She’s got it in the bag

Posted on June 29, 2023

Written by: Josephine Ramos

Lucila Datuin, a microentrepreneur from Bantay, Ilocos Sur, ensures that her business keeps up with the changes of time and the tourists.

Vigan City is a popular destination among tourists because of its notable preservation of the Hispanic-Filipino culture throughout time. Its vibrant tourism opens doors of business opportunities to many Ilocanos, including Lucila Datuin from Bantay, Ilocos Sur.

Lucila resided and completed her high school education in Ilocos Sur before deciding to pursue her college studies in Manila. She majored in business administration and later worked as a marketing staff in a restaurant.

She met her husband in Manila. They had two kids and spent 15 years together before he passed away. Realizing that she was all alone raising her kids in Manila, she decided to quit her job and come home to Ilocos Sur. Although she was born and raised in Ilocos, it was still difficult for her to start over because she had been away for a long time, and many things had already changed.

Sewing threads of hope

When she went back to Bantay, the first thing she did was look for a livelihood. She sold fish and street foods in their front yard. She was aware that her current income was insufficient to support the needs of her children, especially when she became a widow and a single mother to two children.

While selling fish, she noticed an abel cloth from a weaver passing by. She got the idea of turning it into bags. Without a second thought, she purchased two yards of abel cloth and produced six small bags.

After producing bags, her next step was to look for potential buyers. Lucila, who used to live in Manila, had yet to establish connections or a network in Vigan City. Rather than relying on her acquaintances and relatives, Lucila decided to go to souvenir shops and introduce her products to store owners.

Having no prior experience, she stumbled when she started her business in 2007. Her products often received criticism and negative feedback from store owners. Lucila lost count of the rejections she received but refused to lose heart. She remained firm as an emerging microentrepreneur. She tried other shops until she found one store willing to display her bags for consignment.

She eventually went back to the store to check on her bags. Fortunately, the travelers had shown interest in her crafts. It motivated her to work harder. In the following years, she learned that wallets made from abel and mats were the items in demand. Unable to handle the volume, Lucila hired staff to assist her in her business production.

She started with one staff until she hired more to meet the increasing orders. Lucila became the supplier of some of the top must-visits in Vigan, such as Heritage and Baluarte.

She learned to adapt to produce good quality products while matching the customers’ and travelers’ changing needs. Now, she also creates printed shirts, tote bags, and wallets.

Meeting the challenges of growth

Challenges continue to test Lucila. Her former employees created their own businesses and competed with her. She thinks it is always good to help and uplift others but not to the extent of imitating and owning her product designs. 

Her competitors also offered their copied products at lower prices in the market. With little choice left, she competed with their prices; otherwise, she would not generate any income. There is nothing more Lucila can do but adjust and innovate. She looked for other fabrics she used to create unique souvenir designs that set her items apart from others.

“I am of age; my creativity and imagination are not as active as before, but I will not let any of these problems dwindle my hard-earned business,” Datuin stated. Lucila prioritizes the needs of her customers as fast as she can. She always offers the best service for her clients as she continues to build loyalty. 

To date, Lucila has six staff in her manufacturing business. In the past, she started her dream using a simple portable machine. And in 2007, she bought her high-speed machine using her loan from CARD SME Bank, Inc.

Meet with success

Because of her passion and dedication, Lucila was recognized in the Galing ni Nanay Awards, a recognition given by CARD MRI for outstanding client entrepreneurs. In 2018, CARD MRI recognized her again as the Gawad Maunlad Awardee of Pagkilala sa Mga Likha ni Inay. 

In 2013, Lucila won Galing ni Nanay, a recognition given by CARD MRI for outstanding microentrepreneur clients of the organization. She was also a finalist in the 2018 Pagkilala sa Mga Likha ni Inay.

With her perseverance, she built two houses and two apartments. She also made land investments and acquired three vehicles used in delivering orders. 

Right now, her son assists her in business. He is the one who delivers their products to souvenir shops, while Lucila’s other child is working in Vigan City.

“Stay committed to your goals even if you feel like crumbling down with the harsh words thrown at you,” Lucila advises how to stay long in the business. In five years, she envisions her business having its distinct identity and trademark in Vigan City.