Couple Takes Pride In Preserving Ifugaoís Heritage
Lolly Cabbigat is an Igorot who hails from Alfonso Castaneda, Nueva Vizcaya. She and her husband Jonathan managed Four H Handicraft, a woodcraft business that showcases Igorot skills and artistry.

A talented wood carver and carpenter, Jonathan handles the production aspect while Lolly takes care of marketing operation of the business. "We decided to go into this kind of business because we also want to preserve the unique cultural heritage of the Igorots," says Lolly.

Lolly has a keen eye and feel that she is always a recipient of Godís blessings. She considered it God's gift when she acquired a market stall in CP CASECNAN- a business site in Baguio where local products are sold by many producers and artisans. The availability of a wide range of local products attract many local and foreign tourists. This in turn makes sales brisk. Itís a joy to behold.

Lolly likewise credits the location of their house as a blessing. Being near the forest and river, they enjoy a steady supply of driftwood from the river and branch cuttings from trees in the forest. As good business practice, they refrain from cutting tree branches and destroying the forest.

They buy from suppliers duly accredited by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). According to Lolly, this is their way of contributing to environmental sustainability.

During the peak season or from August to April, Lolly and Jonathan earns an average monthly income of P60,000 to P70,000 a month. While during off season or from May to July, their income averages from P15,000 a month.

The couple also credits the success of the business to their skilled and dependable workers whose adherence to quality enable them the timely delivery of orders to satisfy customers from Baler and Baguio.

Amidst trials, Lolly still finds the Lord's hand protecting and guiding them. When Baguio was declared as meningococcemia-infected, the tourism industry nearly shut down and business plunged heavily. Nearly bankrupt, Lolly was welcomed by ASKI in 2006.

With her first loan of P5,000 under the Alalay Sa Kabuhayan Program, Lolly was able to sustain the business. Soon after, the business climate improved and opportunities to join trade fairs and bazaars followed,thus opening doors for a wider market. Never losing faith in God, she makes the most of opportunities when they come knocking.

Because of her good credit record with ASKI, Lolly became eligible to a P25,000 housing repair loan. She used the money to improve her stockroom and house.

All these opportunities, combined with hard work and good stewardship, brought yet another wonderful blessing to Lolly. In 2009, she was recognized as Luzon Microentrepreneur of the Year Awardee Masikap Category sponsored by Citi Foundation, Citi Philippines, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and the Microfinance Council of the Philippines, Inc. On top of this recognition was a substantial cash prize of P100,000.

"I used the cash prize to buy parcel of land to build a bigger shop and warehouse for the business. With this expansion, I hope to employ more people and provide them the chance to earn a living and learn the skill of wood carving and carpentry," Lolly shares.

Currently, they have three stores, in Nueva Vizcaya, Cabanatuan City and Sta. Rosa in Nueva Ecija. They are also a regular exhibitors during trade fairs in SM Mall of Asia, SM Megatrade Hall, Ayala Town Center, Festival Mall and many more.

Lolly and Jonathan give back all the blessings they receive by generously sharing them to others. Among the workers for instance, one has managed to set up his own furniture shop after getting the needed experience and training from Jonathan. "We are happy for him," relates Jonathan and Lolly.

Two family members have been provided education from elementary to the completion of two-year vocational courses. Lolly is now sending to school a poor teenager from her community.

Lolly likewise finds time for community services. She is currently the Vice President of Ifugao Environmental and Cultural Preservation Society which works for the preservation of Igorot customs and traditions; a volunteer teacher, teaching literacy courses to out-of-school youth and adults; and Barangay Councilor at Barangay Lublub who makes valuable contributions through ordinances.

In Lolly and Jonathan, being successful does not only mean fame, money and power, it is about having a heart that shares and cares.
"We decided to go into this kind of business because we also want to preserve the unique cultural heritage of the Igorots."
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