You might have shrugged this one often, but you should probably pay more attention to the things you leisurely do—whether it’s a simple hobby of stitching or just mindless doodling. Because sometimes these leisure activities might be your ticket to a once in a lifetime journey. Just like our next featured MSME, who did not expect how mushrooms could possibly turn her life a hundred and eighty degrees.
Ignited by the sheer curiosity of her husband, find out how she found her passion and how mushrooms set off a serendipitous pursuit in her life.
Out of sheer curiosity
A native Davaoeño, Gladys Barbosa chose to settle in the City of Golden Friendship soon after visiting and falling in love with it. A loving mother of two, Gladys wished nothing but to give a good life to her children. However, in spite of being a housewife, she did not confine herself inside the comfort of her home. Instead, she went out, extending a helping hand to people in need.
She is an active and proud member of the Inner Wheel Clubs of the Philippines, Inc. (IWC) – Uptown CDO. Aside from doing charity works, she also manages a small franchise of a known letson manok situated in Iponan.
It all started with the love of good hotpot at home. One day, after getting disappointed in an almost stale mushroom they found at a local supermarket for their supposed next hotpot meal, Gladys’ husband started to wonder out loud: “How do mushrooms grow?”
It’s a known fact that Gladys has a Green Thumb. It was an inborn talent she discovered way back in childhood. As she walked down the memory lane, she shared how her neighbours would often say “Hala, para siyang Lolo niya” after they’d see her tending to their crops and plants all-day -long in their farm in Samal Island.
After the initial thought of her husband, she soon was convinced to attend a mushroom growing seminar. Admittedly, she did not immediately understand the technicalities of the growing process until she accidentally stumbled on it herself. After completing her training, Gladys took care of her only fruiting bag. “Ginawan ko siya ng kurti-kurtina, dini-diligan ko ng ganyan—without me knowing it na namunga na pala siya.”
As she witnessed her first sprouts coming out, it motivated her to do more. “‘Yang bunga na yun ang nagpa-inspire sa akin na parang I can do more,” she continued.
Trained to train
With so much enthusiasm for her newly discovered passion, it wasn’t long until Gladys thought of venture into entrepreneurship. Establishing her brand, GLENALbee Mushroom Farm, Gladys also began offering orientation seminars on mushroom growing apart from her yields.
She began marketing within her IWC network, followed by her connections from parents in a university where her youngest has attended. Eventually, her market expanded outside those two circles—all thanks to word of mouth and social media.
Take note, by this point, she was only crossing her seven-month mark as a mushroom grower.
“Ma’am gaano ka na katagal?” a question trainees would often ask, and every time she answers “7 months” eyebrows would start raising. Who wouldn’t? In seven months, Gladys has transformed from a trainee to a trainer. Nonetheless, she spent a lot of hard work in establishing her credibility by effectively producing mushroom seeds—and a lot were amazed by her.
Wanting to make this venture work, Gladys also invested in traveling to tour around other mushroom farms in the country. She wanted to learn and know more, especially on large-scale productions. Going from Mindanao to Luzon, and even flew to Taiwan last April 2019 so she could study on their mushroom technology. Through these educational tours, she’s able to gather more ideas on how to prosper in the field.
Moreover, Gladys also enrolled in a 3-month free mentoring program offered by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) – X last May. The Enhanced Learning Business Session (ELBS) highlighted notable points on putting up and managing a business. And on July 19, Gladys graduated along with the other 17 participants.
It did not only help her financially, but Mushroom farming also gave her a sense of purpose through imparting what she knows.
A thing or two about mushrooms
“At the beginning, with sawdust, it wasn’t perfect at all—[puro] mali-mali,” Gladys said, recalling her first attempt on cultivation. But with patience, practice, and pamper, she soon harvested her yields.
“Small investment but the [sic] yielding is big.”
According to Gladys, the materials needed are not necessarily expensive. Especially since the sawdust here in Mindanao is free (compared to the Php 70/sack in Manila) and aspiring cultivators can use recyclable materials in making the fruiting bags. After four to six months, a farmer with a thousand fruiting bags roughly harvests around five kilos/day. To harvest good quality yields, Gladys recommends harvesting between four months and more than six months.
“Kailangan n’yong matutuo; you will not buy from me,” Gladys would highly encourage her participants to produce their own mushroom spawn seeds. Aside from reducing costly purchases, through this, Gladys could encourage more growers in the region.
Tips for mushroom care and maintenance:
- Mushroom needs moisture and high humidity.
- Besides lightning, another secret for mushrooms to bloom is to talk to them. Like any other plant trick, conversing stimulates growth.
Apart from conducting seminars and selling her raw yields, Gladys is now into mushroom food processing. So far, selling food products such as Flavored crunch, Atsara (Papaya relish), Chili paste, and Kimchi (a mushroom version of the famous Korean side dish).
More than just a proprietor
“Hindi ko alam… anong nangyari, Lord?” baffled, Gladys, until now, is still in disbelief on how mushrooms have shifted her way of living.
A year and four months later, the business did not only make her become financially afloat—it enabled her to help more people as well. Furthermore, Gladys found a more meaningful passion which she also found her comfort amidst the personal crisis she is currently facing.
For Gladys, this business is more than just profits. Through her mushroom seminars, it became a platform for her advocacy in empowering women—particularly to housewives who are financially dependent on abusive partners.
“Kahit sinasaktan ng mga asawa nila, hindi sila maka-alis sa kanilang kinalalagyan dahil sila ay financially dependent,” she noted. She hopes to give them the means for a financial source that could sustain their (and their children’s) needs without being dependent on an abusive partner.
This advocacy hit close to home and seeing her impact towards bettering these women’s lives ignites her will to persist, no matter what.
“Tu-turuan ko sila kung paano magkaroon ng direksyon,” she added.
Following her EBLS graduation, DTI has tapped Gladys in an initiative program to help former rebels to get back on their feet. “Gusto ko talaga […] pinag dasal ko yan, sabi ko ‘Lord, lead me to the poor farmers. So ‘eto na,” she said, the eagerness in her eyes shining. Through her mushroom growing seminars, these former rebels will have something that could sustain their living and an opportunity to have a good life. She conducted her first two-day session last September 13-14 and will be back for more.
Above all, a devoted mother
With all the good fortune that comes in (and out) of her life recently, Gladys’ main goal still focuses on one thing, and that’s for her to solely provide her children a good life.
“…at yung mga ginagawa ko, is not for me [but] for the good future of my children,” her voice cracked with heartfelt emotions. She toils, she empowers, she serves passionately towards helping the poor—all for an important deal she made with God.
“I will endure, Lord; I will persevere. But please give a good future for my children.”
For inquiries and orders, you can reach out to Gladys on Facebook Glenalbee Mushrooms Farm.