FEU project drives economic empowerment for Batangas women

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FEU Head Chemist Jim Cruz teaching women of Quilitisan how to make Amparo soap.

Far Eastern University (FEU) is an active partner of the women of Brgy. Quilitisan, Calatagan, Batangas in the production of Amparo, a handmade soap showcasing beneficial cleansing action and local tropical scents.

Amparo is part of Project Calatagan, a capacity-building program implemented by the FEU Community Extension Services (CES) to drive economic and agricultural sustainability, natural resources management, eco-tourism, and various health-related, socio-political, and psycho-educational development programs.

The university’s CES endorses four variants of Amparo, namely Local Fusion, Earthy Floral, Summer Fresh, and Morning Fresh.

“The women of the community will be provided with a wage rate for every piece of Amparo soap produced,” said CES Director Dr. Luzelle Anne Ormita. “Since most of these partners are homemakers, this is an opportunity for them to have an alternative source of income without having to leave their homes. We hope that this will be a step for them toward economic empowerment.”

Taking a research-based approach is a key component to FEU’s community extension projects. Rather than one-shot volunteer activities, the university focuses on creating long-term, sustainable impact that is anchored on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

With Amparo, FEU aims to provide decent work and economic growth to the Brgy. Quilitisan community in adherence to the United Nations SDG 8. Other projects for the community are the organization of the Quilitisan Cooperative and the mushroom cultivation in the area (SDG 2 and 15), all of which pave the path toward building sustainable cities and communities (SDG 11).

Spearheaded by Jacqueline Marjorie Pereda, CES leader of Project Calatagan, the production of Amparo involved a holistic approach that included various training sessions, ongoing quality control measures, and a commitment to continuous process improvement.

The product name Amparo was given by Graciel Lintag of the Academic Affairs Office with respect to the first name of the spouse of FEU founder Nicanor Reyes, Sr.

The actual production began in November 2023. Head chemist Jim Cruz formulated the soap in the FEU laboratory through a series of trials and consecutive consultations with various university departments.

The Spanish word amparo also means “refuge” or “shelter,” which is what the partnership project wishes to offer to the women of Calatagan.

“Our community partners were given hands-on workshops on safety and proper handling of chemicals as part of their training process,” said Ms. Pereda. “Their active participation gained them valuable skills that translate into income-generating opportunities, leaving a spirit of confidence and self-reliance.”

According to Precious Gonzales, one of the soap makers from Barangay Quilitisan, the program has been a great help to them. Aside from the financial gain, she was able to expand her knowledge. Like her, the women became more interested to learn not just about soap making, but also the other livelihood activities that they do together.

Aside from Project Calatagan, FEU also maintains other community extension projects such as Project HOPE (Harnessing Offenders’ Personal Empowerment), which aims for holistic services for women deprived of liberty; Project Mangyan, which aims to improve the living conditions of the indigenous peoples in Occidental Mindoro; and Project SAM, a collaboration with San Agustin Museum to preserve Filipino cultural heritage.