A Handsome Gentleman Came Calling

What do you get when you cross a woman named Matilde Tamon and an organization like Ahon Sa Hirap, Inc. (ASHI)? A love song.

Matilde, who is a spry 75 years of age, has been a member of ASHI for 13 years. She loves to sing, and also loves what ASHI has done for her and the women in her community. Faced with this fortunate predicament, she did what any Filipino would do: she sang about it.

Some years ago Matilde composed a song of gratitude for ASHI, one which she usually delivers a capella. ASHI, a Grameen-style, non-profit microcredit institution that provides financial and social services to its more than 22,000 Filipina members, has been operating in Antique Province, where Matilde lives, since 1996.

Matilde has charmed generations of ASHI personnel and members with her song and wit. Legend has it that she sings her song to any new visitors from ASHI when she first meets them, and legend didn’t disappoint on the day I met Matilde.

In late April, I visited her center hall in Malandog Barangay, Hamtic, along with members of ASHI’s board of trustees and other ASHI personnel. After everyone had eaten a particularly delicious meal prepared by ASHI members, Matilde stepped up and sang us her song.

Matilde sings in Kinaray-a, the language spoken by most people in Antique Province. The video is subtitled in English, thanks to ASHI staff from Antique who doubled as interpreters. Enjoy!


Some unfamiliar terms you may encounter in the video:

Field credit officers: ASHI development officers — personnel that visit ASHI members in the field.

Group: ASHI members form groups of five to build solidarity, and to guarantee each other’s loans.

Center: A number of groups — usually six — form a center. A centers is a small, freestanding structure built and maintained by the women who form its member groups. All business is transacted in weekly meetings at the center.

Sir Jesse: The first field credit officer assigned to Matilde’s center; Jesse is now in charge of Grameen operations for ASHI, and is based in Manila. Jesse is the handsome gentleman in Matilde’s song.

Ma’am Hermie: The ASHI first regional manager for Antique Province, who oversaw operations at the time Jesse was a field credit officer.

John Briggs is a Kiva Fellow serving with Ahon Sa Hirap, Inc. (ASHI) in the Philippines. This is his second of three placements. Before his post at ASHI, John worked with Maxima Mikroheranvatho in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. John’s third placement as a Kiva Fellow will be with the Kenya Agency for the Development of Enterprise and Technology (KADET), starting in June. If you haven’t already, consider becoming a Kiva Fellow, too!


About the author

John Briggs