BY LYN V. RAMO
Posted by Bulatlat
An enterprising family in La Trinidad, Benguet (250 kms north of Manila) engaged in home-made detergents claim the title of the only soap-maker in the Cordillera who has passed government standards set for the laundry soap and detergent-making industry.
Besides laundry detergents they also manufacture bleach, and dish-washing gel.
Considered a family venture, the business involves practically everyone in the family of Josephine Akiapat Isabelo. All her nieces and nephews and her partner Beth help with the enterprise production under the brand name The Farmers.
“I mix the chemicals to make detergent powder, bleaching liquid and dish-washing gel,” Jo, as Isabelo is fondly called, proudly says.
When the products are ready, even the smaller children have their hands full with packing sachets, bottles and canisters. The older boys deliver their stocks to groceries and supermarkets.
Beth and Jo do the purchasing of raw materials, as well as the marketing and recording. They also help in delivery.
“We have a data-base, to monitor the delivery,” Jo disclosed. She said, besides stores in La Trinidad, a number of supermarkets and major groceries in nearby Baguio City have placed regular orders for her soap products.
The towns of Buguias, Sayangan, Atok, Kibungan and Mankayan in Benguet are among those she went to for her first deliveries. “The orders keep coming,” Jo beams.
Akiapat is now expanding her deliveries to include major cooperatives. “One only has to try The Farmers products and patronage follows,” she said.
In truth, her soap production is rekindling relationships with old business associates and colleagues in Benguet’s vegetable gardens.
New venture, new way of life
The soap venture started in 2005, when she used to get detergent and soap products from a factory in Central Luzon. “Backload laeng didiay” (It was just a back load) Jo revealed. From the soap, she was making some P5,000 ($90.76 at the 2005 average exchange rate of $1:P55.09) weekly income on top of her regular business of delivering temperate vegetables to Manila outlets.
As a pioneer stakeholder in the La Trinidad Trading Post she was awarded a stall, which she has maintained since 1987.
“I started with just 300 kilos of detergent and soap products until orders rose to 1,000 kilos per week. It was then easy money from a P5 ($0.24 at the 1987 exchange rate of $1:P20.80) markup per kilo, Jo revealed.
Caught by a slump in the vegetable trade, she sold the delivery truck.
Another enterprising trucker observed she was making a lot of money with the soap and offered to bring her the soap from her source in Central Luzon.
“I entrusted her with quite a large sum but she did not show up after she had my money,” she said, so she also stopped selling soap products since that sad experience with a colleague, who up to the present did not show up.
Finding the right mix
Trainings on soap making always attracted her. One time in 2006, there was an invitation at a university in Baguio City, which she attended.
“The trainers did not give us all the instructions and the ingredients in soap making. Our experiment did not produce the desired result,” Jo lamented.
This, however, did not discourage her. She made more trips to the chemical supplier’s store and bought what she thought would enhance her product. In search of the right mix, she studied, researched and kept on experimenting.
“I went back to my Chemistry books in college until I found the right processes,” Jo confided. She had taken a two-year preparatory course in Nursing at the Baguio Colleges Foundation (now University of the Cordilleras), after which she shifted to get a bachelor’s degree in Commerce in the same school.