Philippine Self-Help Foundation

Visit to PSHF in January 2018

Richard Foster, the founder of PSHF, is my husband’s first cousin and so we’ve known about PSHF for most of the thirty years that it has been operating. Now was my opportunity to go and visit a few of the many micro-enterprises that Richard and his team have supported with loans.

28th January 2018 is the first day of my visit to Tagbilaran on the island of Bohol. Ireen, the office coordinator comes to Soledad Suites to fetch me and Richard and take us by tricycle to the PSHF office which is in her parents’ home. Here we meet Analyn, the office administrator and Phady, pronounced Paddy, the field worker. Ireen gives me the background of the Bohol office and an understanding of the work of PSHF on the island. While we are in the office a loan recipient, a broom maker, comes in to make her monthly payment. She is a reliable payer and we are to visit her home later in the day.

Having met some of Ireen’s family and neighbours, we leave the office and climb into a jeepney to go to Alburquerque, a rural municipality of 10,500 people. After a 30 minute ride, we jump out again (literally) at the beginning of a track which appears to lead into some woods. Past some beautiful wooden and bamboo crafted houses, through the washing on the line, past the chickens, round a few corners, we arrive at the front door of Diomedes Tubera whom we had earlier met in the office. Her house, unlike many in this area, is made of hollow blocks with a tin roof. She is a broom maker using buri fibre. It is fascinating to see the assortment of brooms she makes. While we are there, Arlene Nini, another loan recipient comes in and greets us. Arlene makes native coffee from corn cobs. She is also the pastor of a small but lively church in the neighbourhood. I am struck by how relational PSHF is, the team spends time talking to clients and listening to their concerns.

By now it is drizzling with rain, the PSHF team have had the foresight to bring umbrellas. We say goodbye to Diomedes and walk along a path to another loan recipient, Romulo Makiling who makes nipa palm roofing and brooms from buri like Diomedes. We gaze in awe at how skilfully he ties the fibre together and cuts it to show us his finished product. Inside his house, there is some rather ornate furniture and to my surprise, I am informed that this house is 100 years old and has been passed down through the generations. As we sit and chat, work continues around us and I learn a lot about the art of making brooms.

The following day we head northwest out of Tagbilaran in a private vehicle to visit new PSHF projects in the East coast town of Loon. On the way, we stop off at the home of Analyn and her family, in Bood, Maribojoc where I am introduced to her daughter AJ and nieces and nephews all with nicknames based on their initials. We then proceed to the town of Loon, where we meet Bernadette Castillo, a hairdresser who received a loan for parlour equipment. A few ladies have gathered in her home to receive an orientation on the process for applying for loans for their respective fishing related enterprises. Ireen conducts the orientation while we move on to visit another project.

So many of the houses around us have carefully tended gardens and Florites Albandonido is the proud owner of one such garden. She makes and sells delicious little cakes locally known as bingka. With loan from PSHF Florites was able to buy a second steamer which enabled her to double her sales. The team had a taste of Florites' delicious bingka when she caught up with us later in the day and gave us a few samples.

The final visit of the day is to Hanabeth and Jaime Cuaresma who have an upholstery business. They received a loan in October last year for the purpose of buying a sewing machine. Hanabeth give Phady her monthly repayment of 500 pesos (£7) and receives her receipt.

What an interesting, fun and rewarding day I have had. Loans for Micro-enterprise are such a positive way to help people. They give people the opportunity to develop their entrepreneurial skills to increase their income. When loans are repaid, funds are re-loaned to help others do the same.

Well done PSHF!