Sack of Happiness
We are four hours north of Manila in in San Isidro village, also known as the “rice bowl” of the Philippines. It is part of Cabanatuan province, which translates as “sack of happiness”, an ironically optimistic title given that 45% of Filipinos live on less than $2.00 a day and 80% of the poor live in rural areas, which would tend to suggest more a sack of an entirely different substance altogether. But the Filipinos are hardy, resilient, hard working and good humoured. They are impressive and it is now not uncommon for me to feel, several times a day, pathetic and indulged.
Spent some time with Edgar and Angelita, a couple with three children who received a micro-finance loan which allowed him to purchase some tools to make furniture. They live in a thatch hut and his workshop is a tiny space with dirt floor and bamboo roof. There are a few simple tools and a rough and ancient looking circular saw run by an asthmatic motor. Roosters and cats run around our feet. Kids sit next to the band saw. No WH&S here. We ask to see some furniture and instead of some dodgy chair, out comes a beautifully carved and solid chaise lounge. He sells it for $75. In Sydney you wouldn’t get it for $1500. Someone somewhere is making a lot of money and this annoys me, but at the same time it is so great to see the difference this loan has made to this family.
Also visited the Francisco family who every day hike an hour to cut bamboo in the jungle and then an hour back before spending the day weaving it into giant mats used for walls in these rural villages. The microfinance loan has allowed them to build a work shed. They are “saving” to build their dream home, and by “saving” I mean they have a growing pile of 4 x 2s and a horde of corrugated iron. Different world. But again, inspiring to see the difference a simple loan of $250 has made to this family.
We are the guests of Alay sa Kanularan (“Partners in Progress”) who have over 100 000 similar loan clients. And we get to meet more tomorrow. Wow. Wow. Wow. And again, wow.
Thanks for reading.