A Road Is Paved, A Mall Opens

10 August 2009 at 02:45 13 comments

By Sloane Berrent, KF8, Ahon sa Hirap, Inc, Philippines

A Center Meeting in San Jose, Antique, Philippines.

A Center Meeting in San Jose, Antique, Philippines.

“How has Ahon sa Hirap, Inc.” (ASHI and my host microfinance institution) “being here in your barangay or in your town helped your community?” I ask the women from ASHI during each Center meeting that I attend. There are a few variations on this question. I ask how their lives have changed and what the Center means to them.

“My husband had a stroke and couldn’t work anymore. I worked as a domestic in town and had to travel very far every day for not a lot of money. I joined ASHI 7 years ago to start a buy and sell fish business so that I could stay closer to home to take care of my husband and help my children.”

“After my husband died, I was so lonely. My children are all grown up and out of the house. I was sad. I joined ASHI 13 years ago and now my life is so different. I laugh. I come here every week to see my friends.”

“My house was very bad and made from old bamboo. When typhoon season came, my family had to run to our neighbors because we were scared our house would collapse. With my ASHI loan, I was able to move my Sari Sari store to a busier corner where workers pass by on their way to the fields. I open at 4AM and close at 8PM but am very happy. Now 10 years later, we now have a house made of stone and we don’t run from the typhoons anymore.”

But has it changed MORE than that? What about an entire town?

I had heard that seeing microfinance in action could be like watching grass grow. So gradual, so slow. How could I say that there is indeed a larger change in the landscape of where microfinance sets up shop?

I turned to the ASHI staff. It was a Saturday night and we were going to go out to dinner together. The two Kiva Coordinators asked me if we could stop in the new local mall that opened so that could grab a few things.

“Sure,” I said. No problem.

We walked to the end of the drive and hopped into a tricycle and took off towards the mall. There was light traffic, the road wasn’t too bumpy, we arrived to throngs of people gathering outside the mall, in the entrance, more teenagers and families gathered.

“This has been huge for our town,” the one Kiva Coordinator said.

As we walked around the mall, I couldn’t help but get the feeling that I get at a lot of the malls here in the Philippines (which seem to be everywhere and just about swallow up whole towns). It’s too much stuff, too much temptation, too much emphasis on buying and consumerism and it leaves me feeling slightly uneasy. Like how can a country be expected to rise out of poverty when they are spending their hard-earned dollars on things?

And it’s true, that the emphasis can be on the wrong things. But in talking with the Kiva Coordinators, I learned something else.

10 years ago the roads in this town weren’t all paved and it was hard to find a job and there was only one mall but it was farther out of town and slightly run down. ASHI has been in the Antique region for 14 years and the makeup of entire villages has changed. People now have money to feed their families and many of the borrowers are success stories. With disposable income comes influence, namely politcal influence, especially in a country with such economic disparity as the Philippines. Money flowing in and out of San Jose, Antique, gave the town some leverage to fix up their streets and road conditions, open more stores, have more commerce and finally – just this past June – open a second brand-new mall right in town.

Is it potentially dangerous to have another place to shop and spend their limited income? Yes, I really believe that is a huge threat to rising out of poverty for many here. At the same time, building this mall was job creation. Employing staff and security guards in all the stores in job creation, and steady employment and economic development.

Lastly let me say that they are damn proud of their new mall, a status symbol for this once sleepy drive-through town. There are many steps and layers to breaking the poverty cycle, but surely a sign of real progress can be found here in San Jose, when a road is paved and a mall opens.

Sloane Berrent, KF8, is currently serving her placement with Ahon sa Hirap (ASHI) in the Philippines and falling more and more in love with the Filipino culture every day. When online, you can find her promoting Kiva on Twitter and writing about the cause-filled life on her blog, The Causemopolitan.

Entry filed under: Ahon sa Hirap, Inc. (ASHI), All, blogsherpa, East Asia & the Pacific (EAP), KF8 (Kiva Fellows 8th Class), Philippines. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

10 Fellowship Gems the Artist and the Artisan


  • 1. ela  |  21 May 2010 at 21:49

    kalukuhan yan bakit ang ate ko namatay 12yrs syang member ng ashi n yan bakit walang makuha ang mga anak na pera, sa ashi kaya ang kaluluwa ng kapatid ko nd nanahimik…1 buwan nang patay ang cnasabi lang sa mga bata wala ng makukuha ang kapatid ko…nanawagan ako sa mga bumubuo ng ashi n to sana matulungan nyo ang naiwan na mga anak ng kapatid ko..at wala clang maipaliwanag kung bakit walang makuha ang mga bata,,..palibhasa ba bata lang mga pamangkin ko at ssabihin nalang nilang wala ng makukuha mga bata…isang malaking panglukuko..

