The comment of many Baguio visitors is that a trip to Baguio City is not complete without bringing home the famous Good Shepherd ube jam (purple yam) as a gift or pasalubong (the Filipino cultural practice of bringing a gift from a journey). Sister Guadalupe Bautista (above, holding a jar of the famous jam) manages the Mountain Maid project in Baguio City.
What started as a rolling store in the 1950s grew into what it is today, a large scale social enterprise in food processing. The first product was strawberry jam. At present, among the best sellers are ube jam (50% of sales), peanut & cashew brittle, lengua de gato, alfajores and angel cookies.
Our annals tell the story that when the Sisters and students first made strawberry jam over sixty years ago, they collected used glass bottles of different sizes, begged their friends to buy their jam and asked for the bottles back after the jam was consumed. We now source our glass jars and metal caps from San Miguel Packaging Corporation delivered in container vans.
During those difficult pioneering days, the Sisters begged from the market the unsold vegetables to feed the young girls at Pelletier Hills School, our boarding school. Their realization that the mission could not be sustained without regular income gave birth to the social enterprise, that is the Mountain Maid Training Center. They thought of making strawberry jam, ‘a divine inspiration’. It was berries ‘full of grace’.
Mission and social enterprise. Are these compatible? What is the priority? When faced with choices, which takes precedence?
Our mission is “to continue the redemptive mission of Jesus the Good Shepherd, of bringing about fullness of life with care and compassion, by enabling the economically challenged, deserving youth from the six tribes of the Cordilleras to live in dignity and integrity”.
The Cordilleras is considered among the poorest regions in the Philippines. Statistics reveal that a high percentage of the men reach only elementary level of education. The Cordilleras has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in the country. There is no dignity and integrity when parents cannot feed and educate their children. In view of this, the Student-Workers Program aims to empower these youth to break the cycle of poverty with their education that will give them better options and fulfill their dreams of a brighter future.
At present, the social enterprise supports the education of 370 college working students, ages 16 to 24. They are trained by forty five (45) full time staff and are guided by the prayers and support of twelve (12) Good Shepherd Sisters in Baguio. During the peak seasons of Christmas, Holy Week and summer, we hire mothers whose husbands have no permanent employment and out-of-school youth who save up for an education. Presently, we have over 500 workers.
We sell only what we are able to produce. We have only one store, no distributors. We don’t ‘kill’ ourselves trying to meet the demand of our products. We don’t want to become ‘slaves’ of market forces and become unfaithful to our mission of living in dignity.
We count as our blessings
availability of raw materials
dedicated and committed work force
creativity, innovation and openness to new trends.
In the Jubilee Year of 2000, the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) did a case study of Mountain Maid Training Center. The title of the study was “Winning with Inferior Resources: A Superior Strategy for Helping the Poor”. The introduction best encapsulates the strategy that has guided us all these years.
Those who seek to help the poor whom we call development managers are like revolutionaries. They too, have to make do with inferior resources . . .They succeed due to the TOTALITY OF THEIR COMMITMENT, the SUPERIORITY of their STRATEGY and the SUPERBNESS of their PROJECTS.
The killer earthquake of July 16, 1990. We rose from the rubble to immediately restore the operations of the Training Center, so that by1997, we were able to build the present three-storey building and a bakery without applying for a loan or asking for donations.
The meningo coccemia epidemic from October 2004 to May 2005. The negative publicity drove local tourists away from Baguio. Our sales strategy? Sell the goods in Manila so that the students can continue their studies. None of the full time staff were retrenched.
The Department of Education’s K+ 12. For two years there are no high school graduates. Annually we accept 100 of these graduates to the student-workers program. We are now hiring more out-of-school youth willing to take up technical/vocation courses.
Increasing demand of government agencies, e.g. BIR, DOLE, Food & Drug Adm., Fire Dept. etc
Climate Change. This phenomenon will seriously affect agricultural raw materials for food.
Integrated/holistic human development approach to the training and formation programs of the student-workers, staff and farmers. These include values formation on the dignity of work, discipline, honesty; Christian formation, retreats, daily bible reflection and prayer, all on paid time.
Multi-generational loyal customers who share in our mission as stated on the metal caps of our products, “Each time you buy our products, you help send us to college - Cordillera youth”.
Quality and integrity of our products – our products advertise themselves, promotion is by word of mouth which makes paid advertisement unnecessary, despite the many copycats.
Power of prayer, gratitude for all God’s gifts, shared blessings. The social enterprise is to support the mission. Blessings are shared with staff, students workers, farmers, customers.
Click here for more photos - Mountain Maid Training Center
Click here for information about National Environmental Award won by MMTC - http://www.goodshepherd-asiapacific.org.au/project/177
Click here for an article in a Philippines national daily newspaper reviewing the Good Shepherd ube jam -
Submitted by Sr Guadalupe Bautista, rgs