“Life-changing blessings from the Sea”
Every day Medelina wakes up to the sound of waves. Even before the sun rises, she is up and about. She starts her day as early as 4:00 am, sometimes even at 2:00 am, checking on her smoked fish, fanning and adjusting the flames, making sure it’s cooked just enough to maintain the distinct taste and quality of her products.
This was the life she lived for decades for her business to grow into what it is now. Coming from an impoverished home, she had to work for every cent as she did not live a comfortable life growing up.
Her parents struggled to feed and raise ten children, and Medelina, being the second eldest among the siblings, had to give up her education because they could not afford it.
“I only finished elementary because we were really poor, I also remember having bartered bread, and in turn, we’ll have fish for the day,” said Medelina as she recalls her past struggles.
“I remembered back when I was still a kid, around 13 years old, we used to work for a small smoked fish factory, we did not have a salary then, what we would get after a day’s job are “tinae” or fish intestines which would serve as our food,” shared Medelina.
She maintained an optimistic attitude despite the difficulties she has faced. She had never imagined that working in a smoked fish factory before would mean a life-changing experience for her.
“I observed and learned how to cook smoked fish while I was working there in our hometown in Capiz,” she said. Then, using her learnings and experience, she opened a dried and smoked-fish business. As the business grew, they would sell their products to local government offices in Capiz, Roxas; and even when she transferred to Hinigiran, Negros Occidental, she continued her business.
“The mayor of Hinigaran gave me financial assistance as I started to build my business here in Negros,” said Medelina.
Everything seemed to be going great until one day when she was faced with another trial which again tested her strength. All of her products caught fire when they had to leave for a business transaction in Bacolod City. This circumstance gave her no choice but to halt her operations temporarily because she had no capital to continue it.
Instead of drowning in sadness, she looked for ways to overcome her problems. She joined NWTF’s Project Dungganon, and with her first loan of Php 3,000, she restarted her business.
It was no easy feat for Medelina to rebuild her business while supporting her five children. At this time, she encountered personal hardships as people will speak badly of her just because she is trying her best to improve her life. But with Medelina’s humility, her drive to succeed, her spirit was not broken. Coupled with dedication and determination, she was able to recover slowly.
She is now in her 20th year with Project Dungganon, and her years of hard work and discipline have proven to have paid off. Medelina’s business has prospered, and she has started to venture into the exportation of some of her best-selling products abroad.
Her success can be attributed to her being hands-on with her business; she prepares, cooks, and makes her products, even at the age of 66. In addition, she shared that her love for her children fueled her desire to improve their lives and not let her children experience what she had to go through.
“They are my children, and I don’t want them to experience what I had to go through. That’s why I wanted them to finish school and provide them with a business of their own while I still can,” Medelina added. She also emphasized the importance of education as she even offered to support her grandchildren’s education, saying, “The best gift I can give them is education.”
Medelina has always put her family first in everything that she does. This includes her employees which she considers family, who have played a significant role in helping her and her business reach this point.
When the pandemic hit, Medelina’s business was also affected since border restrictions were everywhere in the first few months after the pandemic hit the country. But her operations never ceased since she is mainly into export now. Hence, all thirteen of her employees kept their jobs and provided for their respective families.
Medelina’s love for her family, employees, and purpose can be seen through the success she has achieved to date. Recently, she received a regional award for the Visayas for the 18 Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards last June 2021. This is in recognition of her success as a microentrepreneur.
All thanks to the long hours of working to better her business, she now can leave something behind for her loved ones, “as long as I can, I will continue to work hard for the ones I love, this business that I have is not for myself, it is for them.”