With the Christmas season approaching, many people are busy buying gifts at malls with festive tunes and colorful displays of flashing lights. But let us not forget the main reason we celebrate this Yuletide season- the birth of Jesus. As December 16 drew near, churches prepared for the annual Simbang Gabi. It is a devotional nine-day series of Masses attended by Catholics in anticipation of Christmas. After the mass, it has become a habit of Filipinos to buy various kakanin as the clamor of the vendor echoes as they entice customers to their delicacies.
Kakanin, from the word Kanin, is the Tagalog word for rice. This simple concoction of rice and root crops mixed with sugar and coconut milk can be cooked, shaped, and prepared in many ways, resulting in many varieties limited to your imagination.
Some of these sellers flock early in the morning as they get their kakanin supplies from Jodelyn Abao at the cogon market in Cagayan de Oro City. On regular days, she wakes up early and separates a variety of delicacies for her loyal customers or suki. She earns around 400-500 Php per day. During Christmas, her customers multiply and flock to her area due to the demand for kakanin. Some of her customers are also selling outside churches. She claims to earn 600-700 Php per day this season. Her business is steadily growing, and with the livelihood assistance she recently received from the Sustainable Livelihood Program, opportunities for better socio-economic development are possible.
Developed over the years
At 16 years old, Jodelyn Abao, a Macasandig resident of Cagayan de Oro City, has already had a taste of life as she helped her mother in the business of kakanin. They have been selling suman-pilit – a delicacy made with glutinous rice, cooked in coconut milk and wrapped in banana leaves. As the years went on, they acquired other treats from suppliers like bibingka (coconut rice cake), cassava cake, maja-blanca (coconut pudding), pichi-pichi, sapin-sapin, and more.
“Daghan amo suki sir… buyag. Karon na nibalik na [ang kabibo gikan sa pandemic], ni arang-arang na siya.” Jodelyn narrated as her clientele grew over the years. One of the reasons may be that she gives them new stocks of the delicacies, “dapat gwapa [ang pagkapresent]”.
Unlike the streets at dawn, Jodeyn’s stall was bustling with life. She and her mother were busy wrapping and setting aside their products for their loyal customers to get them. Meanwhile, several walk-in customers would buy from her stall. Jodelyn would stop to wrap as she entertained them. Afterward, she would go back to wrapping. She has shared that there was twice the traffic at her stall during Christmas from her suki and consumers.
Jodelyn already has four children, yet she could only send two to school. As Christmas approaches, she has shared that she gives presents to her children. Some of these are t-shirts, shoes, and other apparel. These small gestures put a smile on her children’s faces.
The gift before Christmas
On November 23, 2022, she and her fellow 4Ps beneficiaries received their Sustainable Livelihood Program grant to start their community store. She was appointed secretary to the 16-member Sustainable Livelihood Program Association(SLPA). They just recently bought materials for the construction of their store, located near Jodelyn’s home.
“Ang gihatag amo apingan. Kung unsa ang nisulod na kwarta ug nigawas, i-check jud na. Dapat tanan makabalo, kay kami tanan nakatag-iya [ani na kwarta]. Daghan man mi, dapat magtinabangay jud mi.” She has high hopes of the endless opportunities that this new venture would offer. She says she supports their association so that it would be able to benefit others like her.
Jodelyn and her fellow beneficiaries are both given a gift and the responsibility to take good care of the store as it will take good care of them in the years to come.