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From banana bread to pineapple pizzas: Women in the Philippines bake a better future

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The Balaigay Women Producer Cooperative is made up of local women from the fishing village of Lumbayanague as well as women who were displaced from Marawi, a nearby city, following an attack by Islamist militants in 2017.

Ahead of Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Day, which is marked annually on 27 June, Daniel Dickinson spoke to Beliante Matanog Cayongat, a long-term resident of Lumbayanague and Nobaida Arig, who arrived following the terrorist attack about the recipe for their success.

Nobaida Arig: “I work one shift a week in the bakery riving at 4:30 in the morning and baking for two hours. We have six main products, banana muffins, Spanish rolls and coconut breads, as well as chocolate cake, banana loaf and a standard white loaf.

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

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

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

Beliante Matanog Cayongat: The cooperative runs the only bakery in the neighborhood and normally all our bread and pastries sell out early in the afternoon.

We make 2 kg of each product. In Ramadan our large loaves were very popular and we sold out even though we made 60 a day. The large loaves cost 40 pesos ($0.70) each and because this is a very close community if people are unable to pay, we allow them to settle their 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 work, you bake delicious foods.

I did not know how to bake before we opened this bakery. We were trained and given materials including an oven to put our training into practice. I am getting better as a baker with the hands-on experience.

Marawi City in Mindanao was attacked by Islamist militants in 2017.

Marawi City in Mindanao was attacked by Islamist militants in 2017.

I can learn 200 pesos ($3.40) on 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 a slow day, the bakery can make 1500 pesos ($25.50) but when we are very busy with orders, we can earn 2500 pesos ($42.50) a day. After paying salaries, the remainder is put back into the cooperative.

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

Beliante Matanog Cayongat: During the Marawi siege in 2017, which lasted five months, we welcomed about 100 people into our community who had fled their homes in the city. Many had family connections, including Nobaida, whose husband fishes out of 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, which we are quite used to. But after two days when the school was burned down, we realized it was something more serious and we decided to flee. We had absolutely nothing with us.

There were many men dressed in black, carrying guns and flying the Islamic State [ISIL Islamist terrorist group] flag in the city, but they let us pass and we left for the village. It was a big surprise and unthinkable that Marawi would be attacked in this way. 

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

We would like to offer tailoring and office services, so we really need computers and a good Internet connection. Women here, want peace and prosperity and a better future for their children, and we are making a big effort to realize these hopes.

The Balaigay Women Producer Cooperative is supported by UNDP’s Enhancing Food Security and Livelihood in Bangsamoro (FSL) project. The project, which aims to support and sustain peacebuilding and recovery, was funded by the Government of Japan, a longstanding partner for peace in the Bangsamoro region. The project was implemented with several institutional partners, including the Maranao People Development Center, Inc., to empower communities through enterprise development. This initiative aims to foster sustainable livelihoods and create a solid foundation for lasting peace in the Bangsamoro.



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