I recently had the opportunity to travel to the Philippines. It was an incredible experience, where I learned just how hospitable and kind the Filipino people really are. This was a trip that I was especially excited about because my mother has been serving a religious mission helping people with self reliance in Quezon City for the past 16 months and I hadn’t seen her during that time. She met me at the airport and accompanied me on my travels for the next two weeks.
A long flight seems longer when you are excited to see someone!
I arrived late at night and got around 4 hours sleep before heading back to the airport to catch our flight to Bacolod. We made the short drive to Bago City where we met the owner and founder of an herbal supplements company. They have recently moved into distilling essential oils and we wanted to see their process and facility. We experienced the freshly distilled local citrus fruits of Calamansi and Dalandan. They had also distilled some Elemi and Organic Eucalyptus.
Visiting a company that distills and checking out their essential oils.
After a productive visit to Bago City, we drove across town to visit Auke, the founder of a 12-year-old lemongrass co-op called AID Foundation. They have a great vision of helping those in need, which is perfectly in line with ours at Plant Therapy. Many of the people of this region are very poor with limited means to produce income. Many only have access to two resources… time and land. AID Foundation employs agronomists that will go into these rural communities and teach the local people farming techniques and help them set up an operation where they can earn a living.
No, this is a not a blood bank above… It is a supply of essential oils. The bottom picture is of a still. For some communities, this is the key to their livelihood.
These are the specifics of a small lemongrass operation… They require roughly 25-30 families to participate if they want to have their own still. They will help the community get water using a ram pump- this is an incredible invention that can pump water uphill without the use of electricity. Once water is available they will plant 20,000 lemongrass plants on a hectare of ground- just under 2.5 acres. They can harvest the lemongrass plant every two months. It can be cut low and it will just continue to grow. The cut grass is then left to dry for two days before being placed in the still. 180 kg (400 lbs) of dry material is placed in the still and steamed for 3 hours. This will produce one kg (2.2 lbs) of pure lemongrass essential oil. The oil is then put into a one-liter bottle and labeled with the farmer’s name, location, date, and batch number. The spent leaves are put into compost boxes and later returned to the farms as fertilizer. This is the only adjuvant that is added to lemongrass farms. Every few years they will rotate out the crop to grow some root crops like Ginger or Turmeric. The farmer’s all own the distillation equipment and get paid a certain amount of money for each batch of oil that is produced. The AID foundation then sells the lemongrass oil and uses any profits to help another community get set up. I love their mission, values, product, and facilities. Unfortunately, we aren’t currently buying products from them because their prices are too high. It doesn’t make sense for them to lower them to the bulk market prices because that would defeat the whole purpose of the co-op, which is to help the farmers. In addition, we batch test every oil and it would be cost prohibitive to test the oil from every 2.2 lb batch. We are working on some ideas that will allow us to work these small artisan distilleries, so that is something I am excited about in Plant Therapy’s future.
Some beautiful Lemongrass fields handled with love and care.
The following morning, we flew out to Cagayan de Oro. We spent two days visiting small farms and a distillery there. Many of these rural farmers are living on less than $1 per meal for their family of 6-7. They are primarily eating rice. In fact, it appears that most Filipino people love their rice, consuming it 3 times per day. We ate it multiple times per day, every day of the trip. If you were to visit a KFC or McDonalds there you are going to be served rice. I was also told that if they don’t eat some rice, many don’t consider it an actual meal. One can eat pizza or a sandwich, etc. but without rice, it is just considered a “snack”.
We visited an oil distiller in Sitio Danao.
Most of these farmers are also part of a co-op using only organic farming methods. The farms are sprayed with neem oil (native to the Philippines), molasses, and beneficial fungi. When the crops are harvested, they are sold to the co-op which pays them on a per-pound basis.
Another precious yield of the Philippines.
When we returned to Manila we were able to visit some suppliers of both Virgin Coconut Oil (VCO) as well as Fractionated Coconut Oil (FCO). Plant Therapy is in a unique position within the FCO market. As you may or may not be aware, the vast majority of products being sold as FCO in the retail market are not made from coconuts at all. It is actually a palm oil that, when processed, resembles FCO. Even though most people can’t tell the difference, we will not sell something like coconut oil unless we are absolutely certain it is actually coconut oil. For that reason, we require proof from our suppliers that it is 100% coconut oil. We are the only company, that I am aware of, with that requirement.
Meeting with some of our suppliers of our wonderful Coconut Oil. We are one company that requires proof that our Coconut products are 100% coconut.
The Philippines is an incredibly beautiful country. During my time there we were also able to do many “touristy” type things. Including the following: Dahilayan Adventure Park, whitewater rafting, Zoobic Safari, American Cemetery, WWII battle sites, Underground River, a crocodile farm, weaving factory, Honda Bay tour, Starfish Island, Luli Island, Cowrie Island, Pagsanjan Falls, Taal Volcano, and Art in Island. It is a place I would love to visit again in the future to continue the pursuit of charitable and business opportunities there.
Taking the time to play with Mom!