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FPRDI technologies benefit Abra couple

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Barangay Bacsil was once a sleepy barrio in the northern town of Bangued, Abra. Today, it is alive with activity, thanks to the hard work and adventurous spirit of Mr. Romeo Balbin, Jr. and his wife Natividad.

For several years now, the Balbins have been doing their hometown proud by manufacturing world class wood furniture, builders’ woodworks, bamboo home furnishings and mixed media handicrafts, and winning a slew of awards on the side. All of these directly or indirectly benefit the people of Barangay Bacsil where the Balbins’ factory is located.

“We started as a partner in a big logging firm in 1986 but we eventually went into furniture production when we realized that Abra is very rich in raw materials that we can make use of,” discloses Mr. Balbin.

“Today, we make all kinds of products – dining sets, sala sets, beds, China cabinets, TV racks, coffee tables, office tables, doors, door jambs, moldings and narra planks for floors. Our bamboo products include tiles, placemats, trays, coaster hot pads, umbrella stands, CD racks and hampers. We also make novelty packaging materials from local grasses and plants that abound in the province.”

Thru the years, the challenges of the business seemed to have brought out the best of the Balbin couple’s artistic, managerial and marketing talents.

Says Mrs. Balbin, “From 1994 to 2005, we were named four times the Top Seller in the Furniture Sector in the National Trade Fairs of the Department of Trade and Industry. We also received the same award in the National Economic Enterprise Development Trade Fair and the “Impakabsat” Regional Trade Fair.

“Getting recognized was very exciting for us,” she continues, “but our breakthrough came when we acquired the furnace-type lumber dryer (FTLD) of the Forest Products Research and Development Institute (FPRDI) as well as different bamboo processing equipment in 2005.”

Mr. Balbin adds, “With help from the Department of Science and Technology’s Small and Medium Enterprises Technology Upgrading Program (DOST-SETUP) and FPRDI, we were able to install a 3,000 board foot-capacity dryer which solved our big problem with molds and fungi attacking our raw materials. The dryer, as well as three kinds of modern bamboo processing equipment, enabled us to make better quality products faster and at lower cost.  As a result, our volume of rejects went down, product prices went up and our income ballooned by 30%.

“We were able to expand our operations, hire more workers and hike their wages. Today, 22 regular workers and 900 sub-contractors work for us. Before we had the FTLD, we hired only 12 regulars and 180 part-time workers. With bigger operations, we opened new market outlets both here and abroad, especially in the US, Italy and Canada.”

All their success notwithstanding, the Balbins show no signs of slowing down.

“We want to keep learning about the latest technologies that we can use in the business,” says Mrs. Balbin. “You can’t stay in the game unless you are a tireless learner and are willing to take risks. You have to constantly innovate, to come up with designs or product lines so that you always have something fresh to offer the market.”

Right now, the couple is studying the possibility of making engineered bamboo school desks for the Department of Education.

Mr. Balbin closes, “In all our ventures, we are happy that we have friends such as the DOST and FPRDI  whom we can count on to help solve our technical problems.” (Rizalina K. Araral, 27 January 2011)#

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