The Flavorful Journey of Elisha Bay Dagupan Bangus and Seafoods
In the Philippines, bangus (milkfish) is more than just a fish—it’s the nation’s pride and a staple ingredient in countless traditional Filipino dishes. And when it comes to bangus, Dagupan City stands out as the destination for the freshest and most exceptional catch.
At the heart of this city is Elisha Bay Dagupan Bangus and Seafoods, an innovative micro and community-based enterprise that has introduced a savory twist on our national fish. But Elisha Bay isn’t just about tantalizing taste buds. It’s a story of social entrepreneurship and providing opportunities for the local community.
Elisha Bay was founded by power couple Raiisa and Randy Vargas, who named the enterprise after their beloved daughter, Elisha Randy.
Both Raiisa and Randy are proud graduates of fisheries from the University of the Philippines. But their entrepreneurial spirit didn’t awaken right after their studies. Randy embarked on a path of public service, while Raiisa found herself working for Jollibee Food Corporation.
However, everything changed in 2016 when they had the chance to explore all the 31 barangays of Dagupan City. They couldn’t help but notice the abundance of backyard bangus processing businesses in almost every village. It was like a neon sign pointing to a goldmine of potential in the bangus market. This realization was reinforced by a friend, a local bangus processor, who attested to the high demand for such products.
Fueled by the promise of a thriving market and their advocacy for gender and development, the couple decided to venture into the world of fish processing and engaging their community.
The couple transformed an old house into a dedicated processing area and assembled a team of five individuals who share a passion for their work. This diverse team includes two differently-abled individuals and three housewives.
To ensure their team is well-prepared, they arranged for their employees to receive comprehensive training from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Dagupan City Agriculture Office. This training equipped them with the necessary skills and knowledge in fish processing.
Their first product, gourmet flavored bangus, received a resounding thumbs-up from their friends. “It so happened that they liked the products, so we thought that this is not just an advocacy, but it could also be a source of income and at the same time, it could provide jobs, so we decided to continue,” Raiisa shared.
Elisha Bay’s product line showcases their culinary creativity by providing a diverse selection of flavors that incorporate local and international flavors and cater to a variety of palates.
They produce six (6) variants of gourmet deboned bangus, including Pesto, Spicy Masala, Hainanese, Asian Steak, Garlic in Sukang Iloko, and Chili-Garlic in Sukang Iloko.
Additionally, their gourmet bottled bangus is available in seven (7) flavors, including Fresh Basil Pesto, Pinoy Adobo, Portuguese Style (Spicy), Hawaiian Style, Bangus with Turmeric, Bangus with Sun Dried Tomatoes, and Bangus with Tomato Sauce. They also offer three (3) gourmet tuyo variants: Tuyo Delizioso (Portuguese Style), Ba-Yo (a combination of Bangus and Tuyo in one bottle), and Tuyo in Pesto Sauce.
Expansion and global reach
In 2018, the Vargas power couple reached another remarkable milestone. They applied for the Department of Science and Technology’s Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program (SETUP). And guess what? They hit the jackpot again! They secured an interest-free loan of PhP269,530, which propelled their business to new heights. With upgraded equipment, they were ready to expand their operations.
With their increased production capacity, Elisha Bay ventured into the international market. They formed strategic partnerships with consolidators, making their products a regular export to the United States, Japan, and Australia.
To further enhance their skills and capabilities, Elisha Bay is currently participating in the incubation program of the Don Mariano Marcos Memorial State University Agri-Aqua Technology Business Incubator (DMMMSU ATBI). The enterprise is also receiving valuable mentoring support from the University of the Philippines Institute for Small-Scale Industries (UP ISSI).
Today, Elisha Bay stands tall as a testament of humble beginnings and unwavering determination. As they continue to expand, the Vargas couple remains true to their vision: to create jobs and uplift their community through a business that values quality, taste, and social responsibility.
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