their community. The simple act of buying the rejected mangoes of Guimaras mango farmers gave them the much needed additional income to support their own families. Rebecca also makes sure to share her success with others, especially aspiring women entrepreneurs who are determined to excel in their respective professions.
“Dun ka na-iinspire to do what you do. Marami ka na palang buhay na natutulungan. Hindi ka pagod mag-isip at gawin because your mind is opened to these things (realizing the help you do for others. Lumawak pa and scope ng network mo” (That is where you are inspired to do what you do. You’re already helping out a lot of lives. You are not tired from thinking or doing because your mind is open to these things [realizing the help you do for others]. Even your network is widened), Rebecca said.
With the addition of the MCSTD, not only has she expanded her business, but this gave her the opportunity to give back to the community by sharing her openly sharing her ideas with others, turning her hard work into a sweet success.