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Baking Anew: A Typhoon Rai Survivor’s Story

After months of having her business stalled due to Typhoon Rai (Odette), Estelita, 43, has increased her income from baking and cooking bread locally known as “Pan de Bisaya” in San Isidro municipality in Siargao Island, Surigao del Norte.

This type of bread is popular among the people on the island, including tourists, because of its simplicity and affordability. She bakes a batch early in the morning, usually paired by their customers with hot piping coffee. She then repeats the process in the afternoon when several people crave freshly baked bread after their siesta or during their idle time.

It takes hard work to knead the dough, heat the oven and bake the bread while ensuring it doesn’t get burned. She’s constantly exposed to the oven’s heat, which sometimes blurs her vision. But this was the only business she knows of and have mastered doing to support her family of nine.

She remembered how she and her husband were at a loss after the devastation of the typhoon left them with almost nothing. All her baking equipment and ingredients were damaged. They have seven children to feed, and with no income source, they feared they would go hungry. It was fortunate that the local government and non-government organizations provided them with various assistance to have food on the table while they look for ways how to earn a living.

Her husband resumed peddling a tricycle-for-hire. Meanwhile, Estelita refurbished their damaged traditional oven made of galvanized iron plain sheets. They restarted with a small capital, and she soon baked and sold bread at their yard. Her husband would sometimes deliver ordered bread to customers. Their income was just enough to afford their basic needs for food, water, and electricity. With the schools opening, the family needed a bigger income to fully address their children’s schooling needs.

CARE Philippines, through the Project WAVES (WoMen Adding Value to the Economy in Siargao) identified Elenita as a participant under the Women Enterprise Facility program, which gives livelihood opportunities to existing small businesses managed by women. She first attended the project’s “Entrepreneurship and Financial Literacy Training” facilitated by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI)-Surigao del Norte.

Photo: A trainer from the Department of Trade and Industry-Surigao del Norte shows project participants how they could manage their finances wisely.

“I realized that I need to allocate a portion of my daily income to savings so that there’s money we could use in case of emergencies. I also aim to improve my business and how I record my expenses and income with what I have learned from the training”, Elenita said.

After the training, she received a 10,000-peso cash grant through the project on October 27, 2022. She used this amount as an added capital and bought baking ingredients, materials, and equipment.

Elenita bakes traditionally using a refurbished oven made from G.I. sheets at the side of the road accessible to commuters and tourists.

“My goal is to earn and save enough to have my own small bakery”, she shared.

This empowering support to women entrepreneurs like Estelita is one of the main goals of the WAVES project, which aims to address the critical needs of women and men in affected communities heavily dependent on the tourism industry. This project is a partnership between CARE and the Tijori Foundation which has been supporting communities and people in need in the country for several years now.

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