Just recently, a Filipino beauty brand made a splash among US viewers and consumers through one of America’s biggest at-home shopping channels, the Home Shopping Network (HSN). The Filipino product puts a spotlight on the anti-aging benefits of the pili, whose tree is indigenous to the Philippines.
Pinoys commonly associate the pili—the nuts in particular—as pasalubong from Bicol, covered in brown sugar or in the form of tarts. But the founders of the Pili Ani brand have discovered that the pili oil that comes from the pulp of the pili fruit and the elemi oil from the sap of the trunk can actually do wonders for the skin.
The women behind the indie beauty brand —at least that’s how they want to call it—are the mother-and-daughter team of Rosalina Tan and Mary Jane Ong. Rosalina is an organic farming advocate, which was how she discovered the potency of the pili oil, which also led to her passion for helping out farmers in Bicol. Mary Jane, on the other hand, is into product distributorship.
It all started during Rosalina’s trips to Bicol for business. She would often be approached by farmers selling pili oil, which is traditionally used for hilot or as a topical treatment for skin itches. One day, daughter Mary Jane discovered a surprising amount of her mother’s pili oil purchases at her warehouse. “She wanted to help the farmers, so she kept buying from them,” shares Mary Jane.
In order to help the farmers by giving them a sustainable livelihood, the daughter stepped in and helped her mom establish a brand and organize farmer cooperatives in Bicol. They invested on clinical studies to find out more about the potency of the pili and elemi oils.
“I didn’t have a background in the beauty industry,” Mary Jane admits. She took the leap of faith because she knew it was a good product and she wanted to help realize her mother’s dreams of sharing a Filipino product with the rest of the world.
Three years ago, they launched the product at a leading beauty trade show in America called the Cosmoprof Show held in Las Vegas. After that, HSN expressed interest in Pili Ani, but it was only in 2021 when the two Pinays finally fulfilled all the stringent requirements and felt ready for the US-wide launch via the Home Shopping Network.
Mary Jane says HSN was particularly drawn to their Ageless Concentrate, which is comparable to the other popular oils available in the market such as argan, rosehip or obsidian oil. “The clinical study we commissioned showed that it delivers skin moisture just within five days of use,” says Mary Jane. “But what sets us apart from all the other oils is the elemi, which has antibacterial and firming properties.”
The Pili Ani cofounder says going live on national TV in America was nerve wracking, considering they were only given a mere 10 minutes to introduce the product to a very picky, demanding market. “It’s an experience we could improve on in our next airing,” she tells the media, smiling. She says host Valerie Stup was very helpful in getting the brand’s message across and that the stint was a proud moment for the Filipino brand that banners local ingredients.
The mother and daughter team is confident there is a huge future for Pili Ani in the US and the rest of the world. Rosalina and Mary Jane are currently working with about 300 farmer families in Bicol and are looking into expanding their network by organizing trainings and mentorship. It takes about seven to eight years for a pili tree to completely grow, and eight to nine months before they can harvest the fruit, so the pili nuts are very precious commodity, indeed, the daughter says.
The team is also in talks with the local Department or Agriculture in Bicol for support in helping to plant more pili trees. Rosalina and Mary Jane agree it’s about time someone took the powerful pili from the backyard industry to a sustainable source of livelihood for Filipino farmers.