Monday, July 3, 2017

CCT Opens Branch in Tuguegarao

CCT's Rhodora Prado (left) and Elizabeth VeƱegas cut the ribbon 
at the Tuguegarao branch thanksgiving and dedication ceremony on July 2, 2017.

Residents of Tuguegarao and nearby towns in Cagayan province may now avail of services from the Center for Community Transformation following the recent opening of a branch in the city. 

The new CCT offices will provide micro entrepreneurs and farmers in Cagayan with financial services such as business loans, savings facilities, and life and health insurance.  It will also offer nonfinancial services such as entrepreneurial training, mentoring, and spiritual and business development.

Pastors from several churches in Tuguegarao joined members of CCT management and staff during the thanksgiving and dedication ceremony for the new branch.

The branch is CCT’s 174th  in the Philippines and the first  in Region 2.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Mimosa Cortez: Crab Picker With a Heart



Mimosa Cortez in her crab picking plant.  Nearly 40 neighbors work for her here.

Gentle tapping and cracking sounds fill a small crab picking plant in Manapla, Negros Occidental, as 40 pairs of hands skillfully separate the meat from crab shells and claws. At about six this morning, the crabs, caught by fishermen working all night, arrived alive and fresh from the sea, their claws and swimming legs immobilized with rubber bands. They were steamed for about half an hour and now their meat is being carefully picked out of the shells and packed in ice boxes. 

It takes patience, nimble fingers and good eyesight 
to be a crab picker because no one appreciates 
having bits of shell in their crab cake, 
salad or soup. Crab meat from here 
eventually appears on dinner plates in the US.  
Later in the day, a quality control person from an exporting company in Bacolod will inspect the meat. If it passes his scrutiny, the crab meat will be transported to a facility in Bacolod where it will be pasteurized and canned. Eventually, it will appear in dishes such as chili crab, crab and corn soup, and linguine crab in homes and fancy restaurants in the United States. 

Quietly overseeing the crab picking operations is Mimosa Cortez, 41. She used to work as a picker for a crab exporting company beginning at age 16. When the company closed when she was 35, she wisely used part of her separation pay to buy herself a fishing boat. Shortly afterward, she learned of and joined the CCT Credit Cooperative. She has since received nine CCT loans, most of which she used to buy more boats of various sizes. 

Mimosa now owns a fleet of 11 bangkas (motorized boats with outriggers) and eight barotos (paddle boats about five feet long). The bangkas are used by fishermen who go far out into the Guimaras Strait and the Visayan Sea in teams of five to catch fish, crabs and shrimp. The barotos  are used by fisherman who paddle out a short distance of about 20 minutes from shore to catch squid. 

Mimosa began her crab-picking business in 2015 after realizing that she could open and manage her own crab picking station rather than sell her crab catch. She has created jobs for about 80 individuals in her community, half in the crab picking plant and half on boats.  

Mimosa's crab meat is inspected by a quality
control worker from an exporting company
in Bacolod. If he gives it a thumbs up, the meat
 is transported to the company's plant where it is
pasteurized and canned for export.  
One of Mimosa's dreams is to get to travel to Manila, a faraway city she's only seen on TV. But she has a far greater dream: to see her nephews and nieces all earn college degrees. Mimosa sends three nieces from her husband’s side of the family and a member of her church to college. One of the nieces is a senior studying office administration, another is a sophomore studying to be a teacher, and the third is a freshman studying nutrition. The church mate is also studying to become a teacher.

In an unwritten agreement the students are expected to earn their degrees and not get married until after they have found jobs and helped their own families substantially.  

At the beginning of each school year, Mimosa likewise provides school material  for 21 younger nephews and nieces on her side of the family. Just this June 2017, she spent P30,000 to buy them new school bags, uniforms, shoes and socks, notebooks, pencils and crayons.

She also gives loans at the beginning of the school year to the men and women who work for her. This allows them to buy back-to-school supplies for their children as well. They pay her back in small amounts.  

"I only studied until sixth grade," reveals Mimosa who has two young children of her own. "I pray that -- because they have this chance I never had  -- all of them finish college."

Friday, June 23, 2017

Ronie Francisco: Mamang Sorbetero

With faith in God, hard work and assistance from CCT, Ronie Francisco now owns a small ice cream factory. He has
created 25 jobs for his community.

School children gather around  for an ice cream cone.  
If you love durian then you definitely have to try Tatay Ronie Francisco's durian-cheese ice cream. It's his Number 2 bestselling flavor, after mango-cheese. Both flavors are made with fresh fruit. Not a durian fan? Well, he makes regular flavors too, like strawberry and mocha. 

From One Cart to 20 Carts in 12 Years. Tatay Ronie of General Santos City used to be your typical mamang sorbetero, selling ice cream someone else made.  Then he started his own ice cream business in 2005, making ice cream with a rented mixer and selling it himself from a rented cart. He learned how to make ice cream when he worked at a relative's ice cream factory back when he was a young man in the 1970s. 

He joined the CCT Credit Cooperative in 2006 and used his first loan of P4,000 to buy ice cream ingredients. 

