Let me tell you the story of Fatima “Patty” Racsa. She has been selling salt for living for many years. She came to my office one morning weary and seeking assistance for her small enterprise. She was immediately referred to the Fatima Credit Cooperative. Under the city livelihood program, Patty was granted a loan for use as capital. A few months later, she came back no longer weary but with a bright smile on her face and cheerfully reported that from just one cavan of salt, she now maintains a capital equivalent of three cavans of salt.
Another story is that of Lola Remy Bermudez, an elderly from Brgy. Capangpangan. Under the same program, she borrowed two thousand pesos for her buy-and-sell business. After promptly repaying her loan, she became eligible to again borrow an even greater amount. But having stabilized her small business she only applied for one thousand pesos.
My friends, to us these may seem insignificant yet for Patty, Lola Remy and the other beneficiaries it means the source of food on the table, tuition fee and allowance for the children and anything that will make ends meet.
This program was commenced by your city government despite the overwhelming disagreement of many. They have discouraged us to lend to financially underprivileged Bigueños. One friend even remarked that we should never expect that the poor will ever be able to repay loans and it would be better to give outright dole-outs.
This we adamantly refused to do. We refuse to reduce Bigueños to become just beggars. Like the proverbial passage, your city government refuses to merely give fish to Bigueños, rather they have to be taught how to fish.
Our conviction in the credit worthiness of the poor remains steadfast. Our trust in their capability to improve their livelihood and our tenacious resolve to restore the dignity that is rightfully theirs has inspired us to proceed with the livelihood program.
With these stories, we are certain that we are on the right track. Through the city livelihood program, we were able to improve the quality and packaging of our local products such as the abel, the longganiza, the chichacorn and the burnay and the damili. I must mention that our two partner cooperatives have proven that they are not only able and reliable fund handlers. They have taken the cudgels of ensuring the social preparation of the beneficiaries.
We are overwhelmed by the positive fruits of this program. This afternoon, may I present to you Fatima “Patty” Racsa and Lola Remy Bermudez. Empowered Bigueños. Proud Bigueños! It has been repeatedly said that education is the best legacy that we pass on to our children. Your city government sends more than a hundred children to school. Today, we are proud of our scholars who have obtained college degrees as well as vocational certificates. Allow me to present to you Miss Frances Mae Vigilla, a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration cum laude graduate and Miss Jennifer Ragonton, a Bachelor of Science in Criminology cum laude graduate. Frances Mae is now employed at Allied Bank-Vigan Branch and Jennifer has joined the public safety division of the city. Friends, our scholars. Empowered Bigueños. Proud Bigueños!
Being the only world heritage city in the Philippines, it is imperative that conservation entails both our tangible and intangible heritage. Your city government has sought to enhance the capabilities of our craftsmen in restoration as one facet in heritage conservation. The “ESKWELA TALYER” or the Vigan Manpower Development Program is the city’s school for restorers of ancestral structures. In tandem with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and the Ciudad Fernandina Chapter of the United Architects of the Philippines (UAP), this trailblazing program already has in its fold thirty-six (36) craftsmen trained on carpentry, masonry, and metal works, who are already being commissioned by ancestral homeowners to do restoration works on their prized properties. In the near future, we will hear of them as most soughtafter restorers not only in local shores but hopefully abroad. May I add that Eskwela Talyer has been adjudged as Region I’s TESDA Kabalikat Awardee for developing and enhancing middle level manpower thereby providing employment opportunities for our constituents. The same program earned for Ciudad Fernandina Chapter of the UAP the award as its Most Outstanding Chapter in the Country. Ladies and gentlemen, please meet Andy Cabebe and Luisito Guzman, graduates of the Eskwela Talyer. Empowered Bigueños, Proud Bigueños!
[ To be continued ]