Third Zone by Boboy Yonzon
Third Zone

CHICHARON STORIES

Dec 5, 2022, 12:14 AM
Boboy Yonzon

Boboy Yonzon

Columnist

Tsitsaron kalabaw or crackling carabao rind is the lowly cousin of the extremely popular pork chicharon. It is the by-the-way adjunct to the balut - the sub for crispy pata as pulutan when broke.

When Arthur Baccu of Tuguegarao City was thinking of a product that would distinguish his place in the One Town, One Product scheme, he did not think of pansit batil-patung that this northern city is known for, but of tsitsaron kalabaw.

At first, he bought loads of it from a local producer, repacked them, and placed a label to give the product a proper name. But the reaction he got was: Woo, murang produkto lang yan, pinamahal nyo pa! A pauper being passed off as a prince.

Arthur was pained, but instead of feeling downhearted, he took the remark as a challenge. He and a few friends in his church, after all, formed The Lighthouse Cooperative to generate jobs for their kababayan. And they were thinking of farm-based products.

Baccu, a former teacher, persisted by producing their own tsitsaron kalabaw using best practices. And yes, his packaging. He thought of the product name Chicha-Rabao, with a label that included a cartoon of a carabao. To give his product a twist, he added garlic flavor. It caught on! Then followed salt and vinegar, then hot and spicy.

Today, tsitsaron kalabaw is king. It is the flagship product of the Ybanag Brand that includes oven-baked peanuts, banana-chips, longganisa, and its latest line, the Chicha-Rica, nutrition packed fritters made from rice, cassava flour, blended with kalabasa (squash) or malunggay (moringa).

The Lighthouse Cooperative has a store in Tuguegarao población, where they sell their products alongside that of other products from other producers such as Kalinga robusta coffee and BongBong’s Otap from Cebu. They are moving incidentally because customers come for the tsitsaron kalabaw. Nandoon na rin lang, kanya namimili na rin ng iba.

I personally witnessed how people steadily streamed in to take home Chicha-Rabao not in two or five packs, but in ten to twenty packs despite the signage that customers are limited to only ten.

The demand is outpacing the supply. The local cooperative has built a facility in Pangasinan to help in the production. I was amazed at how clean and efficient their plant is in Tuguegarao. It has separate kitchens for each production phase. Moreover, they are using food-grade stainless steel tools. The coop is now installing a high-tech packing machine for its champion.

This makes an excellent case study for management. With emphasis on the age-old advise of value addition. As Arthur himself counsels to succeed: work hard, persevere, and be innovative and creative.

For the past month, my video teams have been covering farm-based success stories for a client. This has taken us to Benguet, Bicol, La Union, and Pagadian. I assigned myself to join one team to Cagayan Valley.

The biggest cooperative in this region is Providers whose offices in Isabela can put Makati-based banks looking dowdy. It is intentionally raising the reputation of cooperatives from being ramshackle affairs. It produces Gourmix, a nutritional porridge.

Providers tried a make a huge go in mushroom production but ran into a wall. Its strength is more on lending. For its members, it has an appliance store, a mini-grocery, a hospital, a crematory, housing and is now building a huge mall! But that is another tsitsaron success story.


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