Translation from Kinaray-a (local language of Antique region on Panay Island in the Philippines):
Hi I am Bernadita Dayo and I have a farming business and a pump boat. I really feel great because I was able to have a business from the loan I made to ASHI. I feel very happy because I was able to attain all of my needs with the help of ASHI and I have less worries because I have a business. Thank you Kiva.
The crazy thing is I knew her before I even saw her. Bernardita that is. I had made a loan to her on Kiva before I knew I was even going to be a Kiva Fellows in the Philippines. I was moved by the kind look on her face the crisp green grass around her and so I pressed: LEND NOW.
And yet there she was. Walking down the path towards me. I recognized her immediately from her profile picture.
If you read my blog, you might have noticed I have a bit of a soft heart. So when I saw her, I don’t know what came over me, but I started to feel the tears well in my eyes. It was about her – but what really got me – what that in that moment I felt like I was stepping into the picture on the Kiva website. On the web we look at pictures and it’s just an IMAGE in front of us. But when the actual picture is taking place it is capturing just a moment in time.
The second before the picture takes place and the second after there is movement. There are sounds and smells and voices crossing left and right. There is life in pictures and that snap of a camera just tackles a split second of it.
So I could see not only what she saw looking into the camera and over the shoulder of the camera holder – the small gathering of huts, the waves crashing on the beach, the sounds of the tricycles and jeepneys furiously passing by, but what was to her left and right – the adjacent fields, the other people working the earth, the children skipping from school in their freshly pressed uniforms. I had stepped into her picture.
Standing there with Bernardita, she took me by the arm and led me to her pumpboat and talked about her life, her challenges, her successes and it was like stepping into a picture. She walked me through her home and down to the beach where a fishing net was being pulled in with the daily catch. She gave me a window into her life. Her biggest hopes? To turn her hut of bamboo into a house of stone. Can you imagine if that is your life’s dream? Her second biggest hope was to send her children to college. The cost of simple books, uniforms and tuition can often be too much to afford for many in poverty.
And I gave her a window into mine. How my mother is an entrepreneur and I grew up seeing her struggle to be the top provider for the family but also be a mom to me and my sisters. I told her that I too have my own business. I told her I too had hopes and dreams for the future that I was really striving for.
She cried telling me part of her story and her struggles. She lives right on the beach in a little barangay and the storms are strong in rainy season and there is always a threat of her house being washed away or blown over by the strong winds. Twice in her lifetime she has lost her house and had to rebuild. She cried telling me that rice fields alone weren’t enough to sustain her family and through a loan with ASHI she has been able to buy a pump boat and her husband fishes in the early morning (4-9am) and that extra income really allows her family at least to not have to worry about food.
My tears matched hers. The heart of a Filipina is soft after all and looking at Bernardita being so honest with me and not holding back, well how could I imagine not letting myself go and just wanting to stay there and hold her hand all day and learn more about her.
At the end, well, I simply didn’t want to leave. I wanted to spend the whole day and night there and see everything. But the life of a Kiva Fellow must go on and I had other appointments to keep.
Before parting I reached down and removed one of the three bracelets I wear every day made of glass beads and placed it on her wrist.
One is for the past – to remember where I came from.
One is for the present – to remember to live in the now and for the moment.
One is for the future – to always look ahead and strive for better.
I removed the one that symbolizes the future. And I told her that she is stronger than I could even say. She raises a good family and works hard and every day has strife and poverty around her but she chooses to keep moving forward. The storms that cross at her doorstep will always come and go, but dreams, hopes, and goals for the future can be like the corners we build our house on. By believing we can start to make them come true. With faith in God, love from your family, support from your community and self-confidence, I told her, she has the power to rise up from poverty.
I said I would come back one day to visit her again. And if her dreams came true for the future, we could give the bracelet to someone else to help them along. There is nothing stronger than after having succeeded in your goals, than helping the next person with theirs.
And that is the story of my morning with Kiva borrower and Ahon sa Hirap, Inc. member, Bernardita Dayo.
Here’s another video from my morning there for you to watch.