“Filipinos are like Bamboo…

By Prem Thomas, KF9, Manila, Philippines

We bend, but don’t break.” These are the words Lala, the Kiva Coordinator, at the Center for Community Transformation Credit Cooperative (CCT) used to describe the Filipinos who have and will bounce back from the flooding caused by Typhoons Ketsana and Parma. My name is Prem Thomas, and today is my fifth day at the head office of CCT in Manila, Philippines. I spent the last four years working in finance in New York; most recently I was at a civic venture capital fund and previously worked at an investment bank. I will be taking over for Merrick Brown (KF8) who has been helping CCT for the last three months.

A CCT borrower out and about, they seem to be everywhere.

A CCT borrower out and about, they seem to be everywhere.

The Center for Community Transformation, the parent of CCT, is an evangelical Christian nonprofit organization that is dedicated to transforming the lives of and providing services to micro-entrepreneurs, service workers, itinerant vendors, orphans, and abandoned children in urban poor communities. In addition to the Credit Cooperative, Kiva’s partner MFI, the Center for Community Transformation operates training and development programs, clinics and disaster relief operations. CCT also runs a generic pharmaceutical distribution business called Tindahan Para Sa Bayan which allows micro entrepreneurs to access low cost medicine while funneling any extra income to social service projects.

I am working at the head office of CCT in Manila, but the credit cooperative has 144 branches throughout the Philippines. At the end of 2008, CCT had over 70,000 active borrowers, 4,803 who have been affected by the recent typhoons. Twenty-six members of the CCT staff also were affected. CCT quickly responded to those affected with distributions of food, basic medicines, clothes, blankets and foam mattresses. I did not witness extensive flooding in Manila, but many CCT staff members were stranded at the office overnight due to flooding in excess of 5 feet, and they had to wade through knee high waters as late as last week. The latest typhoon, which stalled and made landfall three times in Northern Philippines, continues to affect borrowers in the region. According to the government approximately 6 million people were affected by the typhoons and more than 287,000 people remain in evacuation centers.

Despite the recent devastation, I have been very busy at CCT. Merrick and I spent the day performing Kiva Borrower verifications. CCT is a Kiva pilot MFI, so part of our job is to make sure that the profiles on the site are accurate. Completing these verifications at different branch offices often requires some creative transportation including taxis, pedicabs, motorcycles, and quite a bit of walking.

Riding on the backseat of a motor-tricycle to visit borrowers.

Riding on the backseat of a motor-tricycle to visit borrowers.

But even despite all of our efforts and sweating through Manila’s heat, we were only able to track down four out of five borrowers. One of the highlights was a visit with Anita Tubera who used her loan to buy a refrigerator for her ‘sari-sari’ (general) store. During our 30 minute visit Anita Tubera had 5 customers visit her store:


I also asked Anita if she had anything she would like to say to her Kiva lenders:


I am very excited to be here at CCT, and if my first four days are any indication of my fellowship, this will be a great experience.

Prem Thomas is serving as a Kiva Fellow working with the new field partner Center for Community Transformation Credit Cooperative (CCT) in Manila, Philippines.

To view currently fundraising loans from CCT click here.


About the author

Prem Thomas