Subanons learn food service skills


New ability, lifelong employability

For Anabelle Combi, proper table setting and food serving were the least of her priorities in her daily grind. Making sure there’s food on the table for her family everyday took precedence over everything, as with most of the Subanon indigenous people of Canatuan, a remote mountain village east of Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte. But when she learned table setting and food serving in a workshop, Combi realized that she can use these new skills not only on her family’s dinner table, or whenever there are guests in their ancestral domain, but also if she decides to look for a job in a hotel or a restaurant outside Canatuan.

The first batch of participants work on their napkins during the hands-on training.

It is now clear to Combi and the 30 other members of the Siocon Subanon Women’s Association, Inc. (SSWAI), who recently attended a Basic Hotel and Restaurant Management (HRM) Skills Training Workshop, that their newfound skills have greatly improved their employability. And, these newly acquired skills will even outlive the life of the mine currently run in Canatuan by TVI Resource Development Philippines, Inc. (TVIRD), the sponsor of the workshop and, in recent years, the provider of many of the Subanon’s basic needs.

“Kahibalo na kami karon sa saktong pamaagi ug pamatasan sa pagsilbi kalabot na sa pagkaon lakip usab ang pag-andam ug pagpanindot sa talad kan-anan. Kining kahibalo nga among nabatonan karon dako kaayo kini’g ikatabang kanamo ilabi na kun kami mangita ug kapanginabuhian sa laing dapit (We now know the right way of serving food and of arranging the table. These skills that we have learned today could help us a lot when we look for jobs in other places),” said Combi, who is also president of SSWAI.

Subanon women ‘skirts’ the table with an elaborate butterfly design

The scarcity of livelihood opportunities and lack of education in, and the virtual inaccessibility of, Canatuan had fed a vicious cycle of poverty in this post-conflict zone in Southern Philippines. Things slowly changed for the better when in 2004 TVIRD began producing gold and silver in the area by virtue of a Mineral Production Sharing Agreement with the government and a Memorandum of Agreement with the Subanons. Since then, the company has been employing some 350 tribal folks, and implementing social development projects in the areas of education, infrastructure, health and sanitation, as well as livelihood for its indigenous hosts. Aware, though that it cannot provide the total needs of its host community and that the life of the mine is finite, TVIRD has intensified its efforts on programs that will ensure sustainable development – economically, socially, and environmentally.

Kitchen staff Melchora Sanchez demonstrates her newly acquired skill in table serving to trainer Orlan Manalac

The Basic HRM workshop forms part of TVIRD’s sustainable livelihood initiatives. Members of the Subanon community and the company’s kitchen staff were given hands-on training at the company clubhouse on napkin folding, table skirting, proper food serving, as well as personal appearance and good grooming.

Camp Supervisor Odyssey Wiliam Rico (standing, left) watches over trainees at work

“The workshop sought to equip the participants with the proper skills in dealing with people in the field of food serving. I believe these skills have helped boost the self-confidence of our typically shy Subanon hosts because they now know how to properly take care of dining guests,” TVIRD Canatuan Camp Supervisor Odyssey Rico, one of the workshop facilitators, said.

“Dili na kami karon maulaw moatubang ug mosilbi sa mga bisita sanglit kahibalo na kami unsaon (We are no longer ashamed to face and serve our visitors since we already know how to interact with them),” Combi added.

Some non-Subanon trainees from the kitchen staff who participated in the workshop were also thankful for, and excited about, their newfound skills. Melchora Sanchez said: “I will never forget this workshop. I’m happy with what I’ve just learned. It can help me improve on my work. It may even be my key to success in the food service industry someday.”

Dioscoro Jaoguin, another kitchen staffer, had people close to his heart in mind: “I can even surprise my own family with the skills I learned here, by making table arrangements at home!”

Now they can entertain their kith and kin with five-star quality service at home and at work with aplomb. Welcome to Hotel Canatuan.