Philippine Self-Help Foundation

A day in the Cauayan countryside

It was a pleasure for me to travel to Cauayan with two companions on the 11th of July; Nicolås De Mil was a volunteer visiting us from Switzerland and Ignatius Mesias is our new field coordinator. We took one of the Ceres buses which goes to the southern part of Negros Occidental. These days traveling south on the Ceres bus has become less pleasant than before as the Ceres buses tend to get deluged with passengers when they reach Kabankalan, the first big city south of Bacolod. In the mid afternoon, we arrived at Pastor Ebron’s house in Buclao in Tuyom in Cauayan. He is a young pastor, in his late 20s, and he is married to Miraflor. They have two small children, Micah (5) and Mirah (3).

Grace Cordova, the PSHF field worker in Cauayan, together with Miraflor, were waiting by the road when we got off, readily helping us with our bags. We settled into the family’s living room which also serves as their dining room and Sunday school room. Introductions were made while we ate hot steamed bananas. Soon after, we were ready to visit some PSHF loan recipients who live nearby.

Tongtong, the husband of Grace, and a tricycle driver, drove us first to Gemma Tanjusay’s coffee shop. Gemma serves native (brewed) coffee and her business is doing well and her loan repayments are coming in promptly every month. Iggy commented that she (Gemma) might be able to attract more customers to her coffee shop by putting up a sign outside. Presently it is only the people of Masaling (her village) who know about her coffee shop. With a sign outside, it is possible that some motorists will take notice and drop by for a cup of coffee.

Lagrimas Libo-on, who is a seamstress, had a big heap of finished band uniforms on one of her tables when we arrived. Last year she received 10,000 pesos from the PSHF in order to have her sewing machine repaired as well as to buy materials to make pillowcases, curtains, children’s shorts and pyjamas. She has temporarily stopped making these items because lately, she has been making uniforms for a school band. She earns quite a good income from her sewing jobs and Nicolas asked her how people had got to know that she made band uniforms. She said that the trainer of a school band in her village was the one who started to tell others about her sewing skills. As we left, Lagrimas wrote down the names of Iggy and Nicolas in her notebook so that she wouldn’t forget them.

It was beginning to get dark and I thought that we should let our visitors have a look at the coast of Cauayan. Tongtong drove us to a deserted beach area where there weren’t any houses other than a big house near the beach. Our visit was timely as four men were hauling in their fishing net to the shore. Tongtong explained what the men were doing and I interpreted for Nicolas. Ignatius wanted to buy fish to bring home to Pastor Ebron but the men’s catch was small, just enough for their families.

The following day, at about 9:30 in the morning, the four of us again set out for the next village, Masaling, to visit Albert Lapore who is applying for a loan in order to put up a TV repair shop near the main road. Presently he works from home or he goes to the houses of his clients. This was going to be Ignatius‘ proposal so it was he who mostly did the interview; Nicolas asked questions every now and then.

From the Lapore family, we went to see the house with the ‘room for rent’ sign. It is a nice native style house, owned by a rather well-to-do family in Bacolod. They seldom come to visit and so have decided to rent out the whole downstairs area for 2,000 pesos.

We also made a collection visit to Estela Docto, the wife of Juvy Docto. She gave 300 pesos and promised to give the balance towards the end of the month. She would like to have a re-loan to do some fish vending and I told her to write an application letter.

It was almost 1 pm and since we were near Pastor Ebron’s house, we decided to stop for lunch there before doing another interview. We were served with a steaming bowl of chicken stew and vegetables and rice. Probably feeling full from his lunch, Nicolas soon after lay down on a hammock in Pastor Ebron’s house and fell asleep. When it was time to go, we saw that he was still fast asleep and so we decided not to wake him up. Ignatius, Grace and I went to have coffee again at Gemma’s coffee shop.

