Soap makers cleanses inside and outside of Filipinos
A RECENT survey on the buying habits of the Filipinos showed that even the poorest of families would give up buying a lot of things but not soap, shampoo, or detergents to clean their clothes.
And with 70 million Filipinos taking a bath every day and washing their clothes, there is a large market, thus, the decision by Ma. Aleli V. Pansacola of Daila Herbal Community Enterprises to manufacture natural herbal soaps here in the Philippines.
Pansacola said, however, in an interview that going into business was not exactly what she had in mind when she went into herbal medicine in 1986. The journalism graduate was in the computer business and herbal medicine was just a hobby.
The extensive knowledge that she gained from her travels led her, two sisters, and civic society leader Junie Kalaw to conduct training on herbal medicine in partnership with the Philippine Institute for Alternative Futures. It was her outreach program that she conducted during weekends.
The farming and fishing communities who learned about the wonders of herbal medicine, however, felt that tending an herbal garden was not enough. They had to earn money somehow to augment their incomes.
"They asked us how they could earn from the herbs that they made so I did some research and I found out that there were a lot of companies that imported a lot of herbal essences. So that was what we did, we learned how to extract oils from the different herbs like citronella," Pansacola explained.
It was a long process to come up with herbal essences that passed international standards but when they finally made it, there were no takers. This troubled Pansacola because there were companies that imported the herbal essences.
She studied at the Technology and Livelihood Resource Center to learn more about soap and detergent making and she learned that there was an industry out there that could make use of the different herbs that the small backyard farmers were growing and the coconut oil that the Philippines produces.
"I realized after the course that coconut oil was the best oil for making soap and yet most of the soap that we use today use other products like animal fat, This is ironic because the coconut industry is a dying industry so why not use the coconut oil to help these farmers and the herbs that we grow," Pansacola said.
She also found out that hard alkyl benzene which has been banned in other countries is still being used and dumped in the Philippines.
"Millions of Filipinos take a bath every day but this industry is not held by Filipinos. There are actually very few Filipino soap makers and yet we have the best ingredients for making soap and detergents," she added.
Pansacola, thus, put up the Daila Herbal Community Enterprises as a sole proprietorship in 1987. Her aim at that time was to make natural herbal soaps and promote their use. By 1991, it. was incorporated with some friends who helped tier in technology, organization, and marketing.
With no money, no technology, and no organization, but some knowledge from TLRC, she started playing around with soap in the kitchen, then in pails before she bought a 100-kilo mixer that she set up in her garage.
Pansacola started with a capital of P37,000 which included the ingredients for the first batch of soap that she would make during weekends and bring to communities the following weekend.
It was in 1994 when her natural herbal products started winning awards and she finally came up with her own brands.
She named the bath soaps Daila and the laundry soaps Victoria Herbal. Da-ila is a prayer word that brings cleaning outside and inside.
By 1997, Pansacola got a loan from TLRC and set up a factory in Pita, Laguna, also a town where she started her herbal seminars.
From basic bath and laundry soaps, Daila now has other products including body oils, shampoos, personal care, and household care products.
The initial team of Pansacola and her maid has grown to a workforce of 35 trained workers.
"What makes us different is that we adhere to our principle of being environment and health-friendly. We do not use synthetic chemicals in our natural herbal products. Daila herbal came to be to give livelihood or enterprise to communities that will cleanse the world inside and outside," she says.
*** This article was written by Tina Arceo-Dumlao and published in a local newspaper