Monday, November 9, 2015

The Jatulans: Hardworking Miswa and Canton Makers

Hard Times. Arthur and Nida Jatulan, newly married, started out selling clothing in Rizal province and did extremely well. Then, hard times came when the youngest of their four daughters was diagnosed with cancer. “For two years we spent more time in hospitals than at home,” Nida says.  “We sold everything we owned to pay for hospital bills and procedures including two operations and chemotherapy.” The child, however, passed away at age four. 

Emotionally exhausted and with all their resources drained, the couple decided to return to Arthur’s childhood home in Samar.  For five years, they worked in his parents’ copra business but earned only enough for their daily basic needs.  “It was obvious that if we stayed in Samar our daughters would never go to college,” Nida explains, so late in 1999 they returned to Rizal.

Business Beginnings.  To be able to build up capital, the couple borrowed the year-end bonuses of two nieces. They used this to buy sotanghon (Chinese vermicelli) which they retailed to stores.  By February 2000 they paid back the loans and with their earnings of P3,000, decided to start making miswa for a living. Miswa is a thin, brittle noodle used in humble dishes such as ginisang patola and batchoy TagalogFor advice, they went to a relative experienced in the business.  The relative not only gave them information generously, but also let them hire one of his workers.

The Jatulans started out buying six sacks of flour every other day.  The worker made this into miswa every two days, and Nida and Arthur delivered the finished product to public markets in Rizal and Metro Manila seven days a week.  Despite their hard work, the couple and their children still lived a hand-to-mouth existence. 

The miswa-making process involves stretching dough by
 hand (above) and drying it in a charcoal-fired dryer (below). 
A Hand Up. Things began to change, though, when Nida joined the CCT Credit Cooperative in 2004.  With a series of loans,  starting with the standard initial amount of P4,000 they were able to hire three more workers – two miswa makers and a runner.  Instead of their going to the market for ingredients and supplies every two days, a company began delivering a truckload of flour, salt, cassava flour and packaging supplies every 15 days. By 2007, their house, previously made almost entirely of old roofing sheets and plywood, had cement walls and a nice, tiled kitchen.  They also bought a refrigerator, a dining set, and cell phones, and had a landline phone installed.  The eldest daughter married before finishing college, but the two younger ones earned degrees in business administration and marketing. 

Expansion.  After finishing college, Karine began to help run the business, particularly with quality control, and the family set their minds on expansion.  In 2012, they bought the rights to a 1500-square meter piece of land in San Jose, Antipolo and built a production area about five times the size of their old one. They also built a charcoal dryer capable of drying 330 large bilaos (flat baskets) of miswa at one time.

By this time, the business was providing jobs for 15 persons, mostly neighbors or acquaintances from Samar. About 30 percent of the product was being packaged under the label IJK Miswa and sold in public markets and talipapas (temporary neighborhood markets) in the cities of Pasig, Marikina, and Antipolo, and in the province of Rizal. About 20 percent was delivered to two clients in Taguig who repacked it into smaller packages which were then hawked by ambulant vendors. About 50 percent was packed under the brand name Crystal for a Chinese client who supplies the product to stores such as Robinsons, Rustan Supercenters, Shopwise, Cherry, Landmark and selected Puregold outlets.  A certain percent was also exported to the US by this Chinese client.

Almost from the start, Nida and Arthur had dreamed of making pancit canton. Canton, Nida points out, is eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, is served by all kinds of food establishments – from lowly carinderias, to canteens, fast food diners and full service, high-end restaurants – and is always on the table during special occasions.  Demand is high all year round and shoots up around Christmas.  Miswa, she adds, is eaten all year round but demand drops during the hot months and during the Christmas holidays. The dream to make pancit canton had to wait for several years though, because unlike miswa which is mixed and shaped entirely by hand, one needs expensive equipment to make pansit canton. 

A Dream Comes True.  In June 2015, Nida received a loan of P300,000 from CCT. They used a portion of this amount to build a pancit canton production area, and much of the rest was used to make initial payment on equipment such as a mixer, a roller, and a cutter. In August, the Jatulan family's dream came true when they finally began making pancit canton . 

“All this is no longer for me,” Nida says, indicating the  miswa and canton production areas with a sweep of her hand. “This is for my daughters and to ensure a good future for my grandchildren.”

Arthur and Nida Jatulan today, with daughters Irene (second from left) and Karine, sons-in-law
and grandchildren. Nida was a semifinalist in the 2015 Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards program.

No comments:

Post a Comment