On the 7th of June I traveled to Biking, Dauis, a tourist destination in Bohol province, to interview Mersa (27), a vendor of banana cue (ripe bananas fried and coated in brown sugar). The jeepney stopped at exactly 12 noon beside Mersa’s banana cue corner. She ushered me to sit down in the shade and I observed how skilfully she coordinated the peeling of ripe bananas and the stirring of the ones that were already in the pan. She cooks with firewood, using big stones to form a tripod that supports the pan.
Mersa’s banana cue is in demand as it is served hot to her customers, who are mostly commuters, public transport drivers and students from a nearby public school. A serving sells for seven pesos, and in a day her average sales amount to an average of 1,000 pesos, giving her a net income of 300 pesos ($6). This is enough to buy food for her family, which includes her mother Erlinda (67) who is paralyzed, and her brother George (30), who has Down syndrome. Her sister Betsy and her three children are also living with them so Mersa is not alone in looking after her dependents. Aside from Betsy, Mersa also can depend on her other older siblings to help support their mother and George.
Banana cue vending had been Erlinda’s small business before she became paralyzed by a stroke, and Mersa continued the business. With her sales corner just a few steps from home, she can run her business and keep an eye on her mother and George at the same time. When Betsy informed her about our livelihood assistance, Mersa was keen to apply. Her loan application is to buy a two burner gas stove and a new large pan to replace her old one. and to provide additional working capital to add another variety of native snack, a sweet potato roll, to her sales menu. Mersa is excited about having her new equipment and she is already planning to add a new snack - sweet potato rolls to her menu and thus increase her net income.
Mersa's longer-term dream is to develop her banana cue corner turn into a snack hub for locals and tourists, and this will be her starting point. She is confident that with these improvements, she will be able to accommodate new requests from her customers. We at the PSHF are happy to help Mersa and we look forward to hearing about her success on our next visit.
Shinaeh Star Pineda and Ireen Ingles