Posted February 21st 2014 at 5:14 pm by
in DLab Panama

The Sweet Hut

Image by Poncie Rutsch

Traveling to the Kuna Yala Islands was truly an eye-opening experience for me. Not only did I learn tremendously in regards to developing zero waste solutions, but I also became a part of a culture and community that was completely foreign to me. Before arriving on the islands, one of my main concerns for the trip was the lack of acceptance that our group would receive as foreigners in this tightly-knit, culturally rich community. However, we experienced quite the opposite and I cannot express enough the gratitude I felt after arriving. While my experience there started off with a few remarks from children, expressing shock about my Asian background (resulting in the endearing nickname of “Chinita”), I quickly learned that the people on the islands were grateful for our efforts to help them manage their waste issues.

In order to provide the Kuna Yala people with sustainable and profitable solutions for waste management, we prioritized the creation of small collection and recycling businesses that would be managed by community members. Before our trip, we were faced with the challenge of finding strong leaders in the community who would take an interest in waste management. We knew that our understanding of how these small independently owned businesses could succeed would be better established once we arrived.

During our two-week stay on the islands, we discovered an already existing, small business that brought a smile to everybody’s face. The local bread shop located on the island of Tupile offered the freshest, sweetest, most delicious bread that Kuna Yala offered. Regardless of the time of day, people of all ages could be seen holding freshly baked rolls. And without a doubt, the bakery, located close to be the school and dock, always seemed to draw us to its open doors.

I was able to take the time to interview the owner of the bread shop, who happily gave us some insight into the success of her home business, which brought happiness to the entire island. What follows is the interview I conducted with the local entrepreneur, Filomena Alba.


Image by Poncie Rutsch


Q: What is your name?

A: Filomena Alba


Q: Who makes the bread in your bakery?

A: I am the person who bakes all of the bread.


Q: When did your family start selling bread?

A: We’ve been selling bread for one year. I’ve been making it my entire life, but we’ve been selling for about a year now.


Q: Why is your bread so rich and sweet? What’s your secret recipe?

A: Our ingredients are very simple: salt, sugar, flour,


Q: How many rolls do you make per day?

A: 200 per day


Image by Poncie Rutsch


Q: Are there other bakeries on the island? We’ve only heard of yours and love it.

A: Yup – there are four others.


Q: What time of day do you bake your bread?

A: We bake three times a day: 5AM, 9AM, and 12PM.


Q: How many people come through here to buy bread every day?

A: I’m not sure.


Q: Are they mostly kids or adults?

A: Mostly kids for sure.


Q: How much do your ingredients cost? How much profit do you make each day?

A: One sac of flour costs about $25 and I end up making about $70 per day.


Image by Poncie Rutsch

Post by Catherine Cheng. Special thanks to Jonathan Rea for translation of interview.

One response to “The Sweet Hut”

  1. twu online says:

    I love Sweet Hut . In my country it calls ” banh bao “