Philippine Self-Help Foundation

A field trip to Cauayan on November 6th, 2015.

Our first stop is the home of the Taroballes family in Valladolid. We are given a warm welcome by Melu, the mother of Mark Louie (16) who has been a PSHF medical grant recipient for the past two years. He suffers from thalassemia, a blood illness which causes anaemia and requires him to have periodic blood transfusions.

Mark Louie comes out to meet us and he is looking well. We go inside the house and soon we are introduced to Maria Theresa, his 18 year old sister and his father, Mario. I ask Mark Louie about the ALS (Alternative Learning System) classes he attends in his community on two afternoons a week. He tells me that he does not really enjoy these classes but he is determined to follow through with them as he dreams of entering high school next year. Mark Louie stopped going to regular school because he was so often being hospitalised when he needed blood transfusions. Thankfully, he had a splenectomy in 2010 which has reduced the number of transfusions he needs now to just four or five times a year. The illness that Mark Louie suffers from runs in the family; tragically, two sisters, Lenny Mae and Lalyn, both died from the same disease.

Thankfully, Maria Theresa has not been afflicted by the same terrible illness as her brother. We have included her in the grant this year though as she is enrolled in a one year bookkeeping course which offers real prospects of a job to help her family in the future. Her parents simply do not have the means to pay her tuition fees. Fortunately, Maria Theresa is on her semestral break today and Bernie has the bright idea of inviting her to come with us to Cauayan for the day.

Our first stop is the home of Trinidad Macariola. She has just recently received a loan to buy a freezer. She welcomes us in to her home and introduces us to her daughter Trixie (18) and common law husband Romeo. She had a difficult marriage; her husband was a drug addict and irresponsible. Thankfully, she met Romeo 13 years ago and he has been a good father to her children.

Our next stop is just a few metres away; it is the home of Lucia Moncada (87) and her granddaughter, Twinkle (35). We gave Lucia a loan to repair and revive her eatery-cum-coffee shop. Twinkle, we discover not only helps her grandmother run the coffee shop but she also is extremely enterprising. She buys brightly coloured second hand adult clothes and uses the cloth to make children’s clothes which she sells on the internet. The clothes are beautiful and we are most impressed.

We bid our farewells to Lucia and Twinkle and get back in the taxi. We have a 30- minute road journey ahead to our field office in the town of Cauayan. Em-em and Ireen are soon engaged in some animated conversation and I am content to watch the scenery pass by. We reach our destination at 3pm. Our field worker, Rolly comes out to greet us and while he assists our driver in finding a place to park, we go in and meet Rolly’s wife Miraflor and their two delightful children Micah (6) and Mirah (4). This is my first time to see our new office. We have created an office at the back of the church. It is simple but rather nice.

After lunch, it is time for me to get down to work. Bernie has arranged an interview for me with a woman by the name of Sol Magbanua who is applying for a loan for rice trading. I am keen to know how rice trading works and I want to draw up a cash flow projection which can help us when we have applicants for rice trading in the future. Sol has done rice trading before but it still takes me a lot of time to get to the ‘bottom line’. It turns out that the loan requested of 7,000 pesos makes perfect sense. She will have enough working capital on an ongoing basis to see her though the different stages of the trading process namely: the buying of ‘palay’ from farmers, the drying (2 days), the milling and the costs of transporting the milled rice to sales outlets in the town.

It is 6pm and it is already getting dark and we have a three hour journey back to Bacolod. We bid our farewells to Sol and Rolly and his family and clamber back into the taxi. We have one more stop to make locally; our former field worker Grace and her family live a little further down the road and this is a chance to see her for the first time since she gave birth to her son Edwin Jr in October. The family are all on the roadside waiting for us; it is a joyful reunion but we do not linger as we have a long journey ahead.

During the ride back to Bacolod, I get the chance to get to know Maria Theresa a bit better. We talk about her family and her hopes for Mark Louie. The family have been through so much but I feel better days lie ahead for them. It is 8pm when we drop Maria Theresa off in Valladolid. An intriguing thought has occured to us that she might be able to do her OJT (on the job training) with us in the new year.

At 9pm, I am dropped off at my hotel and so ends a fruitful day in the field.

Richard Foster

3rd December, 2015