Church opens market for Cordillera’s small farmers, producers

BAGUIO CITY -– When in Baguio, a visit at the newly opened “Vincent’s Place” owned by the Catholic Church will allow one to buy Cordillera produced items which cannot be found anywhere else.

“The church is opening the gates for the marketing of products of small producers and farmers, which items are not available anywhere else in the region or the city,” said Edwin Jimenez, human resource officer of the Montañosa Pastoral Resource Corporation that manages the business venture of the Diocese of Baguio and Benguet.

He said Vincent’s Place, the newest business venture of the church, is a joint undertaking of the Diocese of Baguio and Benguet, Vicariate of Tabuk, Kalinga and the Vicariate of Bontoc-Lagawe, to serve as a showroom of the products from the community organizations that the church is helping.

“We get the products from the mission stations and bring them here to be sold. What is good here, there are no middlemen, thus the prices are affordable and competitive,” Jimenez said.

He said the church is coming up with business development ideas to create jobs and provide social upliftment opportunities. “We have just also opened a new department at the Montañosa Pastoral Resource Corporation that will come up with plans and projects which the church can fund to expand its assistance to the communities we are in,” Jimenez explained.

Vincent’s Place alone, a restaurant, café, bar and specialty shop in a three-storey structure that used to house the weaving activities of the women in the mid-1900s, employs 25 workers aside from those marketing the produce of the community groups being assisted. It also operates the Porta Vaga mall and the Puso ng Baguio building at Session Road, leasing spaces to shops and business entities.

Jimenez said they are also planning to put up at Vincent’s Place a Christian bookstore, clothing line boutique and a department store where locals can bring their products.

Ann Sinopen, Vincent’s Place manager, said the 25 employees of the establishment are all with Cordillera bloodline. With regard the food offered at the establishment, she said, “The experiences of our staff in their homes, the culture, the food added with the marketing expertise of consultants are brought together here for a Cordillera comfort food experience.

Native dishes like the “kiniing”, “pinuneg”, smoked meat and “pinikpikan” are available with a twist, and are not found anywhere else.

Sinopen added that all the coffee granules come from Ifugao, Mountain Province, Kalinga and Benguet. Even the vegetables are locally produced but are cooked with a twist inspired by an international and other region’s gastronomic specialties.

She said the operation is not purely business but is operating with community service in mind. “When you come here, you do not just experience a different kind of Cordillera food, but will help thousands of the people in the different communities where the three mission stations are located. This is our driving force and we will serve food flavors that are affordable with big portions.”

She added that the food offerings will surely bring back memories of the culture of the Igorot which has its distinct characteristic.

She mentioned of the honey-blend coffee, the ginger-honey wine and other especially created food items that will make one look for Vincent’s Place.

Crafts by local artists are also on display for sale at the specialty shop. The establishment itself is a showroom of artists with decorations, the chandelier, chairs and tables, including the woodcarvings.

Vincent’s Place is hoped to soon serve as a venue for a photo exhibit featuring the Cordillera culture, including photographs of weaving and farm workers in the region. Liza Agoot/PNA-northboundasia.com