Starweek Magazine

Hatching surprises

- Cheeko B. Ruiz -

MANILA, Philippines - Some things are just plain useless – until they become useful.

Imelda Villaflores of Basista, Pangasinan certainly found wisdom in this paradox. In fact, in the process of discovering the value of certain “useless” things, she also found a deeper self worth.

Imelda, along with around 200 of her townmates, works at Crafter’s Joy Cornhusk Handicrafts.

“The workers are young, mostly in our twenties. Our boss usually buys the pattern, then we make the prototype out of cornhusk,” Imelda says in Filipino. “Our work has greatly shaped our lives. It does not only provide us with additional income, it also develops our creativity and stimulates our thinking.”

Joi Ong Perez, proprietress of the company, shares that among her workers are farmers, housewives, even children, from Basista and nearby towns.

“Our workers number around 200 already. Some of them make the products in their houses. They just come to the house every Saturday to give me the finished products,” Joi says.

“Cornhusk (balat ng mais) is a total waste for most people but for our workers it means a lot,” Joi says, adding that a family can earn P1,000 to P1,500 a week from making cornhusk products.

The brilliant idea of coming up with products out of cornhusk came after Joi saw an episode about cornhusk products in a livelihood television program in 2006.

Joi got in touch with the show’s producer, who later sent trainors to her house. She then chose the best people from her town, Imelda among them, to train in making cornhusk products.

The latest in the company’s product line are salted eggs wrapped in cornhusk. Instead of dyeing, the eggs are covered with cornhusk to prevent bacterial contamination.

Joi relates that the idea of expanding the shelf life of salted eggs came from Jovy Datuin of the Department of Agriculture’s Region I office.

“Dr. Datuin researched on salted eggs and asked me if I can do something with the eggs. The recipe is totally hers and the packaging is mine. When Dr. Datuin came to my house, she told me she wanted the salted eggs in a flower. So my trainors and I wrapped them in cornhusk then put a flower on top to make it look better,” Joi says, adding that the formula developed by Datuin makes the salted eggs last longer.

“The first step is to wash the eggs with soap then thoroughly rinse with water. Unlike other egg producers who make balut and penoy, we only make salted eggs that’s why our eggs are more or less only three days old,” Joi says.

“Then you make a solution – one kilo of salt to one kilo of clay. But before you mix it, you have to cook the clay first for one hour to kill the bacteria.

“Then you mix the clay and salt with a little water. Then you wrap the eggs with clay, put it in a container, maybe a box but never plastic, cover it then let it stay there for 21 days for it to have oil,” she says further.

“After the 21st day, you wash the eggs thoroughly with soap and water then cook them for four hours and you’re done,” Joi shares.

“It takes roughly a month to come up with the whole thing, but the salted eggs can last up to eight weeks,” she says.

Joi explains that other salted eggs, which last for only about a week, take only about 18 days to make, normally using water solution. But the eggs are porous, she said, so it’s quite dangerous if the water solution is used in making salted eggs.

“Dr. Datuin studied about salted eggs for six years, and even went to Thailand where they have this duck university. So I believe she has more than enough knowledge on salted eggs,” jokes Joi.

“We call these organic because the eggs are not from poultry farms, they’re from free range ducks. The ducks just roam around rice and corn fields and eat what they want. We don’t feed them pellets for them to lay eggs. The ducks consume rice, corn and also snails to harden their shells,” she says.

“Our clients say the eggs taste good, but I know that there is still room for improvement. As of now I’m still in the experimental stage,” she says, acknowledging that organic is a little more expensive.

Joi shares that Datuin told her about the shortage in salted eggs and that the Philippines even imports the product from other countries.

“That’s the logic. What Dr. Datuin wants is for the eggs to last longer for us to be able to get the export market,” Joi says.

She adds, “Thinking of the bigger picture, how many Pinoys do we have abroad? Millions, and salted eggs is a staple in their diet.”

“I have, in fact, been asked if I could export four containers of eggs a month to the US, but I politely declined because as of now we are not capable of meeting that demand,” Joi says humbly. “But you see, that’s how much salted eggs the Americans consume, even Chinese and Koreans.”

“The truth is, I am already happy to be helping my fellow residents of Basista, Pangasinan, and at the same time, gaining a little income,” Joi says. “We are not after huge profits here. I would like to be rich but that’s not the only thing that matters.”

“Also, our town used to be very productive when it comes to handicrafts, but everything disappeared because of the deluge of China products that are very cheap. But people in Basista are very industrious and I thought of tapping their potential,” Joi says.

“Our clients include the Echostore at Serendra in Taguig City, the Ocean Adventure in Subic and several hotels,” she says.
Jeannie Javelosa of Echostore Manila says they are helping sell the salted eggs because they believe in the product.

“Not only is it organic, it is wrapped in cornhusk which prevents bacterial contamination,” she says.

Crafter’s Joy Cornhusk Handicrafts is often invited to showcase its products in trade fairs, the most recent of which was the One Town, One Product exhibit held at the SM Megamall in Mandaluyong last month.

Most visitors mistook the salted eggs as décor items or figurines and were delighted to know that these were actually eggs wrapped in cornhusk.

“Isn’t it amazing how sometimes, even the most useless of things become such wonderful products?” ends Joi.      








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