Philippine Self-Help Foundation

Leonila (45) comes from a poor family of seven and is the third of siblings. The family lived on the income from collecting trash such as plastics, cans, bottles and metal items, which they sold to a junk shop. Leonila started helping when she was just eight years old. She woke up early in the morning to collect trash from neighbours before going to school. She always brought a sack to school with her and after classes she went to the school’s trash dump and picked up what could be sold. When Leonila was in her second year of high school, she stopped going to school because her father Nicolas’ health was deteriorating. He had developed pulmonary tuberculosis from which he never recovered. He died in June 1992, when he was just 42 years old. Life became harder for Leonila after losing her father so she decided to venture to Manila. She worked there as a house helper and sent remittances to her mother Leonarda (now 68) to help the family. Leonarda had continued to collect saleable trash until she developed tuberculosis; she has recovered from the tuberculosis but she is now too old to continue working.

Leonila's work in Manila kept her away from her boyfriend Mauricio for five years, but they kept in communication. When she returned to Bohol, the two began living together, and they were married in August 1997. Now they have five children; Lourence (24) who is now married and living separately, Lemuel (22) is working in Manila, Marc Neil (18) is in grade 12,  Lyndon (15) is in grade 10, and Marvin (7) is in first grade.

Candle making has been the main livelihood for Leonila (45) and Mauricio (55) for almost two decades. They have a stall beside the St. Joseph Cathedral in downtown Tagbilaran City, Bohol’s capital. The couple earns an average of 4,000 pesos ($80) a month from selling candles which they make by hand. Their son Lemuel helps his parents by sending them remittances averaging 2,000 pesos ($40) a month, which helps them to meet their day to day living costs, including school allowances.

All was fine with the family until mid-November, when Mauricio fell from a coconut tree while gathering fruits for sale. He was rushed to the hospital and stayed there for five days; thankfully he is now fully recovered but the costs of his medical treatment wiped out the couple’s savings, including their working capital. Leonila was referred to PSHF by a former PSHF recipient, and she was delighted to know about our livelihood assistance. She is requesting a loan for the purchase of the paraffin wax, thread and colouring. 

To make a candle, Leonila melts paraffin wax in a large tin can together with the desired colour, then she ties a thread to a stick and dips the thread into the melted paraffin wax. Next she hangs the candles to dry, and the final step is to cut them to the desired length. The coloured candles, red, pink, yellow, green , blue and other colours will be displayed together with a picture that shows their different meanings; this attracts customers. Leonila is hoping for early approval of this loan, as Christmas and the start of the New Year are peak seasons for her business.

Analyn T. Gallibot

PSHF Bohol

December 2019