I know you’re wondering, what exactly is a 5/6 loan? Well it’s something that desperate people do when they are trying to resume a livelihoood in the Philippines after Typhoon Yolanda and the oil spill of Powerbarge 103 have taken away their only soure of income.
the oil spill is like a big monster to us …
Meet Marly Abern (52 years old) living in Botongon at the time of the Typhoon and the oil spill. She worked filleting fish and also had a small Sari-Sari store. Since the typhoon there are no fish to fillet and she says her store is now a Sera-Sera store (ie, closed).
When I met her she showed me dark marks on her skin, remains from the oil spill. At the time her skin became infected from being immersed in contaminated water. The skin was raised into large welts and was seeping pus and fluid. She tells me she is afraid of the damage to her body.
When I asked her if a doctor had looked at her skin she said “yes, but a couple of months ago.” The doctor had prescribed medicine but she can’t afford to buy it. I asked what she had been using instead … “vitamins”, she says “they are much cheaper”.
She is feeling great stress because in order for her to restart her Sari-Sari Store she has taken out a 5/6 loan with the loan sharks. She borrows 5,000 pesos and has one month to repay 6,000 pesos giving a payment of 200 pesos every day. Yes, that is correct 20% interest on the principal over one (1) month.
The loan sharks visit her house every afternoon to collect the money. She says the oil spill is like a big monster to us, leaving our lives at the mercy of the loan sharks.
I asked her if she would like to visit the doctor and have her skin checked and so the next day myself and Annabel Munes (a local volunteer, community representative and Yolanda victim who acted as interpreter) took her to the clinic.
She was examined by a local doctor who wasn’t willing to comment on the repercussions of the oil spill but we did discover her biggest concern was hypertension, ie high blood pressure. With the state of her life (mainly attributed to the 5/6 loan) and her blood pressure reading, the doctor was concerned about the likelihood of a heart attack.
After the doctor’s bill was paid and medication purchased, we returned to the women’s community centre to discuss the 5/6 loan. It was agreed that I would loan her the remaining principal (interest free) and she would pay out the loan sharks that day. We agreed on a daily payment of 50 pesos per day and she could pay the amount of 350 pesos at the end of the week.
This was agreed publicly, in front of the other women in the group. They are all of the understanding that when the money is repaid in full. That principal will available for the next lady to borrow interest free.
Her gratitude is enormous and she purchased her own loan record book so we could record her payments each week. A big thanks to the many sponsors and supporters who have donated funds so that these projects are possible.