Armed with a Bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Engineering earned in 2009, Marilyn Baytoc from Barangay Nambaran, Tabuk, Kalinga had dreams of contributing to her community through her expertise. However, the untimely challenge of not passing the board exam redirected her path.

In 2012, Marilyn exchanged vows and embraced the role of a full-time mother. They were later blessed with six (6) children, which filled their home with laughter and love. With the traditional setup of a typical Filipino family, it is expected that the husband takes the role of being the breadwinner and the protector of the wife and his family. However, the Baytoc family did not let this traditional perception dictate their roles in their family. Marilyn made sure that she is able to help his husband on their financial needs. In 2019, Marilyn and her husband ventured into mushroom production. Their humble abode transformed into a makeshift haven for cultivating these fungi.

In the beginning, they were able to market their produce to their neighbors and relatives. The income generated from the mushroom production served as a supplement to the family’s finances. Then, came the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic which gravely affected their small business. Marketing and sustaining consistent production became a challenge to them but Marilyn took this as an opportunity to enhance her agricultural knowledge and business acumen by attending online seminars offered by the Department of Agriculture. She also enrolled in the Kapatid, Agrimentor Me Program (KAMMP) of the Go Negosyo to further improve their mushroom production enterprise.

Being one of the affected entrepreneurs during the pandemic, Marilyn became one of the recipients of the Livelihood Assistance Grant (LAG), a modality under the Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). The program extended a seed capital fund amounting to PhP 15,000.00 and Marilyn used this to procure essential materials and resources necessary for scaling up her mushroom cultivation enterprise.

The project yielded a remarkable increase in production volume, escalating from 200 to 2,000 fruiting bags. The increase in production of mushroom gave them the idea of turning their produce into something else. With this, she tried to incorporate her products into something that the province of Kalinga is well known of – chili. To avoid spoilage of unsold mushrooms, they turned it into a mushroom chili paste, which later became a hit. This surge in output, coupled with Marilyn’s commitment to good management practices, not only solidified her position in the market but also garnered formal recognition through the registration of her business with the Department of Trade and industry (DTI) and the Local Government Unit (LGU). Her primary markets diversifed, encompassing social media platforms like Facebook, along with local customers such as neighbors and friends. This expansion translated into a notable increase in her monthly income, averaging between PhP 18,000.00 to PhP 20,000.00.

The success story of Marilyn was further amplified by the support from the public and private partners, including mentorship, market linkages, and policy support, contributing to the resilience and growth of the Self-Help Group (SHG) formed through the Sustainable Livelihood Program.

While challenges persisted, such as scarcity of materials for optimal product quality, limited market reach, and a shortage of manpower, Marilyn exemplified resourcefulness as a key to overcoming obstacles. Her mushroom production venture, boosted by SLP’s support, not only became a lifeline for sustaining daily needs but also served as the cornerstone for building her family’s dream house in Callagdao, Tabuk City.

Her dreams of contributing to their community is somehow fulfilled, not by becoming an engineer, but by becoming an empowered woman and entrepreneur that the community can look up to as an inspiration. Her unwavering determination and the newfound financial stability from her flourishing business became the driving force behind her family’s journey from overcoming daily struggles to realizing a tangible dream of a secure and comfortable home. The impact of the sustainable Livelihood Program not only manifests in economic terms but radiates in the tangible improvements it brings to the lives of individuals and their families. #DSWD-CAR, Jezebel L. Gumatay, SLP Social Marketing Officer with reports from Micah Joy Mahener, Project Development Officer II

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