  • 2. colin  |  28 November 2009 at 11:37

    As I have met many workers in the uk who are from the philippines I have grown to respect their hardworking attitude to life. The fact that so many filipnas dedicate their life to their families and send a large part of their income home proves the durability of the filipino culture. These money transfers from all over the world are all contributing to development. I am sure the resilient filipino culture will survive the economic development in Antique as it has done with the philipinne population living in the UK and europe as a whole. Great advances are now taking place in panay island and accross the philipinnes with at last a forward looking government. I hope to continue to visit Panay island and hope to encourage other british people to do the same. I hope the tourist industry can thrive with your help and support. A positive attitude to development will help so many people be lifted from poverty, I have faith in your culture and I hope can benefit from the better times ahead.

  • 3. colin  |  28 November 2009 at 11:16

    I am on holiday in antique for 4 weeks in january.I decided to leave the cold city of london in UK to enjoy the warmth of panay island weather and of course the people. I am visiting panay island because there is now a world class airport at iloilo, nightlife at smallville and will be visiting and spending in the new mall in san jose when I visit. Congratulations to all filipinas on the excellent developments which is turning panay island into a serious tourist destination. I hope this brings a better life to the people of the island.

  • 4. Linda  |  10 September 2009 at 04:24


    We are two journalist students how starts our last semester on the journalistic education of Södertörns university. As a last part of this education we will implement a diploma work.
    Our work will be about microcredit, with starting point from Kivas work. We would like to fallow the money from lender in Sweden to the borrowers in Phillippines.

    Before we leave Sweden we need to come in contact with a Kiva fellow in the Philippines.
    We would be very thankful if you could help us to get in touch with a Kiva fellow in the Philippines!

    Grateful for replies!

    Best regards / Nadine Le Gros & Linda Jerand

    Contact information:

    Nadine Le Gros:
    Phone: +46 708 677 178

    Linda Jerand:
    Phone : +46 703 977 776

  • 5. Unilove  |  12 August 2009 at 21:06

    Sloane! Always glad to see your posts…. It’s great to learn more and be able to take away such interesting ideas from your experiences… post often!

    Unilove aka Lisa
    Kiva Fellows fan

  • 6. Milena  |  11 August 2009 at 16:34


    This was such a good perspective on the malls here. I had also struggled to understand how the malls in Tagbilaran City (with Guess? stores and bakeries of overpriced cupcakes) fit in to an area where people are living on $2/day. Your post made me feel much more comfortable with it.

    Milena (KF8 – Philippines)

  • 7. Hanh  |  11 August 2009 at 02:02

    Sloane, I really enjoyed this post and your balanced presentation of both sides of the situation. Thanks for sharing!

  • 8. Suzy Marinkovich  |  10 August 2009 at 12:27

    love this post, and i totally get that uneasy feeling too in malls. thanks for this!

    • 9. Sloane Berrent  |  10 August 2009 at 20:06

      Thanks everyone. It’s hard to “walk the line” because there really are two ways to look at every situation and I sit at night a lot thinking about this. I hope I conveyed both sides in a way that is thoughtful to their situations here but also very realistic.

  • 10. Teresa  |  10 August 2009 at 09:58

    How lovely, Sloane! Thank you so much for posting this! It’s great to know more about our MFIs and our lenders! Teresa (Kiva editor and translator)

  • 11. Jan & John  |  10 August 2009 at 08:26

    Thanks, Sloane. This is an interesting two-sided coin. Consumerism means jobs and food on the table, however, we are witness to what rampant consumerism (I call it greed) has done to the world economy. We, as Kiva lenders want to help people with a hand up to provide better for their families. I hope and pray that they can learn from our mistakes and perhaps be wiser and not choose ‘stuff’ over people. Jan

  • 12. Chris  |  10 August 2009 at 07:32

    Glad to see Kiva is contributing in a positive manner. It just keeps on giving. Thanks for the post.

  • 13. charmaine  |  10 August 2009 at 05:51

    Sloane thank you for your blog. I love reading thoughts of the entrepreneurs. Your writing of a mall and the roads describes so well what is happening in a town and the people in it. Although it may be a means for people to spend money they could spend on other things, it is a sign of development and jobs. Keep up the great work, and will look forward to more blogs about your adventures with ASHI.

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