First of all, a few apologies. For one, sorry for all of these late posts, the wifi situation has been spotty to say the least and the days are so packed that pumping out quality posts has been a bit of a challenge. I also want to apologize for not posting any pictures; I’m not much of a photographer (and just generally forget to take photos). I’m sure Will’s and Alina’s posts will be much more picture friendly than mine. Finally, I want to apologize for all of the clichés that this post will have. Sometimes, clichés really just fit a situation best.
This trip has been quite odd for me. For one, it has been a year since I even took part in the class. As well, as a part of the marketing team, I felt really detached from our borrowers. I don’t know if I ever learned a single borrower’s name that term. Being in the Philippines complicates that feeling even further: back during my term, GLOBE was not even in the Philippines. I spent some time prepping for this trip by reading up on our Filipino borrowers. I had to be reminded by Dr. Sama at some point that a sari-sari store does not sell saris, but rather functions as a type of convenience store. Meeting our borrowers over our last few days has really put a face to poverty and given new meaning to the work that GLOBE does.
So much has happened over the last few days that I’m going to naturally gloss over some things. Again, for that I apologize. I guess this is where I try and explain.
On Thursday we spent the day with Habitat for Humanity. I hate to admit it, but before this trip, I really knew very little about the Philippines. I had no idea what to expect from Manila; what the city would look like, what to eat, how people would dress, what Tagalog looked and sounded like. Sure, I knew about the recent presidential election and had a vague recollection of the colonial history, but that was it. So, learning that Manila serves as the base for Habitat for Humanity’s operation in Asia was quite a shock. The Habitat office (which was located, for the record, in a very, very different looking part of Manila; if you were just placed there, you would think you were somewhere in the States) was large and spacious and looked like an absolutely thriving center. From there, we learned quite a bit. The foremost lesson was that Manila’s traffic is no joke.
Okay, maybe not the most important lesson, but the traffic situation is actually a true disaster and will cripple the city in the future. No, the great thing was learning about Habitat for Humanity’s microbuild, a program that extends microloans to those in developing countries to help either build or renovate their homes. One of the first slides we were shown was a really neat one with an animation of how homes in the Philippines are generally constructed. That animation really clicked after driving and walking around Manila and seeing the homes in person. It really is totally different talking about someone else’s living conditions versus actually seeing it and sitting in their house. Which goes back to what might have been the most powerful moment of the day; before our meeting with Habitat in their office, we had the opportunity to attend one of their group microloan meetings. The meeting, housed in a prototypical Manila home, was packed between us and the women. The woman were so happy and full of life and grateful for being given the opportunity to uplift themselves and their families. One woman was a dress maker and had one of her dresses with her. The dress was a beautiful royal blue but the woman was too shy to model it so one of the other borrowers from the group showed it off for us. The entire group had such an amazing energy and a true bond as they all have yet to default on a payment. Seeing the real benefits of microfinance and what our loans can do for people and how it can enhance their lives really shined through. It gives actual faces to those that we can help.
Okay, this post is already quite long. My next post (which will hopefully be out tonight!) will be about meeting our borrowers in IloIlo City and then the next day in Libon, Albay. As the Daughters of Charity have told us repeatedly when dealing with Philippines Airlines, pray for patience!