The DAHON Program
Binalot Fiesta Foods, Inc. commits itself to give back to communities that support the company and to provide assistance to those in need. DAHON, the company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) arm runs projects under Leaf of Faith, Eggciting Harvest and Bayani programs. They address issues on the environment, livelihood, education, poverty alleviation and calamity relief, all aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
DAHON has received several citations including the once-in-a-lifetime Centennial Prize in the worldwide 2007 UPS Out-of-the-Box Small Business Contest and the Intel-AIM Corporate Social Responsibility Award (IACRA) at the Asian Forum on Corporate Social Responsibility in 2010.
Leaf of Faith
Under DAHON, Leaf of Faith is a program that sources banana leaves from marginalized farming communities. These banana leaves are used to pack meals that are sold in Binalot stores.
Banana is one of the most important fruit crops of the Philippines, with the country producing 9.36 million metric tons of bananas on 448,000 hectares of land. However, except for the export Cavendish variety, banana is grown largely by small farming communities in backyards and small farm lots such as in Nagcarlan, Laguna. They are then traded in markets by local entrepreneurs, and consumed domestically only.
Running for 13 years now, the Leaf of Faith has provided small-time banana farmers with an added opportunity to profit from the banana trees growing in their backyards while ensuring that Binalot has a steady and reliable source for all its stores across Metro Manila. Binalot, after all, is famous for its classic Filipino meals wrapped in a banana leaf -- stamping the traditional Filipino brand in a modern fast-food setting.
The Barangay Buhanginan community now regularly prepares 300 bundles (around 7,500 pieces) of cut banana leaves every week. Binalot picks these up in 100 bundles thrice a week. Each banana leaf is cut according to Binalot specifications, which is then used to individually package its meals. A team of workers consists of 14 harvesters plus eight for cutting the leaves and two designated to tie the bundles. Additional assistance is given by Oriel’s family and the rest of the barangay when needed.
Team Head Rodney Oriel acknowledges DAHON for changing the lives of many people in the community. “Income was very difficult before as the supply of bananas from the wild trees was not steady year-round and work on the farm was not a regular arrangement. Back then, we were lucky if we were able to eat twice a day. Today, we have more than enough to eat full meals and even meriendas. I have been able to send my kids to school, two of them are in college now while the youngest is still in high school. We are fortunate that Binalot came knocking on our doors,” he says.
The Eggciting Harvest program is another DAHON livelihood project that introduced salted egg production to the community in Barangay Buhanginan, Nagcarlan, Laguna. In partnership with EMBRACE, another CSR program of PMFTC, Inc., Eggciting Harvest aims to improve further the economic condition of the farmers and their spouses.
“We have thought of harvesting other vegetables and crops but we always hit a roadblock when it comes to finding a market for these products,” shares Irene Lucas, Binalot’s COO. “Assessing our needs, we figured ‘Why not salted eggs?’ Looking at the volume of our consumption as each Binalot meal comes with one salted egg, we felt we found the perfect match to complement our banana leaves.”
In line with EMBRACE’s efforts to support the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), DAHON acquired 30 salted egg starter kits and consulted the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) on the production process. Training for skills development was also requested. The starter kits, which were awarded to the matriarchs in Barangay Buhanginan, would enable the community to supply Binalot with 1,000 trays of fresh and high-quality salted eggs for its stores every month. This translates into additional income from this livelihood program while in the comforts of their community.
Oriel says that now that salted egg production has been added, more jobs were generated for the community. “This was a great opportunity because it not only broadened our knowledge and helped more people but also raised our income from the banana leaf production.”
Ever since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in the Philippines, many Filipinos have wanted to support our modern- day heroes-- medical professionals, transport groups, security guards and all the other essential workers who are at the frontline of this battle. But, unfortunately, they do not know how.
The BAYANI program can become the avenue for people who want to help in their own way, big or small. BAYANI which means “hero” stands for Biyaya at Yaman para sa Inang-Bayan (loosely translated to “Blessings and Prosperity for the Motherland”). Its relief efforts include soliciting pledges from companies and individuals to provide hot meals to both medical and non-medical frontliners in different hospitals in the country. Hot meals are prepared and delivered to the donor’s chosen institution. Or, the choice of donees may come from the program’s list of hospitals, quarantine facilities, government agencies or depressed areas where the packed meals are needed.
The BAYANI program also covers relief operations during disasters such as typhoons. With cash donations, food packs are prepared and delivered to evacuation centers. Typhoons Ondoy, Maring, Glenda have all gone while more are expected to come due to the country’s geographical location. But, the relief meals during these calamities hopefully contribute somehow to the recovery and resilience of the affected Filipino communities.