I’ve never been to the Philippines before but my heart has been stolen by several countries in Southeast Asia, and the Philippines is starting to do the same. Coming from the (freezing cold) Netherlands the sunshine put an immediate smile on my face.
While searching for dinner yesterday, two of my colleagues and I visited an old church where weddings (the third one we stumbled upon in one block) were taking place. A few moments later, several young children with tangled hair and without shoes came and pulled on our shirts, asking for money.
Seeing such poverty in the Philippines is heart wrenching. I then thought about Oikocredit’s recent roadshow where Marilou Juanito (our regional coordinator for Southeast Asia) spoke about how Oikocredit supports the United Nations Sustainable Development goals, using the Philippines as an example. The first goal: end poverty in all its forms everywhere.
Today I had the privilege of listening to Marilou speak again during our study tour introduction meeting. This introduction meeting set the stage for the 22 study tour participants from various parts of the globe – all part of Oikocredit’s network. Marilou was joined by Tes Pilapil, the regional director for Southeast Asia, who gave us an in-depth presentation on how Oikocredit supports our partners in Southeast Asia and specifically, the Philippines. “All you need is to come with an open mind and a sense of adventure!” Tes said when sharing about cultural norms in the Philippines. We also heard from one of our photographers, Pauline Opmeer, who shared some of her and her husband’s beautiful photos and experiences they have had in the five years working with Oikocredit. Pauline is in my group, so I’m looking forward to seeing some of those great photos!
Oikocredit’s corporate communications coordinator (and our study tour coordinator), Blanca Mendez, went through safety procedures in the event of a natural disaster - something quite necessary since the Philippines is the fourth most disaster-prone country in the world. Given the severity and frequency of natural disasters in the Philippines, Oikocredit developed a disaster resilience training program for its partners. “This training focuses on disaster risk management and business continuity planning, which enables partners to be prepared when a disaster hits and to continue their business soon after it happens,” Marilou previously shared at the study tour.
At the end of the introduction meeting we broke up into our three assigned groups. Each group will go to different regions in the Philippines: Luzon, Manila and Cebu. My group is heading to Luzon, and I’m really looking forward to visiting our partners in this region and seeing first-hand the incredible work they are doing. We will be led by Oikocredit’s programme officer, Joyce Marbello, who we enjoyed a lovely Philippine dinner with, along with Tes, Marilou and the rest of the study tour group.