Today was our last day out in the field working with NWTF and filming their borrowers. It was a bittersweet day, but a memorable one.
 
While filming for Kiva, we have been shooting both montage shots and borrower interviews. Our final day was meant to be shooting a montage shot of a lady named Levy and her Ginger Tumeric tea-making business. Like all of our montage shoots, it was meant to be short and sweet so as to not not take too much of the borrower's time. We finished filming Levy making the tea and as we were packing up our gear, Levy struck up a heartfelt conversation with Yungkit, about Levy's life story. 
 
Her delicious product: ginger tumeric lemon grass tea

 
Levy is an entrepeneur who sells Ginger Tumeric tea in Mabinay, Negros Oriental. It was only because of the classes that were offered by NWTF that she found her inspiration to create this healthy tea. She wanted to make a product that not only could create a livelihood for herself, but also a product that could help people. She had always known that ginger and tumeric were good for the body, but she never knew exactly how. With the help of her daughter and the internet, she realized exactly how beneficial these two items were for one's health. With this idea in hand, she approached NWTF for a loan to purchase the raw materials, the grinders, and the packaging.
 
Proud of her product, as she should be

 
Levy told us that she used to live in a house much smaller than it is now. The walls were unstable, the roof leaked, and everytime it rained the house would fill with water. She had seven children to care for and needed a way to create a better future for them. She found her answers in her tea. She proudly told us that two of her children are now teachers in the Philippines, one of which is continuing her education. She had recently taken a vacation trip with her family to a nearby Spring - something she could never have done without the success of her tea business. As she told us this story, her eyes became teary. She was so thankful to the micro finance organization that gave her this opportunity to better her life, to give her the chance to experience the things in life that she otherwise would not have. We could tell that she was incredibly grateful for every ounce of help she received from NWTF, Kiva, and her local community. 
 
Levy's old home with the new addition after her business bloomed. Photo credit: Yungkit

 
After Yungkit started to tear up from hearing her story, we decided that we would not do Kiva justice if we didn't do a full interview of Levy. Whether it be to simply show her success or to inspire others, we had to tell her story. Even though she told her story to us in English, She ended up doing the interview in Illango, her native tongue. Her facial expessions, hand gestures and eyes were just as heartfelt. The last question we asked was "what can you do now that you feel you could not do before?" Although we did not understand the content of her interview, her last words to the answer of that question were, "happy big family". I think the whole room smiled at that point, even for those of us who do not understand Illango.
 
Flming Levy at work. Photo credit: Yungkit
Stories like Levy's as well as all of the women we interview and meet are a true testament to how important these micro loans are to people in need. "Kiva - Loans that Change Lives" is not just a slogan, it's a statement of fact. I have believed in the work of Kiva for a long time, but after seeing it help people first hand I know know it to be true beyond any doubt. Thank you Levy.
 
Levy and I. Photo credit: Yungkit
 

Final thoughts on the Negros Islands
 
I have to be honest, coming into this fellowship, I had no idea what to expect. Being in a country with multiple language barriers, filming in the rural areas of Southeast Asia, working with new people - it was going to be an adventure. I was fortunate enough to be paired up with NWTF (http://www.nwtf.org.ph/), an absolutely incredible microfinance organization. Their dedication and care towards their borrowers is inspiring to all. I couldn't have wished for a more inspiring group of people to start off my fellowship with. Without them, we would not have been able to get to as many places as we did, meet as many people or captured as much quality footage.
 
It started to rain when we were filming, luckily we found a hut! Photo credit: Yungkit

 
Whenever we filmed at a borrower, NWTF would make sure that there was a local branch manager or loan officer with us, who the borrower knew personally, so that they would feel as comfortable as possible. They organized a great schedule allowing us to meet and film as many people as possible, getting a great variety of female borrowers. I was also able to always randomly stop in the middle of a drive, hop out of the car and film something - Pach and the team were alway accomdating and encouraging.
 
Sugarcane field being cleared by locals. Photo credit: Yungkit

The sugarcane workers taking a much deserved break. Photo credit: Yungkit

 
A special thanks must go to three individuals who I would not have survived without. First is Pachito, or as we endearingly call him, Pach. He was our coordinator, our scheduler, our translator and most of all, our friend. Pretty much, no Pach, no footage! Pach, you are undoubtedly an asset to NWTF and a great NWTF/Kiva coordinator!


Pach translating directions to the cleint. Photo credit: Yungkit
 
The second special thanks goes to Ramil, the most awesome driver in the Philippines. We were always able to get everyone on time because of this man - if it is supposed to take us 2 hours to get somewhere, it really meant 1 hour in Ramil time (perhaps an exageration but you get the idea). Sometimes Ramil would drive for five hours straight without breaking concentration at all. There was a small language barrier between us, but we could tell that he loved being on the shoots and helping out. He was a great addition to our team and will be missed dearly. 
 
Last dinner with Ramil. Delicious, delicious Japanese food. Photo credit: Yungkit


Last but not least, Presy - who made herself constantly available for any questions regarding the organization, the borrowers, or anything related to the Philippines. Her presence was always accompanied by lots of laughter and a positive attitude. She has dedicated countless hours, days and years to this organization so that their work can touch the lives of more and more people. NWTF is lucky to have her!

Myself and Presy. Photo credit: Yungkit

 
NWTF has been an incredible host and I hope their work continues to grow in the Negros Islands. They have touched so many lives and enabled Kiva to further its' mission to alleviate poverty across the globe.
 
The NWTF team and I, last full day of shooting. Photo credit: Yungkit


Next stop, Manila!!!

Comments

Nice blogs Mike! I have a co-worker and she has become your fan. Keep them coming. So excited for Manila blogs! Hi Yungkit! Missing you. :)

Looking at this blog, I can't help but worry about these wonderful people. I have not yet heard too much information about the Negros region after the typhoon, but it is scary to think what is going on there right now. I hope you are able to get an update on all your friends Mike, and I pray the news is good.

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After many years working as a producer and director at a Manhattan creative agency, Michael decided to make a change and put his skill-set to use creating meaningful content for causes he believed in. While in Guatemala on a video shoot, he had a chance encounter with a Kiva Fellow that resulted in a successful experience producing videos for Kiva's Women-Owned Businesses initiative. He profiled indigenous women and their businesses around Lake Atitlan and produced a best practices video for the local field partner, Friendship Bridge. These experiences in Central America helped him grow as a filmmaker and instilled a newfound desire to apply his craft telling the stories of the people around the world who have used microfinancing to change their lives. Michael is elated to be continuing his work with Kiva in Southeast Asia this fall. He will be tackling a new Media Fellowship, searching for the borrowers that best exemplify the power of Kiva to give people the resources to lift themselves out of poverty. This Kiva Fellowship is Michael's calling and was the opportunity he was looking for to make a difference.