The hardworking Hazel Myrisse Lacdao Cabe is a born entrepreneur.
Borongan City, Eastern Samar – Packs and jars of Triple L banana chips have been on the shelves of some I85 supermarkets all over the country since Sept. 2019, but only a few know that it comes from a factory in the remote village of Rizal in the 5th-class municipality of Quinapondan, Eastern Samar.
And unless one gets a pack or a jar and checks the product’s name, he or she will never know that the three Ls are not initials of the names of the manufacturers or those of their kids, but instead stand for Learning, Living, and Loving, an inspirational mantra that the Christian couple Roberto Cabe, 40 and Hazel Myrisse Lacdao Cabe, 32, consider the backbone of their small food company’s success.
After supertyphoon Yolanda wreaked havoc in the region on 2013, the Cabes lost their home and livelihood as well as the enthusiasm to stay in Quinapondan where they experienced living below subsistence, with little to no resources to cover even their basic needs.
Being members of Christ Word Bride Fellowship – End Time Message Believer, Roberto was given a pastor position in Tarlac where they lived for three years.
But in 2016, they found themselves back in Quinapondan managing the three-hectare farm of their aunt. But living in vulnerability and uncertainty was an everyday experience for the couple as they lost some crops to pests or typhoons.
So they decided to join the town’s farmers and fishers’ association where Hazel Myrisse was appointed secretary. It was when she was there that a local non-government organization suggested that they should focus on banana cultivation and produce banana chips.
Bestselling Triple L banana chips
Realizing its business potential, the couple started making banana chips and selling them to kids going the nearby schools, armed with intuition and some basic cooking knowledge.
From P200 daily, their income increased to P1,000 as some government employees also became customers.
With an eye for perfection, Hazel Myrisse was always looking for her costumers’ satisfaction so every time opportunities came, she would attend seminars and would even spend her own money just to be able to attend. She also patiently listened to more experienced banana farmers and banana chips producers.
“I am just a high school graduate with no knowledge in baking or food and business. I’ve been embarrassed and bypassed a few times but I never gave up,” she explained.
From watching YouTube videos to attending the Department of Trade and Industry’s Mentor Me Program, Hazel Myrisse eventually produced banana brittle, banana pastillas, banana polvoron, and her best seller banana chips that comes in calamansi, turmeric and chocolate flavors.
Eventually recognized and chosen as a beneficiary by some NGOs like People in Need Philippines and Enhancing Sustainable Income in the Philippines (ESIP) project for financial literacy and basic entrepreneurship training program, Hazel Myrisse has turned things around for her and her family and transitioned from a simple peddler to an employer and CEO of her own food company in three years.
She now has two factories in her village and 32 employees who are mostly out-of-school youth and single mothers.
Triple L provides needed employment to locals.
Eladio Padullo, Jr., 24, Triple L cook since 2016, shares how the food company came to his aid.
“I only finished third grade in elementary but now I am proud that I am able to help in the education of my siblings. Because of Triple L, I was able to purchase a small lot and a new motorcyle,” Padullo said.
Mariles Bantilan, 45 Triple L banana peeler and slicer, shares the same sentiment.
“As a single mother with five kids, Ma’am Hazel Myrisse is very instrumental in my what I am now. I no longer need to rent a house since I was able to buy one and I no longer need to be a housemaid,” Bantilan said.
Equipped with enough entrepreneurial talent, Hazel Myrisse has been invited for speaking engagements here and abroad. She had also been invited to present her products at a World Food Expo in Indonesia.
But even if countries like Korea, China, and Germany have shown their interest in exporting her banana chips, she never finalized the transactions because of stringent conditions.
With COVID-19 pandemic, Triple L seems to face economic uncertainty as banana chips are not considered essential food products in supermarkets and grocery stores.
“Undoubtedly people would pick rice and viand first before treats or snacks. So our partner-resellers would no longer order in steady supply and bulk,” Hazel Myrisse shared.
Months leading to Christmas last year gave a steady profit to Triple L, peaking by December. Gross sales hit P300,000 to P400,000 per month and more than P500,000 by December.
With barely P30,000 to P50,000 gross income since March the food company can only break even. But there is a sliver of hope since Puregold Corp. has already made reservations for the holidays.
The past months may have been difficult but for now, Hazel Myrisse is content that she is able to help people and transform the lives of some 500 banana farmers who rely on her company for the market of their produce daily.
She is confident that in time, her fortunes will turn once again.