A tropical evergreen that grows in warm climates and can stand against the strongest of storms, the Pili Tree is known to Bikolanos as a tree of hope. Indigenous to the Philippines, the Pili tree grows in backyards and streets all around the Bicol Region. Much like the ubiquitous coconut, everything from the Pili tree can be made useful—from the edible nuts to the sturdy bark. But for organic advocate Rosalina Tan, the oil that comes from the fruit, kernel, and resin of the Pili trees holds an undiscovered value.
Tan has been championing Pili oil since 2004. Before Pili was perceived to be a regular, with not a lot of purpose. The pili pulp often ends up as a local delicacy and then discarded due to the lack of any other innovative use. However, through Tan’s efforts with the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), they were able to research and market oils extracted from pili which were found to contain high levels of Vitamin E—natural skin antioxidants. “There are at least three kinds of oils that can be derived from the Pili tree: Pili nut oil, pili pulp oil, and the famous Elemi oil,” says Tan. Elemi oil has become a key ingredient in perfumes and essential oils of luxury brands such as Chanel and Ralph Lauren.
From harvest to finish
The Pili harvest season is from May to October. From the Pili fruit, comes Pili pulp oil; the kernel, the pili oil; and from the resin the Elemi oil.
The Pili Beauty journey
The Pili oil industry has come a long way since 2004. But in 2011, developments in the cosmetic industry involved products using the oil as a key ingredient in their products. Tan used the oil as a substitute for synthetic and restricted ingredients in cosmetic products, starting with a small line under Naturale Wonders with lipstick, shampoo, and lotion. Alongside this, she would lobby with the Department of Agriculture to add Pili to their list of high value crops.
Finally, in 2014 Tan noticed an influx of people showing interest in her products. One of these people was Tan’s own daughter, Mary Jane Tan Ong, who believed that Pili Oil could compete on a global stage. Together, they founded Elemie Naturals Inc., which was officially launched in 2015. They brought their Pili products to various conventions both here and abroad, which were received well by both local and international audiences. This July, Elemie Naturals will participate in the largest cosmetic products exhibit in the world called Cosmoprof in Las Vegas, Nevada.
A mother-daughter legacy
Together, Rose and Jane have made great strides for the Pili industry. Tan continues to focus on the grassroots level working with the Department of Agriculture to pursue her advocacy and passion—to mass plant pili trees all over the country. While daughter Mary Jane is tasked to build a name for Pili Beauty, not just here but globally, and to continuously innovate finished goods, and eventually put a spotlight in the Philippines as a player in the global cosmetic industry.