The COVID-19 pandemic has affected a lot of industries, particularly to different sectors such as hospitality, travel, entertainment, and construction which resulted in disruptions, closures, and job losses wherein workers have faced unemployment.

Catherine Serrano, 45, and her husband have met the effects of the pandemic as they were laid off from their work in an Engineering Consultancy company.

Considering the high living expenses in an urban city, the couple decided to leave Caloocan City where they lived for seven (7) years, and relocate to Barangay Sta. Elena, Buhi, Camarines Sur last July 2020.

Wala rin kaming naiipon parang parehas din lang. So, nag-decide kami na umuwi na lang ng probinsya at magkaroon ng sariling negosyo,” Catherine explained.

(We don’t have any savings if we keep on staying in Caloocan. So, we decided to go to our home province and start a new business)

Eager to start a new chapter, the couple set up a pig farm business to cover their daily expenses while residing in their hometown. Unfortunately, the business suffered losses as their town was hit by three (3) consecutive strong typhoons which were Quinta, Rolly, and Ulysses.

“Syempre [sa] pagnenegosyo, hindi yung pag-umpisa, boom na agad. Hindi naman ganon, syempre, ako kasi hindi ako kilala dito [sa probinsya] kasi galing din kasi kami ng abroad. So, parang talagang struggle kami na makilala. So, yung ginawa ko, yung nag-isip ako kung ano yung dapat kong pagkakitaan,” she said.

(Of course, in business, when you start, it doesn’t mean it will flourish. Because I’m not that well-known in our province since we worked abroad for a long time, we struggled to be acknowledged. So, I thought of a way to make money.)

Armed with determination, Catherine decided to sell steamed rice cakes or puto online. She would even offer a free taste of her food products to attract potential customers.

Prompted by her will for change, Catherine led herself to the Balik-Probinsya, Bagong Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa (BP2) program as she applied as a beneficiary and was assessed by social workers of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). As an eligible beneficiary, her family received PHP 25,250.00 for Transitory Family Support Package and PHP 50,000.00 for Livelihood Settlement Grant.

Using the financial aid received, Catherine opened an unconventional sari-sari store. Besides offering basic necessities and snacks, she saw an opportunity to enhance her store’s offerings with homemade food products such as chili garlic oil, candied pili nuts, polvoron, and puto.

Food products made by Catherine Serrano, a beneficiary of BP2 program

To properly promote her homemade food products, she sought assistance from the Department of Trade and Industry to develop the packaging of her products.  She also joined various trade fairs to expand her market to various customers.

Catherine shared that one of her greatest learning in life is to have a strong resolve when doing her passion.

Huwag kayo makikinig sa ibang tao yung sisiraan ka, yung panghihinaan ka ng loob. Kung ano po yung passion niyo, gawin niyo para balang araw, makikita din natin yung success, yung bunga ng pinaghirapan po natin. Huwag titigil hanggang sa makita po natin yung bunga, yung success po natin sa pagnenegosyo,” she advised.

(Don’t listen to other people who discredit your efforts to the point you also lose confidence. Whatever your passion is do it so that someday, you will have the success of your endeavor, the fruit of your hard work. Don’t stop until you grasp the rewards of your effort in your business.)

As Catherine stands in front of her sari-sari store reflecting on her journey, she envisions an abundant life with her family and plans to venture out to set up an eatery. Using her experiences, she not only found fulfillment but also revitalized the potential of rural communities in bringing prosperity and breathing a new path.

For inquiries on Cath Food Products, contact Ms. Catherine P. Serrano through her mobile number at 0927 615 6729/ 0905 557 2343 or email address at ###