1st Kalabaw Food Festival features Asingan co-op’s ‘nuang-derful’ journey

A farmers’ group in Asingan, Pangasinan with a starting capital of PHP10,000 managed to evolve into a thriving multimillion-peso co-op by venturing into carabao-based enterprises.

This is the “nuang-derful (a portmanteau of the words nuang or carabao and wonderful” transformation story of the Bantog Samahang Nayon Multi-Purpose Cooperative (BSNMPC), an assisted co-op of the DA-PCC at Don Mariano Marcos Memorial State University (DA-PCC at DMMMSU).

The BSNMPC’s transformative journey in the carabao industry was highlighted during the 1st Kalabaw Food Festival held on April 19-21 at the co-op’s newly established milk processing center and warehouse grounds.

The festival kicked off with a motorcade parade, showcasing the cooperative’s achievements. The event aimed to inspire the local community to embrace carabao production as a means to improve their livelihoods.

Established in 1973, the BSNMPC, formerly known as the Samahang Nayon Association, has faced numerous challenges over the years. However, the resilience and determination of its members have catapulted it into becoming a renowned cooperative in Pangasinan.

Fermin Jamias, one of the oldest members of the co-op, recounted their journey and mentioned their shift from an unsuccessful cattle venture to embracing carabao production. This transition was spurred by former DA-PCC at DMMMSU Center Director Gloria Dela Cruz, who, inspired by the late Senator Leticia Ramos Shahani’s challenge, encouraged them to venture into carabao production for the betterment of Asingan municipality.

From humble beginnings with a PHP10,000 capital, BSNMPC now boasts assets exceeding PHP100 million—a testament to their growth and success in the industry.

The festival’s highlights on the first day included the inauguration of the co-op’s new milk processing center and warehouse and a series of events such as a carabao dress-up competition, which showcases creatively styled animals, and a carabeef cooking contest, where the carabeef pastil emerged as a winning dish.

Rolly Mateo Sr., BSNMPC’s chairperson, expressed gratitude for the support of partner agencies, including the LGU of Asingan, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Education (DepEd), Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), DA-PCC, and Cooperative Development Authority (CDA), among others.

DA-PCC at DMMMSU Center Director Vilma Gagni reminisced about the cooperative’s history in carabao production. She noted that the original 25 headstocks were procured through Senator Ramon Magsaysay’s initiative, funded by the Department of Science and Technology on March 26, 2005.

Gagni acknowledged key contributors to the co-op’s success, including Senator Shahani, Secretary of Agrarian Reform Conrado Estrella III, Senator Cynthia Villar, and several government agencies such as the LGU of Asingan, CDA, DSWD, and DepEd.

Rowena Galang, OIC Chief of the DA-PCC Knowledge Management Division, emphasized the co-op’s achievements through strategic investments in facilities like the new milk processing center and warehouse.

Mateo, overwhelmed by the festival’s success, expressed joy in showcasing the significance of carabao’s milk.

“Napakasaya dahil dito namin naipakita ‘yong kahalagahan ng gatasang kalabaw kung saan marami na ang na-iinspire mag-alaga nito at naipaabot din namin ang pasasalamat sa mga katuwang naming iba’t ibang ahensya ng gobyerno,” he said.

The second day of the festival underscored the importance of milk with activities such as milk feeding, where attendees, particularly children, enjoyed chocolate milk and Karabuns. Mateo was delighted to see the children’s happy faces, hopeful that these experiences would influence them to become future role models.

Additional events on the second day included a nuang parade, a drum and lyre exhibition, a Zumba dance contest, and a raffle with a grand prize of a carabao, all aimed at promoting the cultural significance of carabaos in community development.

On the final day, the cooperative held a general assembly where newly elected officers were sworn in by CDA Representative Mylene Mazo. The meeting also covered discussions on project updates and plans for 2024.
The evening’s festivities wrapped up with dinner, singing, and a best dressed competition.