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Buy Bicol? Here are three reasons why

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People nowadays have become so accustomed to popular and established products at groceries, supermarkets and malls that local products are placed at the backburner. Truth to tell, there are products in the provinces that are just as interesting and effective as the available, commercial ones and these only need a good break in the form of consumer consciousness.

And that’s why a local food and trade fair just like the Orgullo kan Bikol (OKB) Regional Trade and Travel Fair held recently at the Shangri-La Plaza Mall in Mandaluyong City was much anticipated with an array of handcrafted abaca products, stylish accessories, native home fixtures, and delicious, signature food items and beverages available.

Ryan Avila of Karaw Craftventures.

Karaw Craft Ventures, Alden Therese Wines and Orange Country Enterprise are three SMEs whose products have caught the eye of visitors in the said trade fair that also highlighted Bicol’s tourist spots, new ecotourism activities, diverse natural attractions, and festivals.
In the case of Karaw Craft Ventures, designer Ryan Avila says the designs were drawn from a book about Philippine mythical and folkloric creatures.

“I came up with these designs that are cute and more child-friendly so that children can appreciate the Filipino culture better instead of patronizing other mythical creatures abroad,” Avila said about the toys which are made from crystal plush textile.

Avila’s favorite among the toys is the Bakunawa, which is inspired by the Bicolano epic Ibalon, that shows a dragon consuming the moon.

“I like this design because it’s like, everyone loves a dragon nowadays. And I like this because it’s a massive creature,” Avila explained.

He added that new designs may include local creatures like the tikbalang, dwende and tiyanak.

ALDEN Therese’ Saba Wine.

He admitted though that feedback is important on the designs. “It takes one to two months to do a design. And since 2017, that’s when I tried to redesign, because based from attending trade fairs, the mothers suggested that some of those previous versions were kind of creepy that they don’t want their kids to be scared of them. That’s why I tried to make it creatively fun and cuddly.”

Avila said that there are redesigning arm pillows with the same inspiration.

“We’re focusing on office workers and desk-people, because during short break times they’d rather sleep at their desks so we might as well make it comfortable. That’s why we’re making those arm pillows,” Avila said, admitting they don’t have physical store nor an online presence through which to sell products yet.

Alden Maria Bonot, owner of Alden Therese Wine in Calabanga, Camarines Sur, also hoped to expand his reach as well and to sell his wines domestically and through online portals like Beebeelee, Shopee and Lazada.

His wines are unlike the commercial ones found at the stores. Made in Calabanga, these wines are made from materials like baligang, banana, lemongrass, santol and cacao. Bonot says their best seller is wine made from baligang fruit, a deviation from the usual grapes, and adds that based on research, baligang has the highest antioxidant among berries.

“Originally, this is the research of my mother. My mother (Maria Theresa B. Bonot) is a food tech PhD. That’s her forte. She wanted to make wine so that’s how she started Alden Therese,” said Bonot.

The price range for the wines is from P320 to P400.

Orange Country Enterprise produces and sells honey and bee byproducts. But it doesn’t stop there as it conducts trainings for beekeeping, honey tasting classes and product processing or product manufacturing ofr bee-related products.

Larry Leeong, owner of Orange Country Enterprise, said they have four types of honey-producing bees: the giant wild native bees, dwarf Asian bees, stingless honey bees and European honey bees.

“Each bee produces a different variety of the product that we sell. With European honey bees, we sell artisan honey. Chunk honey is where the honey’s still in the comb but it takes a little bit of while for us to make that, so this year was not that well because of the weather,” Leeong explained.

The products are sold in boutiques stores, and resellers online. The bee harvest sites are in Albay, Libmanan and the Panicuason area which is under development.

“We teach our partner farmers sustainable as well as clean wild honey harvest. We provide equipment for them. So, from harvest to bottling, we can ensure that there is no human contact with the honey. And we give out colonies to our partners and we make sure that they are spaced two to three kilometers apart from each other to simulate a natural environment for the bee where they have ample supply of floral sources, not like other bee farms where it’s one small area condensed with 100 different colonies, 200 different colonies that bees tend to run out of sources of food there so they end up having to be sugar-solutioned. So that’s what sets us apart from other bee farms.”