Raising Hope: Alyssa Sahali Tan, The Indigenous Woman Creating An Impact Through Her Social Enterprise

Alyssa Sahali Tan wears Suki Earrings; Alaia Shoes; Dddaily suit. Photo by Kim Santos, styled by MJ Benitez, hair by Patty Inojales, makeup by Apple Fara-on

Vogue Philippines celebrates International Women’s Day through “Raising Hope,” in a call for nominations of inspiring women. In Tawi-Tawi, Alyssa Sahali Tan is creating an impact on indigenous communities through Mangan, an indigenous and women-led social enterprise.

Nominated by Abrar Hataman

Coming from a long line of female tribal leaders, Alyssa Sahali Tan feels an immense amount of responsibility to give back to her community. Her mother, Ruby Sahali, is the principal author of the Landmark Bill, or the Bangsamoro Organic Law, which has changed the narrative of Bangsamoro today. “The law enabled the creation of Bangsamoro from the ARMM, and with one stroke of a pen, 45 years of self-determination were ended,” she says. “It took one stroke of a pen, a vision, and hope.”

Building on the work of her ancestors, Tan co-founded Mangan, an indigenous and women-led social enterprise based in the Tawi-Tawi province. “We partner with local seaweed and coconut farmers all over Tawi-Tawi; they’re the source of our ingredients for our culture and community-based food products,” Tan says. Currently, Mangan offers their staple products such as seaweed chips, vinegar, cocoa syrup vinegar, and roasted coconut bits.

By partnering with local farmers, Mangan has provided a sustainable source of income for the communities. “We eliminate the presence of middlemen, which then dignifies the lives of our farmers because they get a better percentage of income,” she says. Mangan has also been economically empowering women by employing housewives and mothers to make their products. “When women have income, they tend to their families, they give their earnings to their families. They raise their kids, so the kids have access to a good education through what they do,” she says.

Tears well in Tan’s eyes as she recalls a story of one of their workers: “She shared that even if she can’t read or write, all of her children finished their studies because of the seaweed chips.” 

“These are stories from the ground, from the Bangsamoro, that people don’t hear. And these are stories that, when you hear them, change the lives not only of those who hear them, but they create a ripple effect in society,” she says, tearing up. “Kaya naman pala (we realized it was possible) for a simple bag of chips to create that impact.”

Alyssa Sahali Tan wears Suki Earrings; Alaia Shoes; Uniqlo x Mame Kurogouchi Brown sweater. Photo by Kim Santos, styled by MJ Benitez, hair by Patty Inojales, makeup by Apple Fara-on

Creating an impact

“Alyssa, despite being of indigenous background, never let the obstacles she was born into defeat her purpose and destiny in life,” shares Abrar Hataman, who nominated Alyssa. If anything, her background as an indigenous person has pushed her to continually help people. “Being indigenous, grabe it changes the way you think because you have burdens on your shoulders. You have to do good in everything that you do because it’s not only for you; it’s for the people back at home,” Tan says.

From starting with a mere 10,000 Philippine pesos, Mangan is now worth millions and continues to support indigenous communities. According to Tan, a portion of Mangan’s profits go towards the schooling of indigenous Badjao children, and they are currently rebuilding Tongbangkaw Elementary School, which primarily caters to the education of Badjao students. “I was able to attend the best schools the Philippines has to offer, and I’m very thankful for my parents for that,” she says. “It’s recognizing your privilege and knowing that not everyone is in the same boat as you and that you have the strength to empower people to access those opportunities and rights that you have.”

Aside from Mangan, Tan is building another brand called Anyam, which will release home-based products that signify the richness of Bangsamoro culture and art. With this, Tan intends to expand their impact beyond Tawi-Tawi and to “change the narrative of what Mindanao is.”

She hopes that future generations will continue to strive to create an impact. “Businesses come and go, but impact lasts forever. It lasts for generations and generations,” she says. “It’s just going to take you 10 seconds of immense courage to decide what you want to do with your life. And that 10 seconds of immense courage could lead to peace and development in a post-war-torn area.”

Visit everyday this month for daily features on inspiring women, as nominated by the people whose lives they’ve changed.

BY DAPHNE SAGUN. Photography: Kim Santos. Styling: MJ Benitez. Digital Editor: Andrea Ang. Makeup: Apple Fara-on. Hair: Patty Inojales. Producers: Bianca Zaragoza and Daphne Sagun. Set designer: Andrea Ang. Styling assistants: Teresita Gabat, Jia Torrato, Chelsea Sarabia. Makeup assistants: Jane Mission, John Glen Aquino. Hair assistant: Emma Hernandez. Production assistant: Patti Co
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