ALBUERA, LEYTE – Residents hereabouts no longer have to go to Calbayog City in Samar, some 5 hours away, to get hold of smoked fish, as it is now being produced at the newly-inaugurated Fish and Tinapa Processing Business Center in this coastal town.
The center was formally inaugurated on Tuesday, April 14 and is operated by the Rotary Community Corps – Association of Empowered Women in Albuera or RCC-AEWA.
The Fish and Tinapa Processing Business Center here, situated at Brgy. Calingatnan, is a Rotary-assisted project. It is the offshoot of the aspirations of Rotary Club of Ormoc (RCO) members, led by their president Troy Bumagat, to organize a sustainable, livelihood program in Yolanda-affected areas.
With the help of a grant from Rotary District 3860, RC Ormoc was able to build the center, properly train the woman manning it on the art of smoking fish, packaging and selling their products. The center is fully equipped with the needed implements like pots and stoves, oven for smoking, freezers and vacuum sealers.
RC Ormoc was also lucky to find a willing partner in Mayor Ramon “Junie” dela Cerna, whose family readily allowed their property to be the site of the center. The mayor’s sister, Lyra, who is the municipal administrator, is also a member of the RCO.
Present during the inauguration were the mayor and his family; guests of honor Rotary International Director Per and Anette Hoyen from Denmark; Rotary International Director Guiller Tumangan and his spouse Letty; RC Ormoc president Troy Bumagat and his wife Anna, who is also a Rotarian; Past District Governor Peter “Perok” Rodriguez; and Past District Governor Danny Fausto, who gave the local Rotary club the idea of forming the women into an RCC.
DTI provincial director Desiderio Belas also visited the center, after attending a European Union and Ormoc Chamber business matching program in nearby Ormoc.
Angie Patricio, treasurer of the women’s association running the center, said that she was very grateful with the livelihood opportunity given to them by Rotary.
Another member, Erlinda Luberio, said that the livelihood opportunity gives her the chance to help increase their family income, because it was only her husband who was earning for them.
Mayor dela Cerna, on the other hand, said that he was very happy that the center is now a reality. This is one of the realizations of his dream to help create job opportunities for constituents, even if it meant sacrificing their own properties.
The mayor’s family had also earlier donated a property, which is now the site of a relocated school that was in a landslide prone area. The school was built through a donation of the Singaporean Red Cross.
Meanwhile, municipal administrator and Rotarian Lyra dela Cerna said that putting up the center was a long process. First, she said, they had to organize the women. Then, they sent them to Calbayog City, famed for its smoked fish industry, to learn the craft. On their return, the women “experimented and practiced” their craft in their homes, until they perfected it, in the meantime the center was being constructed.
The smoked fish they produced during the experimental stage, Lyra said, they gave out and/or sold to friends for “tasting” and critiquing. Aside from smoked fish, they also decided to venture into making “labtingaw” or fresh fish that is slightly dried and made tasteful with a mixture of soy sauce, vinegar and spices. It has lesser shelf life than ordinary dried fish which is very salty, but is very popular hereabouts as “Filipino breakfast” or appetizer.
Smoked fish is a favorite breakfast item of Filipinos. Some like to pan-fry it and pair with luscious tomatoes. Others like to use it to flavor clear or vegetable soup in coconut milk; while pasta enthusiasts say its smoky flavor gives Marinara or pasta in cream an interesting taste.
RC Ormoc will be providing more trainings to the RCC-AEWA members on financial management, accounting, and marketing slated this May.
Rotarians from Quezon City will import the product and sell them in their Rotary Care Center building to reach out to more viable and potential market in the future. RID Hoyen also expressed interest in importing the product into his country in Denmark. These and more are the bright prospects of the fish tinapa from Albuera. By Paul Libres