Pili Ani Plants Hope in the Philippines

by Celia Shatzman

Pili Tree Farm

By supporting local farmers and their communities, beauty brand Pili Ani goes more than skin deep

Native to the Philippines, the pili tree is renowned for its nut, which is a superfood. But it also holds beauty secrets. The pili is the center of Pili Ani, a skincare line launched last year. “We want to share the uniqueness of the pili tree as a whole,” says Mary Jane Tan Ong, CEO of Pili Ani. “Pili Ani is a rare, exotic combination of pili and elemi oils, which you can only extract from the pili tree. They have powerful firming, antibacterial and moisturizing properties, different from other oils on the market.”

Pili Ani is currently working with 200 families in the Philippines who rely on the income to send their children to school. Most of the families have their own pili tree in their backyard, and the older family members will sometimes help gather and peel the fruit. “This business really started because of our motivation to help build an industry for the pili tree farmers,” says Rosalina Tan, founder of Pili Ani. “We realized that we need to go on a larger scale to be able to sustain a growing community. We organized local communities into a cooperative that gets training and assures them of market through a memorandum of understanding,” says Tan. “We have to lobby with the local government to provide access roads to bring their pili to the market.” Pili Ani also successfully lobbied the government to conserve and plant more pili trees because of the dwindling supply, since farmers are cutting the trees and selling its timber.

The brand has additional programs that aid the community, such as the Pili Literacy Program, which gives economically challenged students the financial support to fund their education, as well as the Save Our Soil Foundation. “It was founded with a main objective of helping farmers shift to organic practices and provide scholarships for their families,” Tan says. “It further expands to pili farmers by giving them training on how to extract and produce pili and elemi oil without harming the tree.”

The commitment to natural ingredients is a cornerstone of the brand. “We want to educate the public that natural and organic ingredients can be as effective as the chemical counterparts without the harmful side effects,” Tan says. That’s one of the reasons Tan became a founding member of the Organic Producers & Trade Association. “In the early ’90s, when I found out the commercial rice in the market contains pesticide residue that causes cancer, I and some health- and environment-conscious individuals organized the Organic Producers & Trade Association,” she says.

Pili Ani hopes to continue to grow its philanthropic projects. “In our future plans, we include building schools in small, far-flung communities that lack facilities,” Tan says. “We also want to help improve water systems by building a clean water structure in their community and backyard gardening for their own vegetables needs.” Another goal is expanding the introduction of the pili tree to the global market.

“The chosen tree grows in the lush tropical mountains and can only be found in our country, the Philippines,” says Ong. “It is an amazing nature’s gift. I can vouch that once you’ve tried it, you will love it as much as I do. What is more promising than looking beautiful and being able to help a growing local community by uplifting their lives and providing education to their families?” 

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