I chose to be a Kiva Fellow so I could devote my time and skills to the cause to alleviate poverty and to have an experience of a lifetime. Fully aware that I may never have the opportunity to spend an extended period of time in the Philippines again, I also wanted to be sure that I took complete advantage of all that the country had to offer. At the top of my ‘To Do’ list was to become a scuba certified diver (and overcome my fear of being underwater). In order to check an item off my bucket list, I planned a weekend in Dumaguete, Negros, to get my scuba diving license. On the way I met Mike Stone who got me to think about the four things that make the world go around… time, love, money and energy.
Unbeknownst to me at the time, Mike – also known as Grandmaster Mike Stone – is an internationally acclaimed martial arts champion and instructor who served as John Lennon’s body guard for some time and was a close friend of Bruce Lee, among many other professions (e.g. author, poet, filmmaker, fitness instructor). Our conversation began with some friendly jokes, and from there ensued an hour and a half long conversation about life and the inspiring messages Mike shares with his audiences at seminars around the world.
During our discussion, Mike mentioned something that I had thought a lot about prior to applying to the Kiva Fellows Program – the concept of being satisfied and feeling grateful. When he would ask his audiences if they had enough time, money, love or energy, most would flatly respond with a NO. I had observed similar sentiments through my interactions with people back home in California.
When I returned to Bohol, I thought it would be interesting to see how Kiva clients responded to the same questions. Before you read on, think about how you would respond to the following questions: Do you have enough time? love? money? energy?
Eager to practice the Bisayan language with clients, I would begin with, “Na a bah kay sakto na oras?” or ‘Do you have enough time?’ Of the clients interviewed, 86% affirmed that they did while the remaining 14% said that they did not. Most of the clients claimed that it’s possible to find a happy medium between work and family life, but for some, circumstances make it more difficult. Time management is a skill that all of the clients try to practice, but not all can achieve. For one of our clients, Julieta, balance is easier to achieve because she and her husband work together to run their sari sari (variety) store, whereas for our single mother client Roda, it’s more challenging.
Siempre! or Always! was the emphatic response I got from many of the Kiva borrowers when I asked them if they had enough love or gugma in their lives. It was comforting to me that all of the clients responded that they received as much love as they desired. They all agreed that love is a very important factor in life and it never fails to make things better during difficult times. One of my favorite responses came from Lucita: “Siempre! I love my husband and he loves me. My favorite part about work is that we get to spend so much time together – we wake up together, work hard together, and then we spend the nights together. We have no more love quarrels!” At 63 years old, Lucita was one of the most energetic, jovial and passionate clients I had met during my time in Bohol; a true inspiration indeed.Click to view slideshow.
Given that the clients I interviewed earned incomes starting at a couple of dollars (USD) a day, it was interesting to learn that 43% felt that they earn enough money (kwarta), 36% said that they did not earn enough money and 21% said that they sometimes earn enough money. When asked about how they could improve their financial situation, the clients responded that they needed to work harder. Borrower Virginia explained that sometimes she could do nothing more than to pray to God to overcome the challenges she faced with her business – for instance when her husband would get ill or the storms would prevent him from going to sea to catch fish. Other challenges that clients face could be related to the types of businesses they are engaged in or due to seasonality. In the end, people generally want enough money to secure a better future for themselves and their families, and therefore, most of the clients expressed their gratitude for CEVI and Kiva, the organizations that provided them with access to capital to run their businesses.
Every single client that was interviewed told me that they had enough kusog or energy. After all, they joked, they were running their businesses weren’t they? I got the impression that this question sounded silly to some, but it didn’t to me. How many times had I complained that I was too tired from work and needed a break, some time to unwind? Overall, the clients felt that the amount of energy they have depends on the amount of energy they believe they have. Sometimes, all it takes are positive thoughts and a ‘can do’ attitude!
Although I can’t run my own poll of the Kiva Community to see how you all would respond to the four questions I posed to the borrowers on the island of Bohol, I urge you to think about how satisfied you are with the amount of time, love, money and energy you have in your life. I started off my trip to Negros by wanting to check off one item on my bucket list. However, in my quest for adventure, I met someone who not only answered some of my questions, but left me thinking about life on a deeper level. There is an abundance of all four elements in the world, and in the words of Mike Stone, “choose how much of each you want and you’ll attract it.”
And perhaps we can learn something from the optimistic people of the Philippines?
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Kaajal Laungani has completed her Kiva Fellowship at Community Economic Ventures, Inc (CEVI) in the Philippines. She had a wonderful time exploring the beautiful island of Bohol and soaking up the great Filipino culture.