How ‘crazy’ saved PH cinnamon | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Chocolate syrup from cinnamon coco sugar, tableas and plant milk


How ‘crazy’ saved PH cinnamon
Chocolate syrup from cinnamon coco sugar, tableas and plant milk.

Nike’s “Dream Crazier” campaign targets women who dream big. In the ad, tennis superstar Serena Williams enumerates clichés against women: “If we show emotion, we’re called dramatic. If we want to play against men, we’re nuts. And if we dream of equal opportunity, we’re delusional. When we stand for something we’re unhinged. When we’re too good, there’s something wrong with us. And if we get angry, we’re hysterical, irrational or just plain crazy.”

After a montage of women’s spectacular feats in sports, Williams says, “So if they want to call you crazy? Fine. Show them what crazy can do.”

November G. Canieso-Yeo, founder of Plantsville Health and chief champion for the Philippine cinnamon, posted a clip of this commercial on social media with the caption, “I was told I was crazy for building a business, risking my savings on a vanishing species, Philippine cinnamon, in an industry that’s been dead in the country for 200 years. In a national business forum, a speaker said I didn’t have a business, just an advocacy—in short, delusional—because I gave feedback that his jokes were demeaning to women.”

Social entrepreneur

Today, her company Home Organic PH-Plantsville Health has a protocol to propagate the Philippine cinnamon in the thousands. A nongovernmental organization signed a memorandum of agreement to replicate Canieso-Yeo’s Negros model in Luzon. A Silicon Valley group made an offer to invest. She’s also made a third shipment to the United States. Her products are available at The Marketplace (formerly Rustan’s), Roots Collective, Association of Negros Producers, One Town, One Product (at Ayala Capitol Central) and on the Plantsville Health website.

“Our food processing facility is registered with the Philippine and US Food and Drug Administrations, and we just fired up our 200-kg distiller. Our GMP-compliant (“good manufacturing practices”) nonfood processing facility is ready. We will start producing a trial product for the nation’s largest pharmaceutical company by market share,” she said. “We will save the Philippine cinnamon, reforest, engage farmers and resurrect an industry that’s supposedly been dead for 200 years. Indeed, ‘Show them what crazy can do.’”

The Philippines imports 98 percent of its cinnamon. In 2017, Canieso-Yeo discovered that the country has 21 native species of cinnamon, 20 of which are endangered. Seeing opportunities for business and impact, she now produces and sells seedlings, bark chips, cinnamon coco sugar, essential oils, aromatic water, natural sanitizer and massage oils.

Before becoming the nation’s cinnamon savior, Canieso-Yeo graduated cum laude in Development Economics and International Development from University of Saint La Salle. She put her Master in Business Administration degree from the Asian Institute of Management to good use with 12 years of managerial experience in sales, marketing and business development in top 10 Philippine companies.

Cinnamon leaves.
Cinnamon leaves

In 2017, the social entrepreneur returned to Bacolod City to lead the conservation of Philippine cinnamon in Negros Occidental in partnership with a farmers’ federation. The farmers had Philippine cinnamon trees on their land but did not know its value. Some even cut the trees to make charcoal. After educating the farmers and getting them on board, Canieso-Yeo sought funding from the municipality of Don Salvador Benedicto’s local government unit. From 50 remaining trees in 2017, the farmers had planted 14,133 seedlings by 2019.

Canieso-Yeo hopes to introduce other business models to motivate the farmers to plant and preserve Philippine cinnamon, such as producing payments from carbon credits, crowdfunding to protect the seedlings and bartering the planting of the crop for computers and internet access for their children.

Kalingag is a generic name for several native Cinnamomum species. Kalingag leaves are used as a flavoring in many communities in the Philippines. “It is sometimes mislabeled as laurel. There are peppery, sweet and Sarsi-tasting leaves,” she said. A decoction of Philippine cinnamon leaves is used to remedy flatulence, aid digestion and boost immunity.

Kalingag leaves
Kalingag leaves

Backyard planting

Canieso-Yeo encourages planting cinnamon in your backyard. Seedlings are priced at around P250.

Plantsville has since processed Philippine cinnamon bark in chip form, mixing the cinnamon powder into naturally grown (organic) coconut sugar for a low-glycemic and aromatic sweetener.

Cinnamon coco sugar is naturally grown coconut sugar mixed with cinnamon powder. It tastes like the cinnamon sugar in churros or pretzels but less sweet. It can stand in for cane sugar in drinks, and for baking and cooking. Coconut sugar is high in inulin, beneficial to gut and heart health.

Cinnamon contains cinnamaldehyde that burns fat, while coco sugar contains inulin, which lowers the risk of coronary heart disease. Inulin and fructose in coco sugar slowly release glucose in the body, which makes it safe for diabetics and weight-watchers. Its lower glycemic index of 35 versus brown sugar’s 64 paired with pure cinnamon helps lower blood sugar. The combo also strengthens the brain and nerves, as cinnamon helps combat neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases by safeguarding neurons, regulating neurotransmitters, and developing motor and cognitive function (memory and learning).

Canieso-Yeo shared how she uses cinnamon coco sugar: “I make a snack of boiled corn kernels topped with bukayo (candied young coconut) cooked in cinnamon coco sugar. It’s very filling!” Instead of syrup, she uses her organic coco sugar with Mindanao cinnamon for pancakes and French toast.

She also makes hot tea with it when her daughter Sophia has colds: “Once 750 ml water boils, lower fire, drop a thumb-sized turmeric, 1 chili, 1 tsp cinnamon coco sugar, and steep for 5 minutes.”

Chocolate syrup is another treat Canieso-Yeo makes: Combine 1 cup plant milk and 3 tableas (unsweetened chocolate tablets) in a saucepan on medium heat until the tablea dissolves. Pour in 1/2 cup cinnamon coco sugar and stir over low heat. Thicken for 3 minutes. Cool and enjoy!


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