After getting married in 2001, Joel and Erlyn Espinosa built a small nipa hut in Balasan, Iloilo to start a family. The couple was determined to change the course of the lives of their three children by sending them to school. “I didn’t want my children to be poor like us,” Erlyn said.
This wish and her enterprising flair pushed Erlyn to start her own business. From her wedding cash gifts, she bought a pedicab (a bicycle with a side car to carry passengers) that she rents out for 30 PHP ($0.71) per day. She borrowed 3,000 PHP ($71) from Progressive Bank, a local rural bank offering microfinance loans and services, to add another pedicab. In the following years, she added two more units, made and sold nata de coco (fermented coconut cream) for a buyer, and started buying and selling peanut butter.
With her second microfinance loan from Progressive Bank, Erlyn bought a small freezer to make ice, which she sells at 2 PHP ($0.05) per piece to fishermen at the nearby port of Carles municipality. Later loans allowed her to buy a larger freezer, enabling her to sell more ice and earn 400 PHP ($9.52) each day. While her husband is at work, Erlyn tends to her small businesses.
All their hard work is paying off, as they have improved their home over the years. Starting with upgrading their roof from nipa to sturdy metal for better shelter against rain, later improvements transformed the lower half of the walls to concrete and upgraded the upper half from loose columnar bamboo to sawali (a tightly-knit bamboo mat). With more cash coming in, they built a sink and a toilet from concrete and ceramic bowls. In addition, with the increased income from their businesses, the couple acquired a bamboo sofa set, television, small stereo system, and electric fan.
Until 2011, Erlyn had to gather and carry water from a well outside their home to fill in her water bags, wash dishes, and bathe her children. Manual fetching of water was becoming a burden due to increasing livelihood activities. Joel wanted to install a water pipeline, but needed more financing.
In March 2011, Progressive Bank introduced the housing microfinance product with technical assistance from MABS. The housing microfinance product was designed to serve housing needs of poor families, who typically build their house in stages. The loan is distinct from traditional housing loans because borrowers to not need collateral to finance home construction, install utility services such as water and electricity, or make other home improvements. With a 15,000 PHP ($357) housing microfinance loan, Erlyn installed a water system from the well to the house. Water is pumped from the well through a small vacuum pump, up a blue water tank above the house. Another pipe connects the water tank to a faucet at the sink and all the way to the bathroom, where Joel installed a shower. The piping system makes it easier for Erlyn to make ice. Washing dishes is now faster, and the children enjoy bathing under a newly installed shower.
Looking back to where they started, the couple have gone a long way toward reaching their dream. Joel is now a katiwala (trusted carpenter leader), who hires and leads kasamas (workers) for home construction projects. People looking to build a house in Iloilo Province and elsewhere seek him for his services.
Erlyn still dreams of further home improvement. She wants another loan to improve their wooden stair railings to prevent her small children from falling. The finishing touch will be a tiled floor and a wooden ceiling to insulate from the heat of the sun.
“All we have acquired for our home is due to Progressive Rural Bank, which trusted us with loans without collateral,” says Erlyn. With microfinance, the couple have established a true home and kept their three children in school.
A participating bank of the USAID-supported RBAP-MABS Program, Progressive Bank serves more than 21,000 clients through its four outlets in Iloilo Province. The bank has served more than 60,000 new borrowers and disbursed more than 170,000 loans worth 1.4 billion PHP ($35 million).