About 15 years ago, Victoria Sandidge decided to come back from the United States to start a venture that was inspired by her love for the countryside in Bohol.
“It started with a dream,” she said.
Sandidge owns and manages the Bohol Bee Farm Resort, a booming eco-tourist destination in Panglao Island, Bohol. Occupying about six hectares, the nature-inspired hideaway takes pride in its rural charm with its tree-covered landscape; nipa-roofed, wood-and-concrete-walled chalets; and a majestic seaside cliff along the south periphery of the resort premises. Down the rugged perch of the cliff sits a rustic restaurant offering healthy green cuisine against the backdrop of Panglao’s pristine waters.
Sandidge was a nurse who made good money in the US but she always dreamed of living a bucolic life in her sleepy village in Panglao.
“I came back because I still believe that, in our own country, we can still do something. We have to start believing. This is the way to go,” said Sandidge who took her two kids, 12 and 10 years old, with her when she flew back to the country.
She started small in 2002 with a restaurant in a canopied cottage and a modest two-room vacation inn manned by only four workers. An organic gardening hobbyist, she used the eatery to showcase her organic spreads, pastries, delicacies and other food items that used ingredients from her organic garden.
An increase in her clients prompted the upgrade of the Bohol Bee Farm’s production quality and efficiency. So she sought assistance from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Central Visayas office.
Having seen the huge potentials of the Bohol Bee Farm’s business, the Bohol Provincial Science and Technology Center (PSTC) provided Sandidge with funding and technical assistance in a partnership deal under the DOST’s Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program.
The assistance included, among others, training on basic food sanitation, hygiene and current good operation and manufacturing practices, as well as consultancy on food safety and manufacturing productivity.
The agency likewise provided technical assistance in product packaging and labeling, provision of food safety and good manufacturing practices (GMP)-compliant plant layout, and product development to address product shelf-life issues.
Years later, the Bohol Bee Farm introduced manually-produced organic ice cream product using natural ingredients from the farm. However, Sandidge’s factory barely produced 40 gallons of ice cream in a day from a 14-hour, two-shift work.
So Sandidge bought a second-hand ice cream machine from an Italian at a discounted price of P650,000.
Then again came the DOST intervention to save the day. Through the Bohol PSTC, the DOST helped the Bohol Bee Farm factory in the acquisition of a brand new modern ice cream machine and a blast freezer. This enabled the Bohol Bee Farm to increase its ice cream production rate by 70 percent.
“Whereas before we can only produce only around 40 gallons a day, now we can produce 200 to 250 gallons a day. And now we have seven branches,” Sandidge said. The factory also developed new product lines and penetrated new markets in Bohol province and Cebu City.
Today, the resort’s also prides itself from its delectable organic ice cream, spreads, pastries, delicacies, and other interesting products whose qualities the DOST helped raise to excellent standards.
But what makes the eco-resort cum factory special is the nobility of Sandige’s intentions behind the business, because she places social responsibility and ecological sustainability above profit.
Sandidge also employs villagers and their dependents to give back her blessings to the community. Today, the resort has 423 workers.
“Success is not all about material things you have. Success is deeper than that. Success is about helping others,” she said.
Because of its success, the Bohol Bee Farm became a recipient of numerous prestigious awards.
Sandidge has also kept faith in herself and her country, even if her parents tried to dissuade her from going home.
“But as long as you believe, that thing you believe in can grow,” she said.