Huge flower-shaped pastillas featured in 11th Gatas ng Kalabaw Festival

A huge flower-shaped pastillas (milk candy) made from carabao’s milk was an unprecedented dairy product featured in this year’s Gatas ng Kalabaw (Carabao’s Milk) Festival held last August 9 at a gymnasium in San Jose City. 

The flower-like pastillas, measuring four feet in height and six feet in width, with a thickness of half inch, was made by the experts of the Philippine Carabao Center (PCC). It used 15 liters of carabao’s milk provided by the processing plant of PCC.

“We showcased this year a giant flower-shaped pastillas because this is one good way of promoting other dairy products from carabao’s milk. It is shaped like a flower in keeping with the city’s theme which is floral. People should also watch out for the other dairy products that we will be featuring in the coming years,” Wilma del Rosario, PCC-National Impact Zone coordinator, said. 

For the past two years, the “Gatas ng Kalabaw Festival” featured the biggest “kesong puti” which was also received well by the public. 

In partnership with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the annual “Gatas ng Kalabaw Festival” aims to promote carabao’s milk not only for its economic benefits but also for its important contribution to the health and nutrition of smallhold dairy farmers and their families as well as milk consumers in general.

The 11th edition of “Gatas ng Kalabaw Festival” was hosted by San Jose City, which coincided with its 48th charter anniversary. The celebration was showcased anew as the province continues to prove its unofficial claim as the “Dairy Capital of the Philippines.” 

Another highlight of the celebration was the symbolic “tagay pugay (toast of salutation)”, a simultaneous milk toasting and drinking featuring schoolchildren and representatives from partner private institutions and government agencies. It accentuated the significance of multi-sectoral efforts in the increased programs of the local dairy industry in Nueva Ecija.

On the other hand, DTI Regional Director for Region 3 Judith Angeles shared the support of their agency to the development of dairy industry. She said that the DTI has awarded equipment for processing and milking as part of its Shared Service Facility project to PCC’s 13 assisted dairy cooperatives in Nueva Ecija. 

“Carabao’s milk is a value-added product because it is not only sold as a beverage but can also be modified and enhanced to have a higher value like pastillas, the one that we showcased today. We need more pastillas makers as I witnessed a while ago that there have been a lot of people especially children who love pastillas which is made from carabao’s milk,” she said.

DTI Provincial Director Brigida Pili, meanwhile, made a pronouncement about the effort of the provincial government in getting the approval of the Philippine President to declare Nueva Ecija as the Dairy Capital of the country.  

“Why are we doing this? This is not only to recognize our province as the dairy capital of the country but for the people to be also aware of the nutritional value of carabao’s milk and the livelihood opportunities it brings to the smallhold dairy farmers. Through the livelihood projects of PCC, DTI, Department of Agrarian Reform, and LGUs, the lives of many farming families in Nueva Ecija have improved,” she stressed.  

Nueva Ecija is the National Impact Zone (NIZ) under the national Carabao Development Program (CDP) where all supports for a sustainable carabao-based enterprise are being modeled.

PCC Deputy Executive Director Felomino Mamuad underscored the challenge that the dairy industry is facing with regard to the low percentage of milk production in the country. He reechoed the DA secretary’s vision for the dairy industry that from 1%, the local milk production will rise by up to 10% in the next 5 years.

He also shared the plan of importing a number of dairy buffaloes and cattle next year to meet the challenge. In return, he asked the dairy farmers to help PCC improve and scale up forage production and feed resources for buffaloes. 

The yearly Gatas ng Kalabaw Festival is made possible through a technical working group participated in by DTI, PCC, Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), Department of Agriculture (DA) as well as the provincial and local government units. It will be hosted next year by PCC.