For Rommel Juan, CEO of Binalot Fiesta Foods, love is not always about flowers. He proved that love can also be shown with leaves, banana leaves.
When Binalot was just starting they were buying banana leaves from local markets. They would have to search every corner of the market to find the banana leaves that would meet their standards. There are times when they import leaves from the Visayas which costs more. When typhoon Milenyo came in 2006, there was a scarcity of banana leaves and because of that the price went up.
They decided to look for a stable source of banana leaves. The searched brought them to Nagcarlan, Laguna where they met a bystander who lead them to their supply of leaves. Destiny, Divine Providence, or was it Leaf of Faith? What they discovered was not just the leaves of the banana tree but also the heart that comes with it. Rommel Juan thought of developing a sustainable program that benefits both the company and the community in long-term. Thus, the DAHON Program or the Dangal At Hanapbuhay para sa Nayon was established.
The DAHON Program is Binalot’s CSR program to help the impoverished banana farmers of Southern Tagalog. Binalot is striving to use the program to help subsistence farmers get more value from the lowly banana leaf. Residents of Nagcarlan will no longer have to leave the community to search for a source of income. The women of Nagcarlan used to be simple housewives depending on their partners to earn a living. Today they now earn as leaf cutters augmenting their husbands meager earning. Even old folks participate actively in the community enterprise. DAHON program also sponsors kids for their early education. They have started a Day Care Center and helps children with their school needs, books, pencils, and other necessities.
I, along with other bloggers, witnessed how the banana leaf changed their lives. Everyone in the community have smile on their faces. We were given a warm welcome and delicious treats. The children recited a poem and preformed a dance number to the tune of – you guessed it right, Nobody by the Wodergirls. The residents showed us how they harvest the banana leaves and we also were given our chance to harvest.
Binalot now wants to expand DAHON by adopting more community. Let us help and prove that “hindi lang saging any may puso, pati tayo.”
For more information about Binalot’s DAHON Program, contact Robie Mateo of Binalot Foundation Secretariat 481-6155, 0922-8573284.