An old rice pan filled with two inches of sand set on a charcoal stove serves as Nanette Castillo’s oven. She bakes cakes such as brazo de mercedes (jelly roll can with custard filing) using this. She loves to bake but as she does not have an oven, she just improvises.
Nanette (36) comes from the quiet village of Galicia in the southern Negros Occidental town of Ilog, approximately 100 kilometres from Bacolod, the provincial capital. She lives here with her husband Ian, also 36, and their two children, Karl Heinrich (8) who is in grade three and Brianna (5) who is in kindergarten.
Until August last year, Ian worked for a motorcycle company in Kabankalan, the next town. When his company had a reorganisation last year, he was told that he would be assigned to Bacolod. When he heard this, he decided to resign. Firstly he did not want to be away from his family. Kabankalan is only half an hour away by motorcycle from Galicia so he was able to go home to his family everyday. Secondly, it would have been more expensive to work in Bacolod as he would have had to pay for his lodging.
In order to cope with the loss of income (Ian was receiving a monthly salary of 10,000 pesos from the motorcycle company), he and Nanette started making puto (steamed rice cakes) and yema cake (egg yolk and sugar) to sell in Cauayan, the next town. Later on, the couple started to make ‘ice buko candy’, made from milk and shreds of young coconut. They make about 7,500 pesos (£105) per month from the sale of these delicacies.
Nanette is very keen to have an electric oven because by having one, she will be able to focus on baking. She has been getting orders for her jelly roll cake but she can only come up with a few each week because her equipment is inadequate. Sometimes her cake even smells of smoke. By having an oven, she will be able to make decent cakes such as chiffon, brownies, and cupcakes. She anticipates a net income of 2,000 pesos (£28) per month from selling her baked products.
Ian and Nanette and their children live in a pretty run-down room at the back part of Nanette’s grandmother’s equally dilapidated house. Their dwelling consists of a bedroom and an improvised dirt-floored kitchen. They are keen to build a decent house someday and they have already bought 200 cement blocks for this purpose. Hopefully the extra income from Nanette’s baking business will enable them to start saving funds towards this end. Nanette is most grateful to the PSHF for this opportunity to improve her livelihood.
Bernadette G. Togado
PSHF Negros Occidental-South