After getting married in 2001, Mr. Joel and Mrs. Erlyn Espinosa built their small nipa hut in Balasan, Iloilo to start a family. Mr. Joel is a son of a small palay farmer and makes a living as a carpenter for house construction. Years of labor as a carpenter are now showing in his slouched posture. Mr. Joel’s nine siblings somehow managed to live auspicious lives despite poor family background. Three of his brothers work as ship crew, while a sister married up and now settles in another province. Meanwhile, his other sisters managed to migrate to Canada to escape poverty in Balasan. With a serious, reflective look in his eyes, Mr. Joel said: “Of all my siblings, I am the only one living a hard up life.”
Mr. Joel’s wife, Ms. Erlyn, only finished elementary school, a common educational achievement among poor women in Balasan. Despite this, she grew up determined to care for her family. Her dream is to provide a good life for her three young children by running a good home and by sending the children to school all the way to the finish line.“I don’t want my children to be a poor couple like us,” said Ms. Erlyn with a smile in her face.
Together, the couple has set out to change the course of life for their children. While Mr. Joel is out to work during the day, Ms. Erlyn expresses her enterprising flair at home. From her wedding’scash gifts, she bought a pedicab that she rented out for PhP 30 (US$ 0.69) per day. She borrowed PhP 3,000 (US$ 69) in microfinance loan from Progressive Bank to add another pedicab to increase her income. In the succeeding years, she added two more pedicabs, engaged in making and selling nata de coco for a buyer, and started buying and selling peanut butter.
With yet another microfinance loan from Progressive bank, Ms. Erlyn bought a small freezer to make homemade ice, which she sells to fishermen at the nearby fishing port of Carles municipality. Succeeding loan cycles allowed her to buy a larger freezer to accommodate her fledging ice business. She is now selling more than 200 pieces of ice each day for PhP2 (US$0.05) per piece.
Their hard work is proving to be worthwhile as they have improved their home over the years. A year after the first loan, the couple upgraded their roof from nipa to sturdy metal for better shelter against rain and typhoon. Subsequently, the family transformed the lower-half of the walls to concrete while upgrading the upper half from loose columnar bamboo to sawali (tightly-knit bamboo mat). With more cash flow coming in, they constructed a sink and a toilet made from concrete and ceramic bowl. Since then, they have added a bamboo sofa set, a television, a small stereo system and an electric fan.
Until 2011, Ms. Erlyn had to repeatedly scoop water from a well outside their home and carry a water-filled basin inside the house in order to fill in her water bags, wash dishes and bathe her children. By this time, the manual fetching of water was becoming a burden to her due to increasing livelihood activities. Mr. Joel wanted to install water pipeline to make her life easier but needed bigger financing for this project.
In March 2011, Progressive Bank introduced the Housing Microfinance (HMF) product through a partnership with the Microenterprise Access to Banking Services (MABS) program, which provided the training and technical assistance. HMF is designed to serve the housing needs of poor families who typically engage in building their house in stages. The HMF is distinct from traditional housing loans because, aside from financing house construction, it allows for financing of installation of water pipelines and electricity cables, and even payment of legal fees in connection with purchase of a house, transfer of titles, or taxes for owning a property. HMF also allows for a sizable amount of loan that can be repaid up to a maximum of 5 years depending on the cash flow of the borrower. Lastly, HMF is available to households without a need for collateral.
With a PhP15,000 (US$ 344) HMF loan from the bank, Mr. Joel installed a water system from the well to the house. A pipe pulls water from the well through a small vacuum pump and up to a blue water tank located above the house. Another pipe connects the water tank down to a faucet at the sink and all the way to the comfort room where Joel installed a shower.
The piping system improved their family’s life significantly. It made it much easier for Ms. Erlyn to fill in 200 packets of water for her daily production of ice. Now, all she needs to do is put the mouth of a plastic bagunder the nose of the faucet to fill the bag with water. Similarly, washing dishes are now faster with water flowing from the faucet at the twist of a spigot. Lastly, children scream in excitement as they enjoy the cold water from the newly installed shower.
Looking back to where they started, the couple have gone a long way toward reaching their dream. Ten years ago, Mr. Joel was only a kasama (a peon) tagged along by the head carpenter for house projects. Today, he attains the status of a katiwala (a trusted carpenter leader), who hires and leads the kasamas. People looking to build a house in Iloilo province and elsewhere seek him directly for his services.
For her part, Ms. Erlyn still remembers the first time she set her foot on their small nipa hut when her home was still bare and fragile. With the repayment of her current HMF loan almost completed, she now sets her mind to another cycle of HMF loan to be used for the improvement of their wooden stairs’ railings to prevent her small children from falling. The finale of their house will be a wooden ceiling to insulate from the heat of the sun, and a tiled floor for a smoother stride inside their warm home. Her children are all in school with Jenelyn in grade 4, and Jolan and Jhun in Kinder 2 and 1, respectively.
“All we have acquired for our home are juices of Progressive Rural Bank,” says Ms. Erlyn. With microfinance, the couple’s fruits of labor have established a true home and have kept their children in school.
A participating bank of the USAID-supported RBAP-MABS program, Progressive Bank services more than 20,000 active clients through its 3 branches in the province of Iloilo. The bank has, in total, served more than 55,000 new borrowers and disbursed over 160,000 loans worth PhP1.3 billion. The couple are among these borrowers that have been given a chance to access bank services to improve on what they have in life.