Richard spent the new year in Bohol and reports on his first day back in the office in 2013.
I stay at the Darunday Manor when I am in Tagbilaran, the provincial capital of Bohol. The office is just a few minutes walk away. A woman I recognise is sitting in the office when I arrive this morning. Ireen reminds me that I met Marilyn on my last visit a few months ago. She received two Education loans from us, in 2007 and 2008 to enable her son, Casey to complete his Bsc in Civil Engineering; the first loan was repaid but the second one is long overdue and this is why Ireen has invited Marilyn into the office this morning. I discover that Casey is waiting outside so Ireen invites him in. He shakes my hand and raises it to his forehead; a polite gesture of respect to an elder.
I start talking to Casey and I am delighted to discover that he now has a job in his chosen field. Two months ago, he was taken on, albeit on a probationary basis, by a construction company in Cebu. He is working on a condominium building project there. In order to refresh my memory on his background, I open my computer and seek out the original project proposal from way back in 2007. I discover it was written by Reziel who used to write proposals for us. It is touchingly written and I begin to read it out aloud to Casey and his mother. I learn that he has a brother, Claus who is autistic and that Casey helps his mother to feed and bathe him. I also learn that his father was bedridden at the time, he suffered from cirrhosis of the liver. I look up from my reading and I see that Marilyn has tears in her eyes. Her husband died a year after the proposal was written but I think she is also crying tears of joy that Casey has grown up to become a caring and responsible son.
I conclude my reading of the proposal and I feel a sense of joy that here we have made a difference in the life of a family. Marilyn was asked to come into the office by Ireen to explain the big overdue in the repayments on her son’s loan. Her financial circumstances have indeed been tough; she is an insulin dependent diabetic so she needs to buy insulin and she has had to meet the costs of Casey’s university expenses. She works for three appliance companies on a commission basis with just a small basic salary from each. Marilyn asks Ireen if she could have one further year to repay her loan in full and she agrees; With Casey now working, he will of course be in a position to pay back his loan himself. We say goodbye to Casey and Marilyn and wish them well.
In the afternoon, we have some unexpected visitors, Marites Tanghian with her five year old daughter Hanah Jane. I first encountered Hanah on a field trip to the town of Maribojoc in September 2011. I was in a group walking in a single file towards the main road and on to the seashore. I remember seeing a little girl whose head was clearly oversized; I did not want to upset her by drawing my colleagues’ attention to her so I asked Analyn to visit her on another occasion. It later transpired that she was four years old and suffered from a birth defect - a frontal ethmoidal meningocele, in which brain tissue has come through an opening in her skull and formed a lump under the skin of her face. She also had hydrocephalus. Six weeks after that first encounter, the PSHF provided a grant for Hanah to have a shunt inserted in her head to drain the accumulated liquids.
Marites sits down with Hanah beside her and tells Ireen why she she has not come to the office since June. We are keen to provide funding for Hanah to have a second operation to repair her frontal skull defect. Maritess is apologetic for her long absence and relates her struggles of the past few months. Her ten month old son died in August and then soon after she took her family to the inland town of Sagbayan to be with her bedridden mother. On December, 22nd, her mother died and Marites misses her very much. When Marites’s first husband had walked out on her and her children in 2006, it was her mother who had provided her with support.
We conclude the meeting with the agreement that Marites will bring Hanah back to Tagbilaran to see the neurosurgeon for a check-up later this month. If Hanah’s vital signs are within the normal range, the same doctor will proceed with the surgery to remove the lump on her face which is threatening her with blindness.
We say good bye to Hanah and her mum and only then do we discover that Hanah’s stepfather, Joseph has been waiting outside all this time. I take a picture of the three of them as they ride off on Joseph’s motorcycle.
In the early evening, Ireen and I have a chance to talk to Phady, our field worker about some serious concerns in her family’s life. Phady has been with us for six years and has done a good job in the field, collecting loan repayments, monitoring projects and screening applicants. She lives in the inland town of Trinidad with her two year old daughter Kate Nicole, her mother and various family members. Recently, she brought five of them to stay in the office because she feared for their safety at home. Her brother, Gilbert has a history of mental illness and just recently, he has become violent. He is in jail for the second time in a week after being arrested for throwing stones at a local teacher’s house and destroying a fence. Phady’s fear is that he will be released and harm his family as he has threatened to do.
The day draws to a close and I catch a tricycle to the IC Mall. I shall be dining alone tonight at the Buzz as Ireen is keen to talk more with Phady about her brother’s situation. And so ends a day in the office.
Casey with his mother Marilyn