Mary Jean Sarilla
A sweet life
Mary Jean Sarilla, the wife of the Barangay Councilor of Balaba, Polangui, Albay was initially hesitant in joining CARD. She was afraid that she might not be able to pay should she avail of a loan. Eventually in July 2005, upon the constant prodding of her husband, she applied for membership, a decision which she does not regret. In October 2009, four years after her CARD membership, she joined BDS and became part of its marketing assistance program.
Ate Mary Jean, as she is popularly known, has been producing matamis na bao, locally known as sangkaka or kalamay from sugar cane juice. She used to avail of the services of a local sugar mill to extract the sugarcane juice. Her initial capitalization was P1,000. At the same time that she joined the marketing assistance program, The Sugar Regulatory Administration was contracted by BDS to conduct a training on muscovado sugar production. This prompted her to produce muscovado sugar initially as an alternative product. However, because muscovado is priced higher than sangkaka, she decided to produce more muscovado. Since then, muscovado has become her main product. Ate Mary Jean was not alone in tapping the opportunity to earn more through muscovado production. The other women in her barangay easily picked up the production technology and they too, started producing muscovado sugar.
Not wanting be dependent on the local sugar mill for extracting her sugarcane juice, Ate Mary Jean applied for a loan of P80,000 to put up her own sugar mill. The facility which was named Sarilla’s Muscovado Milling Facility was set-up with the support of CARD-BDS in partnership with the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) and CODESPA Foundation. The former production area with thatch roof, wooden walls and dirt floor is now with GI roofing, concrete walls and flooring.
When the demand for muscovado sugar picked up, other women in the barangay decided to produce the product as well. Thus, the demand for the use of the Sarilla’s sugar mill increased. Ate Mary Jean gets three kilos of muscovado sugar as payment for every batch or hango of muscovado sugar produced in her sugar mill. Seeing the increase in production volume of muscovado sugar by Mary Jean and other CARD members in the area, BDS started buying the produce and trading them in Manila and other areas in Luzon. As a consequence, Ate Mary Jean was designated as consolidator of muscovado in the barangay. Now, Ate Mary Jean is engaged in two businesses – muscovado production and consolidation.
With the addition of muscovado sugar, Ate Mary Jean has more products to sell from which she is getting more income. Marketing is not a problem
because BDS buys all of her products along with those of the other women. She is elated that she got the trust of CARD-BDS which gives her cash advance to purchase muscovado from the other producers in her barangay. Her being a consolidator has brought new challenges since she has to make sure that she is meeting the demand of BDS for muscovado. She became busy not only in the production of her own muscovado sugar but also in sourcing the product from other producers. Those who use her milling facility were just too happy to sell their produce to her.
With these two businesses, Ate Mary Jean feels that her family’s quality of life has improved. In Ate Mary Jean’s own words, they were able to rise from poverty. She estimated her income to have increased from P18,000 to P72,000 per year. Although they have a big household with seven children, all of their school-age children are studying. In addition, she now has more opportunities to learn and interact with people. Although she is busy, she has peace of mind because she knows that she has a ready source of income. Delighted that her two businesses are doing well, she is now planning to buy a bigger mill so she can expand her operations.
~ Mary Jean Sarilla