The COVID-19 pandemic has left millions of Filipinos around the world jobless. Many were forced to go back to their hometowns in the countryside and start anew. Since then, many have been setting up new small businesses or helping with their families’ livelihoods. The province of Pangasinan has been no exception to this phenomenon.
To help constituents who are adjusting to this new normal, Congressman Christopher “Toff” de Venecia has been working closely with various communities around the Fourth District of Pangasinan (PD4) – which includes the city of Dagupan and the municipalities of Manaoag, Mangaldan, San Fabian, and San Jacinto – to explore prospects for innovation and growth for local businesses there. After months of rigorous planning and coordination, Congressman de Venecia and the partner communities are launching not one, but six innovative projects that are aimed at generating new sources of income and economic activity for the residents of PD4.
ExplorePD4.com – Website
Online presence is important if not necessary in setting up a business nowadays. However, not all businesses are equipped with the know-how, skills, and financial resources to effectively make their presence felt in the digital space. To fill this gap, Congressman de Venecia initiated the creation of a website that would feature the different micro-, small, and medium enterprises that are located within PD4.
Currently, the website (ExplorePD4.com) curates the profiles and stories of these mSMEs – from restaurants, cafes, and bakeries to resorts, food stalls, and even crafts makers. As an added element, it also features the professionals in the creative industries who reside in the district, such as graphic designers, photographers, and even actors. Eventually, however, the goal is to make the website a fully-functioning e-commerce space in the future.
The website is also supported by social media pages on Facebook (facebook.com/ExplorePD4) and Instagram (@explorepd4). With the catchy hashtag #ExplorePD4, the project hopes to create and promote a brand for the district that will benefit all businesses from this place.
Anakbanwa Arts Residency
Arts residencies are being conducted not just in the Philippines but also all over the world. Arts residencies, at their core concept, are time- and location-bound projects where artists from various disciplines are commissioned to create artistic outputs while interacting with local residents and cultures in such locations within the time frame provided. The period of residency, the expected outputs and the overall design of the arts residency all depend from proponent to proponent.
As a known champion for the creative industries, Congressman de Venecia believes in the potential of creatives to stimulate social, cultural, and economic activity in a community. This was his main impetus for setting up the Anakbanwa Arts Residency Program, which is the first of its kind in the province and perhaps one of only a few arts residency programs that was initiated by a government office.
Three artists, namely Razel Mari (Visual Artist and Industrial Designer), Corinne de San Jose (Multimedia Artist and Sound Designer), and Marco Ortiga (Fabricator and Maker), are currently residing in the district to interact with the community and produce new art inspired by their interactions. To date, they have already delivered workshops in their respective art forms, sharing their knowledge with the young learners and professional artists in the district. They are also slated to put up an exhibit of their works which will be opened to the public on December 10, which will last until early 2022.
Calamansian ed Lekep Butao Agri-Tourism Site
A two-hectare calamansi plantation situated at the heart of San Fabian is getting an upgrade. Calamansian ed Lekep Butao is a new agri-tourism site located in San Fabian, Pangasinan. Home to around 6,000 calamansi trees, the Calamansian ed Lekep Butao will offer a unique experience where tourists could personally pick the calamansi fresh from the trees. It will cater to tourists who want to experience farm life at an affordable price.
Congressman de Venecia also partnered with the association of women in Barangay Lekep Butao to develop “calamansi crinkles” as a new product offering that is also aimed at mitigating one of the common problems of the plantation, which is the oversupply of calamansi.
• Php 80/head (*20% off –senior citizens and children below 7 years old)
• Php 350 (Package)
• Entrance fee
• Calamansi-picking experience
• Calamansi crinkles
Important note: The calamansi picked are excluded from the package. The price per kilo may vary upon the seasonality of the Calamansi.
Flavored Salt Products
Congressman de Venecia also provided the salt-makers in San Fabian with research and development support in order for them to develop interesting varieties out of the usual salt products from the province, whose name”Pangasinan” actually comes from the Filipino word “asin”, which translates to salt. From the refinery, salt is “transformed” to suit contemporary gastronomic trends and is now available in six (6) different flavors — chili, calamansi, garlic, pepper, rosemary, and red wine.
• Black pepper, Calamansi, Chili, and Garlic –Php 100/flavor
• Rosemary –Php 110
• Wine –Php 130
Tupigan ni Marivic – Tupig-Making Experience
Tupig-making is one of the oldest culinary traditions in Pangasinan. Tupig has been traditionally served during special occasions such as fiestas and festivals. However, the popularity of the Tupig as a “pasalubong” and snacks increased during the 1950s to 1960s and was associated with the emergence of bus transportation services in the province.
As a potential tourism activity, Tupigan ni Marivic is now offering the tupig-making experience where visitors and other interested guests get a chance to learn and eventually make their own tupig with their own hands.
• Experience + tupig + buko juice package –Php 250
• 1 box of tupig –Php 100
Angel’s Basket – Basket-Weaving Experience in Manaoag
Aside from being one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in the country, the municipality of Manaoag is also home to the best crafts in the Fourth District and in the entire province of Pangasinan, in general.
One of the more popular handicrafts producers in Manaoag is The Angel’s Basket, owned by Mr. Angelbert Tabula. Historically, the small business was owned by his grandfather, Mr. Emeterio Tabula, and was eventually passed on to his father, Mr. Cristino Tabula. The Angel’s Basket uses local materials such as buri and rattan in creating their different kinds of handicrafts such as fruit tray baskets, laundry baskets, cabinets, drop/pendant lights, and plant stands and holders.
As a potential site for tourism activity, the Angel’s Basket also offers a basket-weaving experience where guests and visitors are taught how to make a basket made of buri and/or rattan.
• Basket-weaving experience + kit (frame and buri ropes) –Php250
• Kit (frame and buri ropes) -Php130
With all of these interventions, Congressman de Venecia hopes to pump-prime the local economy to help constituents get back up on their feet, as well as to make them crisis-proof moving forward by employing best practices in marketing, promotion, and research and development.