We traveled to Bacolod, a small city in Negros, to meet with members of Sagup Negros, a social enterprise initiative focused on creating a model for the reduction of food waste from the wholesale market.
The group’s activities are supported in part by De La Salle University (where we are visiting faculty) as part of their social entrepreneurship program: Lasallian Social Enterprise for Economic Development (LSEED) Center. In addition to our host, Jazmin Llana, we were accompanied on the trip by LSEED founding director Norby Salonga and project coordinator Paula Saldivar. One of the many highlights of the trip was listening to the impassioned and thoughtful remarks by Norby (who the students call Sir Norby) about what it takes for social enterprises to succeed.
Sagup (“rescue”) Negros is one of a dozen initiatives that won grants from LSEED for new projects during 2020. The team leaders are an inspiring group of recent college graduates (and current students) from the University of St. La Salle in Bacolod who had already been working together on a very successful initiative called Youth Empowering Youth. The leadership team at Sagup Negros includes Awit, Eric, Franz, Renna, Roderick, Ted. They are supported by a cadre of student volunteers. They all live together in a house where they cook, compost, and serve meals to the public.
We joined the group for a full cycle of their activities and were very impressed with their creativity, passion, and dedication. They speak eloquently about their motives and goals, and with a directness that’s refreshing; there’s neither a lot of business jargon nor ungrounded social theory, rather a sense of clarity about the immediate situation and their near-term goals. It’s the sort of group you’d use the word “inspiring” to describe, except that term seems a bit vacuous. They’re the real deal.
Our visit began with a presentation outlining the goals and practices of the group. Here’s a link to their video on Facebook followed by another link to the same video file:
Carinderias are a common food service structure in the Philippines, often located at the front of residences or at markets, where a range of dishes is displayed and served to order. Sagup Negros’ carinderia attracts neighborhood residents and local students.
The meals rotate between about 20 different options depending on available ingredients. On the day we visited, they offered a choice of Breaded Tuloy (mackeral) Filet and Stir Fried Tofu and this Bacolod speciality:
Manok Sa Ubad Na May Monggo (chicken and banana stem with mung beans) a Bacolod speciality Saute garlic, onion, and organic native chicken in vegetable oil. Add mung beans, water, tomato, and lemon grass. Boil until mung beans are soft and water is absorbed.
Vegetable Lumpiang (egg rolls) Sauté singkamas (turnips), karot (carrots), sayote (chayote), and baguio (green beans). Place a tablespoon of the mix at the center of each wrapper and then roll. Deep fry.
Sawsawan (sauce) Tuba (coconut vinegar) Red Chili Peppers Brown Sugar Garlic
Lumpiang are the carinderia’s “best seller” and are offered everyday.
Wrappers for lumpia are sold in the wet market alongside produce. They are thin crepes that can be difficult to separate and often tear. Although we have rolled hundreds (maybe thousands) of spring rolls in our lives, we did learn a new trick from the Sagup Negros chef which was to lay small pieces of the torn wrappers in the middle of the wrapper before rolling.
…where we see first hand the volume of unsold produce that would be landfilled if not rescued.
Bokashi composting is a method that works by fermentation rather than decomposition, and it’s managed anaerobically in airtight vessels inoculated by lactobacilli (at Sagup they use small amounts of a commercially available inoculated rice bran). The process yields a rich liquid “tea” while underway and the finished solids can be used directly in the soil. When it works right, this process produces almost no methane and CO2, greenhouse gases that are a byproduct of even efficient aerobic composting.
It’s important to say that what Sagup Negros has created is a prototype. Its financial viability depends on a large amount of volunteer labor–only the chef is paid. They are able to process vegetable food waste from only four vendors at this time, though more are interested.
The primary motivation for Sagup Negros is concern about green house gases produced by rotting food that is landfilled or improperly composted. They also aim to improve the livelihoods of their vendor participants and build community. They are not, to date, providing meals to people who don’t have enough to eat. This, however, is an interest of the group, and was part of their initial grant application.
We are that we return to Bacolod at some point and work with Sagup Negros to do some kind of prototype event in which we underwrite the costs of preparing a meal that is for people who are defined as “hungry.” In addition to providing bowls, aprons, and labor, we’d like to pay all the workers, not just the chef. Whether they continued to develop on this model or not, we hope to make an event that is celebratory, convivial, and full of learning.
Interestingly, we also have another connection at USL, where on the day before our visit with Sagrup Negros, we attended a production there directed by Jazmin’s friend Tanya Lopez–a FIlipino adaptation of Waiting for Godot that was part of the Viva Europa 2022 Festival. We’re proposing to the arts community we know there that our event with Sagup Negros involve their participation in crafting the parts that go beyond the meal service itself.
Of all the potential collaborations we have explored, the opportunities in Bacolod seem the most accessible for our art work. We wonder if it is simply the individuals involved or whether, perhaps, it is the scale of the city, which is neither tiny and rural (like Lian) and an enormous metropolis (like Manila). Rather, Bacolod is roughly the size of Milwaukee, large enough to have a vibrant arts community but small enough that everyone in it knows (of) one another.