A Spanish word that means cake, “pastel” is originally a Puerto Rican delicacy. It consists of ground pork, olives, capers, raisins and peas that are placed inside the dough, pretty much like the local empanada.

In the Philippines, pastel is a soft bun with several sweet fillings, such as caramel, strawberry jam, or ube and so many more.

For the locals of Northen Mindanao, especially Camiguin and Cagayan de Oro, breakfast or snacks is never complete without having a piece of pastel. It has been a staple pastry for them, since the sweet filling of the bun compliments the bitter taste of coffee.

But who would have known that three students of Xavier University Ateneo de Cagayan who just wanted a good grade from their feasibility project, achieved more than what they have bargained for. While everyone was too focused on the pastel’s filling, the group considered that the bun should be talked about as well.

They were praised for coming up with a product that has a potential to help malnourished and underweight children and even those who frown on vegetables.

Previously known as a “poor man’s vegetable,” malunggay is now known as a “miracle tree” or “nature’s medicine cabinet” by health enthusiasts. It is because malunggay is packed with vitamins and minerals, making it a powerful nutritional supplement.

Its roots, trunks, leaves and flowers all have medicinal purposes and nutritional benefits. In scientific researches, it was confirmed that the tiny leaves of malunggay contains seven times the vitamin C in oranges, four times the calcium in milk, four times the vitamin A in carrots, two times the protein in milk and three times the potassium in bananas.

The students, Katherine Mary Lim, Billy Jim Alerta, and Steffi Seoul Dalman, combined the best of both worlds. Make the pastel that has become a favorite even by those without a sweet tooth and pack it with more nutritional value.

When the product was launched last April 27, Dalman said female clients, especially mothers, came up to them with positive feedbacks. “They would give positive feed backs like how the filling isn’t too sweet, and would tell us that they were impressed of us to have come up with such a product and with no added preservatives.”

Currently taking up Bachelor of Science in Business Management in Ateneo de Cagayan, they are being trained to become successful entrepreneurs.

“Our teachers would praise us; compliments like how our subject isn’t of banana-Qs or cheese sticks that were easily sold on streets. They’d share to their other students how proud they are of our achievements. And if their other students plan to be business-oriented individuals they should be as motivated as us,” said Dalman.

The malunggay pastel is sold for P60 a box containing six pieces, and a dozen for P110. It also comes in a two-piece snack on-the-go for P20.

The team started with six pieces at first. But during their school’s feasibity study bazaar, the malunggay pastel sold like hot cakes.

“When we did our research paper, we wrote down that we wanted to do direct selling. 30 boxes a day that’s three days a week. But since our market responded positively we increased to about an average of 120 boxes a day and already six times a week.”

With each member having a contribution of P25,000 for the capital, Lami Jud! produced its malunggay pastels, the first and the only in the Philippines. Lami Jud Malunggay Pastel are sold at school cafeterias, school bazaars, and other Cagayan de Oro specialty shops.

The group eventually tied up with Urgena Fruitstand in Limketkai Mall and Plaza Divisoria, C7 Convenient Store, AGFA Colorhouse in Plaza Divisoria, Lumbia Airport pre-departure area, and Cheding’s Iligan. They accept orders for delivery, free of charge anywhere in Cagayan de Oro, for a minimum purchase of 10 boxes.

“We really like to sell our product internationally when we graduate in March, and we even plan to expand nationwide before the year ends,” Dalman says. Professing that they are new in the business, they are encountering problems with distribution and managing the shelf life of products.

“If we want things to be done quickly, then we are forced to add preservatives which I believe should never be an option. We have implemented from the very beginning that healthy eating should always be the case. I guess we have to think deeper on how to come up with a longer shelf life,” Dalman says.

Malunggay is an odorless leaf, it doesn’t affect the taste of the bun and even the color.

Believing that they have a stronger competitive edge than any regular pastel on the market, keeping the product semi-sweet and with no preservatives is a priority for them.

“We put great attention on taking of the leaves from the stem, as well as grinding it. It would become a routine after school. It would take us past midnight since we are only three in our group, and have very minimal help on production.”

At present, word-of-mouth is their only advertising. They also still don’t have facts on the nutrional value of the product on its packaging.

The group submits their financial report to their professors on a monthly basis. “Our earnings have to be higher or double than our cost, we are definitely learning,” Dalman said.

The group has been nominated for feasibility study of the year in Xavier University Ateneo de Cagayan, and so avoiding bankruptcy and consistency of sales is a main concern for Dalman, Lim and Alerta.

“A lot of our family and friends are very supportive and has been helping from the start, one of them The Oro Chamber of Cagayan de Oro. Whenever there are functions, they’d make our products as their giveaways,” Dalman says.

Being young and updated with technology, Lim, Alerta and Dalman have also taken advantage of Facebook to advertise their product. “We do deliver outside of Cagayan de Oro, our recent was a client in Zamboanga City who got intrigued with our Facebook page of the pastel.”

“We had customers who hand-carried our product to be given as pasalubongs to their love ones not only in the Philippines but also in Dubai, Bahrain, Europe and the US,” Dalman said.

article by MADELAINE CABRERA of Malaya; photos credits by Vicmadz and Mindanaoan

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