Leev Andrei (10) and his younger brother Wyle Anton (7) live with their uncle Gefre (39) whom they call Daddy Batong. Their parents, Antonio and Jaja, are in Manila. Antonio comes from there while Jaja joined him there last year to look for employment. She did find a job as an assistant in a doctor’s clinic. She and Antonio once worked in the Middle East and put their children under the care of Gefre and his wife Lenel May (34).
Until March this year, Jaja was sending money to Gefre for the support of her children. However when the whole country was on lockdown for two months or so due to the COVID-19 threat, she had no work and so she did not have money to send to Gefre.
Due to the pandemic, the Philippine education department has banned the traditional face-to-face classes; instead schooling will be done virtually, i. e., by means of a computer or a smartphone. Lenel May had a smartphone as she sold electronic load to mobile phone users. Unfortunately her phone broke down soon after the online-enrolment in the local elementary school started on June first. She took it to a repairman the following day but she was told that her phone was beyond repair.
Gefre and Lenel window-shopped for a smartphone in the next town of Kabankalan. The cheapest mid range smart phone that they could find was priced 6,000 pesos. They asked the shop owner if it would be possible to obtain the phone on credit, i. e., they give a downpayment of so much and pay the balance by instalment but the owner said no. The couple had only a thousand pesos in hand and a mobile phone is badly needed. They are therefore seeking a loan of 5,000 pesos from the PSHF in order to acquire a new smartphone.
Lenel May earns by having an in-house store known as a sari-sari. She sells a variety of food items and toiletries as well as electronic loads for mobile phones. She is grateful to have the store as it allows her to earn and at the same time do household chores. Her day begins at around 6AM when she opens her store. She then prepares breakfast and when classes were still underway, she readied Leev Andrei (10) and Wyle Anton for school. Gefre on the other hand rides a tricycle to earn a living. Before the quarantines were imposed and there were no restrictions on public transport, he plied a set route most days of the week. Nowadays he rides mostly on a for-hire basis or as a private taxi and he makes a net income of 500 pesos ($10) a week. He is also our field worker for our Cauayan field office. One day a week, he visits PSHF loan recipients in adjoining communities to collect loan repayments. He uses a motorcycle provided by the PSHF for this purpose and he gets a monthly honorarium of 1,000 pesos for his work. His and Lenel’s combined monthly income amounts to 5,000 pesos ($100) which is only just enough to meet their basic basic needs.
Bernadette G. Togado
PSHF Negros Occidental