By Rey Anthony Chiu, PIA-Bohol| 11:08 AM May 30, 2021
With the cold mornings and bitter nights at sea, residents of Bilangbilangan Island, mostly fishermen who scour the Danajon reef waters know how important it is to have some fresh bread when the pangs of hunger grumble in one’s stomach.
At dawn, when the wives, plastic pails in hand troop to the makeshift ports, a few pieces of fresh bread would be among the comforts that would greet the sleep-deprived fishers.
But Talibon, the best option for fresh bread is some 20 kilometers on to the mainland, past small islets and often rough seas.
The few traders who venture into bread consignments loaded in the few pumpboats ferrying to the islands have to contend with the space for the boxes, with passengers. In the equation, the bread often does not get the driest seat, so the bread arrives soggy salty if not pressed beyond recognition.
“Mahal na ang pan kon moabut dire, usahay namyahok, usahay basa na,” Wammy Angelitud shared, while picking with a metal tong some pan frances, and putting them in a wrapper, to hand in to a customer.
One among the 245 members of Bilangbilangan Daku Women’s Association (BIDAWA), Wammy and women in the island have been into different livelihood ventures, most of them running only for a few months and then the cycle of failures start and the members are back at being poor housewives or women wanting to have a little bit of financial independence.
Daghan na kaayo mi og projects nga gisugdan, daghang pundo ang nasayang, di man molahutay kay hatag man lang. Diha nay asinan, tambong mi og seminar pero igo ra gyud pagtambong, pag-operate pa sa project, wala mogaya.
This was the common comment among the women who are now organized by PROCESS Bohol for the livelihood component of the Renewable Energy and Livelihood for Youth (RELY). The present enterprise is way much better, according to them.
Project RELY, which is funded by the European Union has Vivant Foundation giving renewable energy options through P18 million solar power package to off grid schools in 6 Bohol islands of Talibon and Bien Unido. The project also comes with livelihood counterpart and this is served by PROCESS Bohol, explains Executive director Aurelio Salgados Jr.
After weeks of consultations and despite the pandemic keeping people from going out of their houses, PROCESS facilitated the BIDAWA members to their choice of livelihood.
Enter the BIDAWA Bakeshop, an enterprise that officially started in December of last year.
Working with a starting capital from half of the members capital build up (CBU), and after a series of trainings brought in by Technical Education and Skills Development Authority as well as the Department of Science and Technology, we started the meticulous operation of the bakery making sure of a decent return of investment.
“This is while providing fresh bread to the people of Bilangbilangan Daku and its adjoining barangay Bilangbilangan Diot,”shares Angelitud, who was garbed in a BIDAWA Bakeshop apron and matching tshirt.
Not really picking on the backbreaking task of mixing dough while organizing and mobilizing women in the pandemic, BIDAWA, now managed by women who have been whetted in time by failures, got overly zealous about their new venture. That forms part of their success.
“Just like baking bread, in organizing communities everything must be done right,” Salgados, a veteran community organizer and now director, shared.
“From our CBU and some profits, we were able to buy a motorcycle so we could deliver the bread to the other side of the island, and we paid for half of the lot where our bakery now stands,” Wammy excitedly reported.
Using still the equipment from the RELY project, BIDAWA now eyes on buying industrial capacity ovens, aside from the 8 tray oven that their 2 bakers use now.
“Sales is good, because we know the demand, and understand the needs here, so we do not overproduce and bear on the spoils,” she added.
For the few unsold day old bread they became today’s bahug-bahug, another island favorite, as she drove away the flies wanting to get to their bread.
BIDAWA has to transport their day’s bakes to nearby Hingotanan Island to join the turn-over ceremonies of the islands solar electrification systems, May 20.
Aside from their certified Boholano favorites: pan de sal, pan frances, pan tam-is, pan putok, binangkal and many more bread with fillings in their showcases, BIDAWA also bakes carrot cakes, custard cakes and chiffons for special occasions.
Now also planning to sell to neighboring islands through concession, BIDAWA is into buying a pumpboat for their offshore deliveries.
“Business is good, and we are now preparing to give out dividends in December, that is despite paying for the bakers, delivery boy, collector and marketing, and operations manager,” she proudly said.
For BIDAWA, getting the multimillion solar power connection in the island’s school is already a good assurance that their kids would have a far better quality education.
But, getting into a livelihood that pays for their service and sacrifices and augments their kids’ school needs, food and allows them a bit of financial power, especially when baking bread for their people, this to them is more than enough empowerment they expected from the funding agencies helping them. (rahchiu/PIA-7/Bohol)