Thursday, February 11

Leaf of Faith - Binalot's DAHON Program

Binalot and I go a long way back. I remember, the first time I had a banana-wrapped meal from this popular food chain was more than a decade ago. My dad was admitted at the old Medical City and he hated hospital food so we always had Binalot food delivered. It was unique, ingenious, and very Pinoy. Last February 10, 2010, I witnessed the other side of this "truly Pinoy" fast food restaurant as I was introduced to the company's DAHON Program.

Binalot started in 1996 as a small food delivery service. In a more than a decade of serving binalot (wrapped) meals, the small enterprise has already grown into a full-fledged fastfood restaurant and a Pinoy household name. Binalot also showcases Filipino creativity with its environmental-friendly and innovative banana leaf-wrapped meals and wittingly named menu. For instance, the ordinary-sounding fried tilapia and boneless bangus are called Pride Tilapia and No Bones Daing na Bangus respectively.

Binalot Fiesta Foods has also devoted itself in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) which entails giving back something to the community. While most CSR endeavors focused in providing short-term community programs, Binalot took the giant leap (or Leaf of Faith as they say) and developed a highly sustainable program that provided benefits for both the company and the community as well. The said program is now known as DAHON (Dangal at Kabuhayan para sa Nayon) Program.

I was a part of a group of bloggers who were brought to Brgy. Buhanginan in Nagcarlan, Laguna where the DAHON Program started. Honestly, of all the blogger events I have attended, what I saw upon arriving at the site was so far the warmest welcome I have ever received. Kids from the Daycare Center, which is also supported by the program, greeted us with banners and wide smiles.

Kids of Brgy. Buhanginan Day Care Center

We were then introduced to the humble beginnings of the DAHON Program which started in 2007. After the country suffered from Bagyong Milenyo (Typhoon Xangsane) in 2006, Binalot found it hard to find inexpensive, yet, high quality sources of banana leaves which they formerly acquired from public markets and traders in Metro Manila. They decided to travel south and found Rodney in Brgy. Buhanginan.

2010-02-10 Binalot Dahon Lowres-2Binalot Fiesta Foods, Inc. President, Mr. Rommel T. Juan

Rodney is a former tambay (jobless) and it was pure luck on his part that he was sitting by the roadside when the Binalot team asked for a banana leaf supplier in the area. He did not think twice unlike the other two persons which the Binalot team has spoken to prior to their meeting. Rodney led them to his grandmother who was already selling banana leaves but at limited quantities. He related his surprise and excitement when Binalot placed a large order of banana leaves from them.

2010-02-10 Binalot Dahon Lowres-10

2010-02-10 Binalot Dahon Lowres-13

At present, Rodney serves as the coordinator of the program in their community. Together with Binalot, the DAHON Program provides regular jobs to the farmers in Brgy. Buhanginan who were then earning a living only from harvesting and selling fruits to Manila traders. The women and the elderly of the community are also given a chance to earn by being part of the production process.

Even the children of the community benefit from the program in terms of education. The DAHON program has helped renovate the community's daycare center and has introduced benefactors who regularly give financial support to the institution.

Aside from these efforts, the program has helped renovate the community chapel and has helped introduce livelihood skills like banana chip and banana ketchup production. The DAHON composting project is also underway which will maximize the use of the banana leaf trimmings.

For their efforts in initiating the DAHON Program, Binalot Fiesta Foods was awarded the 2007 UPS Centennial Award for Out of the Box Small Business Solutions. It also achieved the Anvil Merit Award in 2008.

Indeed, Binalot Fiesta Foods has touched more lives through the DAHON Program. The incredible "Leaf of Faith" is now reaping rewards not only for the company but for the community as well.

View more photos here

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