“Magtrabaho ka lang…Nakikita naman ng Panginoon kung gusto mong umangat sa buhay.” (“Keep working…the Lord sees your desire for a better life.”) – Nanay Gemma

Gemma M. Austria has been a member of the TSPI Maunland Program since 2016. She took out a P100, 000 loan from the TSPI Lingayen Branch, and used it as additional capital for her sawali manufacturing/dealership business.

Nanay gemma learned the trade at a young age, her parents being employed in a sawali factory. She was barely out of high school when they died, compelling her to take on a job to survive. At eighteen she married, and together with her husband, started a sawali business using their wedding gifts to raise the P50, 000 capital. Today, Austria or Nanay Gemma has 25 to 30 regular clients. She delivers products weekly, fortnightly, or biannually, with no off-season. She has a supplier from Sual, Pangasinan, deliver “bolo” (the raw material) in five tranches in a month. She also hires “bolo” gatherers.

Workers who weave their own raw materials are paid Php 220 per finished piece. Those who weave materials provided by Nanay Gemma, receive Php 25-30 per piece/roll. She has only one competitor in her area – her wedding godmother-but they actually help each other in filling the gps in each other’s bulk orders.

With their profits, Nanay Gemma started a piggery which now has 20 hogs. They also rent out three hectares of farmland for rice planting. Persistence and hard work, with sacrifice, is her recipe for success. She isn’t easily discouraged bu a bad spell, such as when she cheated by a customer. Instead on dwelling on her losses, she tries to recoup them through her other businesses. 

She plans to expand in two years, and is preparing her children to take the reins of business.  Taking her cue from a client from Pampanga, she wants to explore coco lumber trading combined with sawali manufacturing. She plans to open this new business in San Carlos, Pangasinan.

In their community, Nanay Gemma may be the embodiment of progress, but she is also a model of simplicity and humility. Her neighbors are witnesses to her family’s success: they now live in a comfortable home built on a 1.5-hectare property. Her husband is a volunteer member of the Barangay Police and Tanod. In her heart, Nanay Gemma remains not much different from the “bolo” weavers. 

She believes, however, that for any endeavor to succeed, one needs education. It is the key to a better life and unlike financial capital, it cannot be stolen or lost. She has instilled this in her six children, two of whom have finished college already. One earned a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management (HRM) and the other in Business Administration.  She has even sponsored the education of two nephews, who are now working.

Above all, Nanay Gemma believes in the saying, “Habang may buhay, may pag-asa (as long as there’s life, there’s hope)”. She never forgets to thank God and call upon Him for guidance. “Kasi ang Panginoon, nakikita Niya kung gusto mong umangat sa buhay (God knows who is determined to improve his life),” she says.   

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