A field office in Negros Oriental
After four years of working from just the one office in Bacolod city, we opened a field office in the seaside town of Santa Catalina in 1992. As with the Bacolod office, the start was very low key; PSHF trustees, John Wilson and Bernie Gampay happened to find themselves in need of shelter in a downpour and were taken to the home of the Blazo family who resided in the village of Guba. Unbeknown to them, visitors to the area were viewed with suspicion, as Santa Catalina was seen as a stronghold of sympathy for the aims of the New People's army (NPA).
Our two PSHF visitors stayed one night and left the next morning, without having attracted any undue attention from armed locals, known as "vigilantes" the lowest order of the Government's counter insurgency. The visit had however achieved its aim of locating a potential site for a field office. The village of Guba comprised fishing families as well as refugees who had fled the fighting in the hills. It was felt our livelihood loan assistance would most likely be welcomed by the local people.
A few months later, Richard accompanied Bernie for a return visit to Guba and organised a community meeting to discuss the prospects for a co-operative venture. It was clear that the will to work together was absent so it was decided to select one person, there and then, who could be trusted to be the first PSHF loan recipient in the village. Her name was Levy Balbon. Not only did she pay her loan for fishing supplies back, but she was also later to become our field coordinator. A position she retained until June 2008, when her daughter Jocelina took over.