When Super Typhoon Pablo ravaged everything in our hometown of Cateel including the vast coconut plantation which is the town’s major source of income, our people learn to find ways to make the most of what’s left to them. Though some go back to planting coconuts that bear fruits in five years, there are vast agricultural lands now that are converted to cacao, cassava and vegetable farms. In fact today, farm produce sold in the town proper are supplied by local growers. But among the alternative sources of livelihood flourishing in our town, the chili production and processing is considered the most promising. The production is growing and the demand is increasing.
Chili production and processing is not new to our hometown. Long before it becomes the leading alternative source of living months after horrible catastrophe, Cateeleños grow native chili already and process dried chili powder locally called “dumang”. But dumang making then was more popular in the hinterlands of Cateel.
Growing up in this rustic town, this red hot chili powder has always been part of our dining table. Come and visit every home in our town, you will see that every table has this. It’s part of our meal. Everytime we eat, it always comes with a mouthwatering sawsawan (dipping sauce) filled with red hot dumang. Even eating lay-ob (boiled bananas and kamote), it’s paired with an appetizing ginamos (bagoong) lavishly topped with this spicy hot pulverized chili.
But what was once a smalltime livelihood is now considered a booming industry not only in my hometown of Cateel but also its neighboring towns of Boston and Baganga. Months after the ravaging onslaught of the Typhoon Pablo, the chili production and processing was intensely encouraged as alternative source of livelihood in these three towns. With the assistance coming from the government, NGOs and the private sector, the program has sustained. Although there are other alternative sources introduced to our people but chili production was widely accepted.
Back then, only native chili peppers were used to make Dumang – native chili are known to be spiciest. After Typhoon Pablo, new varieties of chili were introduced – the Scotch bonnet, Astig and Pinatubo. These are varieties where farmers can grow and harvest in three months’ time. But of course growing of native chili is still extensively encouraged.
With the introduction of new variety of chili in Cateel as alternative livelihood source, there are number of agricultural lands now converted to chili farms. Farmers are starting to like the idea of growing chili and harvesting it within a short period of time. 200 hills of chili can produce 8 to 12 kilos of chili peppers in a week and they grow and bear peppers for 2 years.
Today, chili farming is widely spread in all the 16 barangays of Cateel including some areas in Poblacion. In Subangon Dumang Makers, the leading chili processing plant in our town, there are 150 chili farmers supplying chili peppers on regular basis – a great indication that indeed this is definitely growing. Aside from processing red hot powdered chili or Dumang, they now also make other chili products like dried chili pepper and crushed chili. Because this industry grows strongly after Typhoon Pablo, locals sometimes coined it “Hot Pablo”.
While production and processing is growing, there is a great need to increase the demand. This is the biggest challenge that both chili growers and the dumang makers are facing now. Although the products have reached as far as Manila and Cebu including of course Davao, the need to widen the market is still at work. Thus, it is their ardent hope that both the government and the private sectors will continue to help them sustain this booming livelihood program.
Our people are optimistic that this spicy blessing will flourish and that it will them give better hope for a better future. They have been resilient they embrace all the possibilities of restoring back all that was lost to them and for these farmers, chili will help them restore those dreams.
“Building Back Better”, this is the cry of every Cateeleño in our hometown. With the help of the government, the NGO’s and the private sectors, our town and our people are moving forward from that monstrous day Typhoon Pablo came to destroy our homes and our sources of living . Call it alternative source of living or even temporary but chili farming – its production and processing – is a great proof that our hometown and its resilient people can rise above the darkest days our lives – proof that we can get through all storms of our lives.
FOR ORDERS AND OTHER INFORMATION, you may call:
SUBANGON DUMANG MAKERS (Cateel, Davao Oriental)
Look for Ricky Arisola or Lulu Reyes (0917-498-9273)