A former OFW who worked for nine years in Abu Dhabi as a salesgirl in a perfume gallery has finally found her goldmine in her native Davao City. And she said she would never go back to work abroad again because she has found growing a family of flowering plants more lucrative.
She is Shelalane dela Cruz Custodio, 41, who is making very good income from growing hibiscus or gumamela. Gumamela? Yes, it is also known as Hibiscus which many people often take for granted. Friends and acquaintances were also unbelieving when she told them that she is specializing in gumamela as a source of livelihood. They usually told her there’s nothing very special about gumamelas. But when she showed the flowers stored in her cellphone, they would be amazed because she has now a collection of 400 varieties with flowers of various hues. One has metallic blue flower while others have black, orange, red and a wide variety of color combinations.
Shelalane with her First Lady hibiscus with big flower.
It was only in 2015 when she discovered her goldmine. After she arrived in 2012, she started a meatshop business but nothing happened. She then tried selling dry goods and just the same, it was a losing proposition.
When her family transferred from Agdao district to Mintal, she got interested in gardening because the families in Mintal grew ornamentals and fruit trees as their source of income. She did not want to grow the same plants that the neighbors were planting. She thought of gumamela because she was fascinated by what she saw from the YouTube. She joined a chat group of Gumamela Lovers that numbered hundreds of thousands around the world.
She just started with 10 varieties as her mother plants. But then her collection grew very fast because she was able to source new varieties through the Internet. She became good friends of gumamela aficionados who sold or exchanged their varieties with her. She acquired seeds as well as rooted cuttings from India, Taiwan, Hawaii and many other foreign places.
She is very upbeat with a variety from Taiwan which she calls Lucky 13. This produces big predominantly yellow flowers. Why the name Lucky 13? Well, a Taiwanese friend gifted her with 13 seeds which she planted. Out of the 13, only one survived and hence the name. She posted the flower of Lucky 13 in Facebook and soon a lot of chat friends have placed orders for rooted cuttings.
Shelalane usually sells her rooted cuttings at P150 apiece. These are produced in a matter of three months. The cuttings are rooted in paper coffee cups using rooting media of fresh rice hull, carbonized rice hull and coconut fiber with peat. The cuttings are covered with transparent plastic and paced under the shade of trees. In one month, the cuttings would be fully rooted and their plastic cover is removed. The cuttings are then hardened for a month or two and would be ready to go to market. She sells a lot of rooted cuttings online. But she also sells big plants in containers for P700 to P1,500 each, depending on the variety.
At the agri trade show, Shelalane entered one of her favorite varieties in the flowering plant competition and easily won first prize in its category. This is the Acapulco Gold she obtained from the United States. Her stocks of plants in bloom as well as rooted cuttings sold like the proverbial hotcake at the trade show. We interviewed her on August 15 and when we asked her how much she sold the day before, she said it was at least P20,000.
Her dream now is to develop her own hybrid that could become the pride of Davao. She has learned to breed hibiscus which she says is easy. By the way, her know how in hibiscus propagation and breeding were acquired through her own research largely from the internet and from exchanges of experiences with members of her chat group. She enrolled in college but quit without finishing the full year because she got married. After that, she went to work abroad only to find out later that her goldmine is right here in her native Davao City.