Later on we made a visit to Russel and Nelly Orbista’s house. Grace had heard that a warrant of arrest had been issued to them! It was Nelly who told us what had happened because Russel was not at home. The Orbista family and their neighbours are living on the hacienda which was previously owned by a certain Mr Millendez. He wasn’t paying the amortization of the land and so it was taken away from him by Mr Hilado. The former wasn’t happy with this and so provoked Mr Hilado by accusing his (Mr Hilado’s) sugarcane plantation workers of theft. The Orbistas were among the workers of Mr Hilado and they were included in the list of the accused people. Fortunately Mr Hilado took pity on his workers and so paid the bail of 200,000 pesos. The event however has disrupted the work on the sugarcane plantation and so Russel’s weekly earnings are further reduced; now he earns barely enough to buy a week’s supply of rice for his family. To supplement his income, he goes out fishing with his son J-R, but most of the time their catch is just enough for home consumption. Furthermore J-R’s bicycle broke down; he was using this to go to school which is three to four kilometers away from home. With no pocket money and with his bicycle broken-down, J-R stopped schooling. It is a great pity because he is now in his fourth and final year in high school. I am thinking of proposing a grant for him to have his bicycle repaired and for his mother to have a little capital to cook snacks for sale.

Shortly after we finished the interview with Nelly, dark clouds appeared and soon after, it began to rain. We got back to Pastor Ebron’s house to pick up Nicolas but waited a bit for the rain to subside. It was probably around 5pm when the four of us set out again, this time to the poblacion or town center of Cauayan to interview Aurora Huesna who is a food vendor. On the way, we stopped briefly in Isio to try to collect from Robert Yasay who had an education loan a few years ago. He told us that he had applied for a job on a cruise ship and he is now waiting for a call from the company for a final interview. He promised to pay as soon as he gets hired.

Aurora Huesna was waiting for us on the road outside and she had a big smile as soon as we saw us. She is a food vendor and her business is doing well, so I wondered why was she applying for a loan. These are her circumstances:

1) She lives in a nice concrete house with her daughter and her own family. 2) The house was bought for them by the aunt of her son-in-law. 3) The mother of her son-in-law lends her vending capital of 3,000 pesos when the school opens in June; she returns the same amount when school closes in April, without interest. 4) Aurora makes 2,500 pesos a month from selling snacks from her capital of 3,000 pesos. Nicolas remarked that she is doing well and he suggested that if she could save even just 300 pesos every month, she would have enough savings in a year to finance her food vending business.

Aurora said that she cannot save because she has to send money to her husband in Bacolod; she also gives money to one of her sons. Later on, when our discussion was starting to become pointless, she brought up the issue about another son wanting to train in cooking at TESDA. “Now, you are starting to talk about something worthwhile,” I said to her and she beamed. I told her to get her son to write about his desire to study cooking and other details. She will give the letter to us next month or in September; the cooking course is being offered in the later part of the year. She seemed happy with this and so were we; although Nicolas was a bit disappointed that he did not have a proposal to write!

Our last visit was to Lydia Lumigdong who has a big overdue of almost 2,000 pesos on her loan of 5,000 pesos from the PSHF. She recently found a job in a local food factory and promised to pay next month.

It was already dark; time to go back to Pastor Ebron’s. On the way home, we dropped by the market in Isio to buy something. Grace introduced me to Mrs Magada who was a loan recipient in the past. She needs capital to sell ice cream in her shop, she said, and so I told her to write an application letter. “Oh I have one.” she said, at the same time, handing me a letter which she wrote last year. It was for a big loan, so I told her to just focus on the ice cream that she would like to sell. Soon after, we arrived at Pastor Ebron’s house, supper was served: grilled bangus stuffed with tomatoes and spices, as well as vegetables and rice. We ate heartily and retired early in order to prepare for an early start the following day.

Sunday morning. Miraflor (Pastor Ebron’s wife) served us vegetable stew, fried fish, eggplant omelette and rice. We ate in a hurry because a team from the Bacolod office was on its way and we wanted to join them on the bus to Sipalay for an outing. Nicolas took photos of everyone in Pastor Ebron’s household before leaving. Miraflor put some bananas and ‘puto’ rice cakes in a bag for our ‘baon‘ packed lunch. We got to the road outside and in 15 minutes, the familiar yellow bus came and we bid Pastor Ebron goodbye.

Bernadette G. Togado

16 July 2014

PSHF Cauayan

PSHF visitors, Nicolas De Mil (right) and 

Ignatius Mesias (3rd from left) pose with 

PSHF field worker Grace Cordova (2nd from left) 

and our hosts - Pastor Rolly Ebron and his family, 

in front of his church.