Tatak Pinoy

SKETCHES - Ana Marie Pamintuan - The Philippine Star

Everywhere I go in my part of town, coffee shops are opening it seems almost every week. Not major chain outlets, but mom-and-pop operations with hole-in-the-wall stands.

Unlike the ambulant food carts that offer three-in-one instant coffee by the roadside, the coffee stands offer brewed stuff, hot or cold or iced.

They are sprouting not only in middle-class enclaves but also in low-income communities and even in informal settlements, with clever names such as “Café Pindot.” One popular hole-in-the-wall along my route, without any table or chair for customers, offers a wide range of milk teas, hot or iced coffee with prices starting at P45, and fraps for P65.

These stands have become hangouts for students with a predilection for cold, sweetened coffee or milk tea, and office workers needing a caffeine fix. These are also micro pit stops for motorcycle riders.

Considering the prices, I’m guessing that the coffee for brewing is local, particularly the robust or “barako” varieties of Southern Tagalog.

Alongside the mushrooming of coffee stands, I’m pleased to see an explosion of new brands of “barako” ground coffee for brewing and beans now available in supermarkets, along with varieties from different provinces.

I’ve long enjoyed coffee produced in Lipa, Batangas and in the highlands of Kalinga, Benguet, Sagada and Malaybalay in Bukidnon. But now there are varieties from other provinces including in Sulu, Basilan and Tawi-Tawi.

These days, apart from the properly packaged stuff, which tends to be pricier, you can get good ground coffee for brewing at amazingly affordable prices in Tagaytay, Cavite. I’ve just finished a pack of a little known brand, BJB, in rudimentary packaging, which I bought at the Mahogany market in Tagaytay. It’s truly value for money.

There’s a better known brand in Cavite, but I’ve always found it too acidic, possibly from over-roasting. There’s a private sector-led group that has been assisting farmers in picking coffee berries at the best time, and then blending and roasting to prevent acidity even for the most robust products.

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Coffee came to my mind after President Marcos signed this week Republic Act 11981, the Tatak Pinoy (Proudly Filipino) Act.

“Tatak Pinoy is more than a branding exercise. It is about incubating and incentivizing great products that deserve to carry the Made in the Philippines trademark,” Marcos said at the signing ceremony.

A colleague aired what was on my mind: isn’t that what the government should be doing all along? Why is a law needed for this?

And she’s right. Other countries have been building up their national brand and supporting their local industries, farmers and agribusiness for the longest time, creating an ecosystem for encouraging creativity and innovation, and providing financial and other types of support for startups.

This has been done not only by the world’s leading economies the US, China, Germany and Japan, but also in much smaller states. Israel has an enviable innovation ecosystem that has given the world Waze, USB flash drives, drip irrigation and cherry tomatoes. Singapore invests heavily in its tiny human resource, and is among the most competitive states in the world.

We have world-class coffee beans and cacao; we should have been selling premium coffee and chocolate to the world a long time ago. Our highland farmers need assistance in producing and marketing organic specialty rice.

South Korea has become a global soft superpower, thanks to its hugely successful entertainment industry, for which the government earns billions of dollars in annual revenues. As most Pinoy hallyu fans know, those global superstars of K-pop and K-dramas get years of government-backed rigorous training before being presented to the world. These days South Korean cuisine, cosmetics and hairstyling have also gained global popularity.

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In our case, we should ask our innovators if they get enough support from the government. Microbiologist Dr. Raul Destura should be a billionaire by now after developing the first and only reliable Philippine-made reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction testing kit (remember the rT-PCR?) for COVID-19 at the height of the pandemic, which was cheaper than the imports.

The GenAmplify COVID detection kit of Destura’s Manila HealthTek, however, was largely bypassed by the government in favor of imports from China and the US.

Another microbiologist, Fil-Am Catholic priest Nicanor Austriaco, often sighed about the obstacle course he had to go through in his efforts to develop a yeast-based vaccine against COVID and related viruses. This was despite Father Nic being a balik-scientist.

Alongside promoting great products and services, there must be more effort to create an enabling environment for developing such products. Greatness or excellence isn’t achieved overnight.

There’s this saying – debunked as a myth by human resource experts – that one gains mastery of a skill after engaging in it for at least 10,000 hours. That’s 416.66 days. If one practices for eight hours straight each day, that’s nearly 1,250 days, or almost three-and-a-half years. With reasonable rest days and breaks, that should come to about six to seven years of sustained, dedicated training in a particular skill.

Even when the 10,000 hours are completed, there’s no guarantee of greatness, or exemplary performance. That’s where natural talent and genius come into play.

We need to develop a culture of excellence, putting an end to the puede na mindset.

This will require dealing decisively with the education crisis. You can’t foster the innovation and creativity needed for creating great products if Filipino 15-year-olds’ reading comprehension is limited to abbreviated text messages and emojis, and they can’t grasp basic math and science concepts.

Before you can offer “great products” that are proudly Philippine made, you need to invest in the producers, the nation’s human resource.

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