Saturday, September 4, 2010
The gentleman to left is Mr. Rolando B. Victoria, Executive Director of ASKI. Known as "the Boss" around ASKI, Mr. Victoria rarely stopped by the office due to traveling around the Philippines and Asia in order to attend microfinance seminars and meetings. I knew I was lucky that he was at the office and I couldn't leave Cabanatuan City without meeting him.
After his meeting with the visitors with Cambodia, I went to his office and he instantly opened the door and welcomed me. I was nervous at first, knowing his significance not only in ASKI but also in microfinance throughout Asia. Surprisingly, when he began to talk, I felt more comfortable and he seemed like any other Filipino adult I've met before. He talked passionately about the purpose of ASKI and told me in an instructing tone to get my friends involved back at Peddie. Right then I knew that my Summer signature had to become more than a presentation to the community; it would have to play a role within the community. After all, Peddie and microfinance share a common goal of respect and service. Therefore, by introducing the two, I knew I could create a potent combination filled with students and teachers eager to combat poverty. It would take a lot of work, but meeting Mr. Victoria proved that the ends will justify the means in microfinance.
Another shot of the ASKI Cabanatuan branch. Opposed to Mallig Plains Rural Bank, ASKI is not a bank. Although it operates five different business units, which include insurance and training in both business and social aspects, ASKI does not offer the traditional services of a bank, including a savings account. It is one of ASKI's future plans to institutionalize a banking sector by 2012. As the plan suggests, ASKI continues to grow.
Another picture with Mr. Victoria and two visitors from Credit MFI in Cambodia.
One unique aspect of the Cabanatuan branch: it has its own convenience store located right below the offices. However, the products seen here come from ASKI clients. Going beyond food and drink, the store also sells clothing, decorations and souvenirs that were created by clients. ASKI actively helps its clients through this convenience stores and other methods due to the Marketing Cooperative, one of ASKI's business units. Through Marketing Coop, ASKI provides its clients with strategies and opportunities to bring their goods to the market.
This is the general meeting room where Morning Devotion and other events are held.
Monday, August 30, 2010
Thursday, August 26, 2010
The sun slowly crept over the still sleeping city of Cabanatuan. It was early Monday morning and the main office of ASKI was still closed. My mind was half-asleep as I waited with my grandmother and my driver in the van.
While the weekend trip to Cebu was a nice break, it was time to return to work. Cabanatuan City was a three-hour car ride away from Manila and I had to arrive at the ASKI office before 8 o’clock in the morning. My grandmother, ever the drill sergeant of the family, vigorously woke me up at 3:30 am, turning on blinding lights and instructing me with her stern voice to “get up and dress up.” After waking up to the soft sounds of waves crashing onto the white sand beaches of Cebu, I was shell-shocked by the sudden wake-up call. Eventually, I was up and ready to go, not really worrying about the long commute.
We arrived at the ASKI office at 6:30. Without any local traffic in the usually busy streets of Manila and Cabanatuan, my driver was able to breeze through the national highway and cut the three-hour car ride into two hours. While I was upset that I could have woken up later in Manila, the van proved to be a comfortable place to nap in. As the clock hit 7:45, I got out of the van and climbed the stairs to the ASKI headquarters.
I immediately met Ms. May Garlitos, senior training specialist at ASKI and the hostess of my study visit in Cabanatuan. She wore a smile and expressed a congenial welcome to both my grandmother and me. Over the weeks of communication with ASKI before my arrival in the Philippines, I was able to secure a four-day study visit with ASKI that included studying at the Cabanatuan head office as well as the Roxas branch. With 25 branches spanning 10 provinces and 189 towns, the size and scale of ASKI’s microfinance operations would be comparatively different to the smaller Mallig Plains Rural Bank. Going beyond microfinance, ASKI is also composed of five different business units: ASKI Mutual Benefit Association (MBA), ASKI Foundation, ASKI Marketing Coop, ASKI Knowledge and Skills Institute, Inc. and ASKI Global Ltd. These business units expand the scope of ASKI's mission and vision to serve the needy of Luzon through a God-centered institution.
I knew it was going to be another busy week.
Monday, August 23, 2010
Despite the tiresome traveling and early hours, the first week of my study visit in the Philippines was a success. I was thrilled to be able to participate in Mallig Plains’ operations as well as acquire a wealth of information from which I could learn more specific details about the bank’s microfinance services.
However, the trip did leave some room for relaxation. Knowing that week two would present another relentless schedule of traveling and studying with ASKI, I knew I would need some time to recharge. Over the weekend, my cousin’s uncle, who happens to be an executive at one of the Philippines’ mainstream banks, treated us with a trip to the southern island of Cebu, which is a tourist hot spot known for its white sand beaches, delicious seafood and historic landmarks.
For example, circumnavigator Ferdinand Magellan landed in Cebu during his historic journey around the world. Unfortunately, his journey would end in Cebu as well when an indigenous tribal chief named Lapu Lapu slain Magellan in the Battle of Mactan. Lapu Lapu is now recognized as the first Philippine hero and the fish Lapu Lapu, which is a local delicacy in Cebu, has been named after him.
The trip was a beautiful way to enjoy the Philippines’ rich culture beyond the main island of Luzon. When we returned to Manila that Sunday, I was refreshed and ready to resume my summer signature work.
Friday, August 20, 2010
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
The women seen in this photo are in a group that participates in the micro-pinay lending program. Interestingly, the program is exclusive only to women with the intentions that these women will help their husbands raise additional income for their families.
This is a pig coral that was funded by a micro loan provided by Mallig Plains. Project officers often check with the bank's clients to see whether or not the loans are being used in an effective manner towards a client's micro enterprise. I was particularly interested with this picture because it helps capture the scope of how these loans are utilized.