If you are riding in a bus from Batangas, vendors will surely offer this delicacy to you. Packed inside a white box with the name EMELDA, the sweet tamarind. The last time I bought was last month and it costs 3 pcs for 100 pesos. Not bad for a very good Batangas delicacy.
Below is a story I got from site www.agribusinessweek.com
The year was 1967. Emelda Garcia, now the owner and the proprietor of the business-running from one generation to the other, described how the brand name “Emelda’s Sweet Tamarind” all started: “Matagal na `tong business na `to. Nag-stop sya nung 1984 kasi wala nang tumutulong sa nanay ko nun. Sa bahay lang namin ginagawa lahat. Then, mag nag-kinder na yung eldest ko, we decided to cook something no pinatikim nya sa mga kaklase nya. ‘Di nagtagal, umoorder na mga tao sa kanya. Hinahanap-hanap na nila `yung sampalok. Ipapadala daw sa mga kamag-anak nila.
And everything else, as we all know, is history. Garcia then decided to contact the same supplier her mother hired to do the boxes for the delicacy. She looked for the old design that the people associated the business with, and by 2003, the almost 30 year old family business went back to its feet.
Three years after, Emelda received a phone call from the Department of Science and Technology asking her to join this year’s International Food Expo (IFEX) at the World Trade Center. She and her sweet boxes of tamarind were identified to join the ranks of globally competitive and first-class products that graced the yearly event.
At the IFEX Expo where we met the cheerful Emelda, we asked her what she thinks remains the ultimate ingredient in her product. What really separates “Emelda” from the others? After all, in Batangas, where tamarind is basically one of their specialties, it’s quite hard to be looked at as something more than just a Batangeno businessman. She said, “Super daming sampalok sa Batangas. Sa Dagatan, Taysan at Lobo. ‘Yung tamarind balls, nakaka-produce kami ng mga 4o kilos. ‘Yung sweet tamarind, 2o kilos, seedless. Pag may seeds, 40 kilos. Kasama na ‘dun sa 40 kilos ang iba’t ibang flavors.”
She wasn’t at all hesitant to say that it requires nothing more than brown sugar, tamarind and salt to prepare their product. The tamarind balls require sugar, salt, flour and chili, if the customers call for it. They use labuyo to make it sizzle, Filipino style. She always supervises the production and makes sure that the ratio is 1:1-one kilo of tamarind, one kilo of sugar.
To preserve tamarinds for future use, they may be merely shelled, layered with sugar in boxes or pressed into tight balls and covered with cloth and kept in a cool, dry place. For shipment to processors, tamarinds may be shelled, layered with sugar in barrels and covered with boiling syrup. To store for long periods, the blocks of pulp may be first steamed or sun-dried for several days.
Her suppliers of tamarind from the other side of Batangas are also his brothers, which doesn’t really entail cheaper costs but rather an assurance of regularity and quality on the tamarind that they are delivering to her. Indeed, “Emelda” has ran from one generation to another, sweetly.
Tamarinds may be left on the tree for as long as six months after maturity so that the moisture content will be reduced to 20% or lower. Fruits for immediate processing are often harvested by pulling the pod away from the stalk that is left with the long, longitudinal fibers attached. Harvesters may merely shake the branches to cause mature fruits to fall and they leave the remainder to fall naturally when ripe. Pickers are not allowed to knock the fruits off with poles, as this would damage developing leaves and flowers. To keep the fruit intact for marketing, the stalks must be clipped from the branches so as not to damage the shell.
She continued, “Iniipon pa nila ‘yan bago ibigay sa akin. Seasonal lang kasi ang tamarind. Minsan April to October lang. Minsan nasa January to May lang. Kaya they make sure may stock before the season ends. Nag-iimbak sila ng marami para sure and at the same time, para assured ang business ko na mayroong tamarind all throughout the year.”
When hard times hit, like that time last year when typhoon Caloy struck, she had to mark up three times its usual price because of a shortage in supply. She said, “I always make sure di ako lugi. ‘Nung na-wash out lahat ng sampalok `nun, I had to make sure nagbebenta pa rin ako ng may tubo at so far, wala pa naman akong lugi. The real secret remains on how you handle the business. You have to know how to maximize everything you have, may it be manpower, ingredients, raw materials.”
The magic happens in their house. For years, she and her mother had always prepared their products in the very same kitchen where they prepare their dinners. But when the bigger orders started coming in, they decided to build a mediumsized cottage where the business could finally blossom to its maximum potential. On balance, the kitchen inside the house was starting to get very messy that’s when she saw the need to expand.
And for more years to come, she sees the business growing. Now that they’ve penetrated supermarkets and supplying other businesses with tamarind under different names, she sees nothing less than sweet opportunities for “Emelda’s Sweet Tamarind.” She said, “We plan to expand further, palakasin at mas pagandahin pa `tong lahat.”