My personal mission statement: As a Kiva Media Fellow, my goal for this journey in Southeast Asia is to share the stories of Kiva borrowers to the world, through my eyes and my lens. I want to help people see how their contributions from around the world change the lives of so many.
With only a few pieces of clothing and a ton of gear, I set out for a journey of a lifetime. The most important thing? My camera
Saying goodbye to my family and home for three months was hard yet exciting at the same time. It broke my heart that my mother was in tears at the airport, but it simply encourages me more to make her proud on this Kiva journey. Philippines, here I come!
5:00pm Arrival in Bacolod City, Philippines
My first day of travel and arrival in the Philippines now seems like a complete blur: three flights, several forms of transport and a 12 hour time difference later, I was in Bacolod City, the location of my first micro finance institution (MFI).
Bacolod City is the capital of Negros Island inhabited by 512,000 people and is known as the friendliest of cities in the Philippines or the "City of Smiles". I can certainly attest to that.
I was fortunate enough to be paired with Negros Women for Tomorrow Foundation (NWTF), an MFI that started almost 30 years ago, responding to the borrowing needs of its' community. Their continuing mission is to provide sustainable financial aid and client-responsive developmental services to the poor (http://www.nwtf.org.ph). My work in the Negros Islands would not be possible without the coordination efforts of Presy and Pach from NWTF. Their continuous support to help me coordinate shoots and interviews with the local borrowers has been incredible. I must also thank Ramil, the awesome NWTF driver who brought us to all of our shooting locations, some as far as 5 hours away. He always got us there on time or early with a permanent smile on his face, rain or shine!
Arriving on a weekend, I had two days to cure my jet lag, get to know the NWTF coordinators, and try out the delicious local food. Presy and Pach were more than helpful in filling me on the NWTF history, inner workings, and clientele. Not only are they great people to work with, but I could see their genuine care and hope to help build a better and brighter future for their clients.
Over my first weekend in Bacolod City, I tried an abundant amount of local foods (should have packed looser pants for this trip) which included Siligang soup (a flavourful broth made with pork or fish with a sour twist), chopsuey (stir fry of mixed vegetables and sometimes meat), grilled pork short ribs (I don'tknow how they did it, but these were melt in your mouth delicious) and finally, the most noteable thing I loved were the mango shakes made with fresh local mangos.
I couldn't have imagined a better start to my Kiva Journey than with this city and this MFI!