Turning the Pinoy almusal into halal
DAVAO CITY, Philippines – When we think of Filipino breakfast, what’s usually in the minds of many is a platter of steamed rice, sunny-side up egg, and tocino. Yet we forget that our seemingly harmless collective gastric imagination could divide a nation of 103 million. Some 5.6% of it will not eat the tocino.
But somewhere in a Maguindanao town, 50-year-old Ronnie Mampen is turning the common Filipino almusal halal. (READ: Fasting, halal, and food for thought)
Mampen, the president of Dinaig Proper Fisherfolk Producer’s Cooperation, began producing non-pork tocino out of their coop’s raw products: the tilapia and bangus.
“Actually, our products are new,” Mampen said with a smile.
Their coop has been operating for a quite a time but was only registered in 2011, and it was only this year that they began processing tilapia and bangus into tocino, and other products.
Thanks to a Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources project in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, their 28-member coop was given technical equipment, among them include a freezer, and a vacuum and drying machine. They were also trained how to debone and marinate the fresh water fishes.
The coop is in a Datu Odin Sinsuat village called Dinaig, which comes from a Maguindanaon word dimaig or submissive. But depending on how the word is used, dimaig can also mean assertive or self-assured, a guiding principle of the group, and Mampen’s.
When the coop’s president, his mother-in-law, passed away in 2011, Mampen envisioned to turn it into a profitable enterprise that could benefit its workers.
The business is far profitable, he said, compared to his workers used to do back in the days.
“Our members used to sell nipa roofs which only make an average profit of P150 per day, and you had to harvest the nipa leaves in the river,” he said.
With the processed fish products, he said a worker could debone 20 fishes in 6 hours, earning P200 along the way.
The coop members also get the products P10 cheaper than the actual price. So when they sell it, they actually gain another profit, he said.
It was a best decision he has made. It started with a P16,000 capital used to cultivate mud crabs. Within 4-5 months, when the crabs were ready to be sold in the market, he earned P140,000 and began the tocino and smoked bangus business in 2017.
And the fruit of their labor has not only benefitted the workers.
“I have a police, and a nurse who has been working in Jeddah for two years now,” he said.
Mampen’s coop was among the exhibitors of the 3-day Davao Trade Expo which began on September 21. While their humble booth was visually overpowered by other exhibitors who threw raffle prizes and contests, theirs stood out as being among the few exhibitors who traveled outside the city, even bringing with them live mud crabs padded with kangkong (water spinach) that served as an insulator so they don't die of heat while in travel.
Their town Datu Odin Sinuat in Maguindanao is some 5 hours away from Davao City by land travel.
Mampen hopes that he could tap a bigger market so it would mean more opportunities for his people back home. And his dream is not far from possible.
In fact, he could be taking advantage of a growing market for halal products. In the Philippines, the ease of finding halal food, and even a place to perform Islamic prayers still remains a challenge.
But for now, there’s one thing he promised to do once he’ll get enough profit from making non-pork tocinos.
“Perhaps I’ll enjoy the time of my life and travel around the Philippines,” he said. – Rappler.com