With more assistance from CCT, the business began to grow. By 2007, he owned two carts, one of which he built himself. Beginning in 2008 he started to make ice cream with the use of a bigger mixer that he rented from a friend. Two years later, he bought the mixer. He bought a second mixer in 2012 , and a third mixer in 2014. With better production, he could afford to have more carts built. Today, his ice cream is sold all over GenSan from 20 carts. This means he has created jobs for 20 ice cream scoopers. He also employs four ice cream makers and a cleaning man.
One of four ice cream makers at the Joyce Dawn ice cream
factory. They work from 7 pm to 4 am.

Lettuce Ice Cream, Anyone? Tatay Ronie's brightly painted carts and his tinkling bell are enough to bring children running for his cold and creamy treats. But he doesn't just sell his ice cream from push carts. 
Ice cream scoopers remit payment to Tatay Ronie
at the end of the day.

He also accepts orders for special occasions celebrated by families, companies and schools. Aside from the flavors mentioned earlier, he also makes ube-cheese, buko-cheese, and avocado. And, he occasionally he makes ice cream in an odd flavor such as chayote or lettuce when requested by schools celebrating Nutrition Month.  

Four College Diplomas So Far. Being a mamang sorbetero has helped Tatay Ronie send all his children to school. 

Eldest son Harvey has a degree in education and currently works as a teacher in Thailand. Second son studied information technology and now manages his own computer shop. Ronie Mar, who studied electronics, currently helps out with the family business. 

Joyce Dawn (after whom the business is named) recently earned a degree in electronics engineering and is currently reviewing for the licensure exam. Joylen Grace is in grade 12 and has her heart set on becoming a doctor.  For sure, her father's durian ice cream will help make that dream come true. 


Saturday, April 8, 2017

Ate Ruth is Asia CEO Awards Finalist

Ruth S. Callanta, president of the Center for Community Transformation Group of Ministries, was recently named a finalist in the Asia CEO Awards program, in its global Filipino executive of the year category.

The award is given to Filipino citizen or persons of Filipino descent who achieve recognizable success in Philippines or abroad in any field but especially in business, government, and academics.

Among the criteria for the award are management and pioneering achievements, international recognition, and social commitments.

Fondly called Ate Ruth by colleagues and staff, Ruth Callanta founded the Center for Community Transformation in 1991 in Tondo, Manila.  The non-government initially served retrenched factory employees.  CCT has since grown into a group of ministries that serves micro-entrepreneurs, street dwellers, needy children and youth, factory workers, tribespeople, and communities-at-large.  In 2016, CCT laid the groundwork for ministry to overseas Filipino workers, starting with those in Hong Kong.

Ate Ruth Launches 'A Question of the Heart'

Ate Ruth signs copies of A Question of the Heart for CCT Credit Cooperative community servant leaders.


Ruth Callanta, president of the Center for Community Transformation Group of Companies, recently launched the book A Question of the Heart: Celebrating Christ and the CCT Journey of Transformation.

In this book of more than 200 pages, she narrates the story of the non-government organization from its beginnings in 1991 when it set up office in notorious, densely-populated Tondo, Manila to its current status 26 years later as a group of ministries serving the Filipino poor. 

She asserts that overcoming poverty is a question of the heart: "It dawned on me that unless hearts are changed by the presence, grace and power of God, unless lives are surrendered to Him, poverty will never be eradicated. And that there is only one Being capable of changing the hearts of people – Jesus Christ."

Allotting a chapter each to describe the work done by CCT among the poverty sectors it serves (micro-entrepreneurs, street dwellers, factory workers, children, out-of-school youth, tribespeople), she shares stories of transformed lives from among these sectors, and states that because each sector has distinct needs, there must be a separate delivery structure [of poverty-alleviating programs and services] for each.

A riveting postscript to the book is written by a doctor who attended to Mrs. Callanta when she suffered --  and survived --  a heart attack as the book was being readied for print.  

A Question of the Heart was launched during the CCT Group of Ministry's annual membership meeting and general assembly in March 2017.  Two other publications were launched during the event: Volumes 1 & 2 of Message Outlines  by CCT Chairperson Bertram Lim and co-author Edmon Ngo, and the coffee table book Reflections by Philippa Tyndale, CCT supporter from Australia.

The books  may be purchased at the CCT Support Office, 5th floor, Joshua Center, Taft Avenue, Ermita, Manila. Interested parties may call 02-524-18-19 local 214 for copies. A Question of the Heart comes in hardbound and paperback versions.

Tagum Couple Host House Church


A late-evening worship service held in a gas station owned by Kim and Janette Aguilar (front row). 
Kim and Janette Aguilar, members of the CCT Credit Cooperative, have known the Lord Jesus Christ for only over a year but already, they are hosting a growing ministry in Tagum City, Davao del Norte. This is their inspiring story.

Kim, 40, the son of a successful banana farmer, has a degree in banking and finance. Janette, 39, studied to be a nurse but decided to be a home-based entrepreneur and full-time housewife. 

Declining a Job Offer. After college, Kim worked as a teacher for two years, then was invited by his father to work on his 30-hectare banana farm and be trained to be a farm manager. It was the father’s plan to eventually ask Kim, the oldest of his four children, to manage the farm for him.  However, Kim felt that the banana business is not as viable as other businesses he could enter, and declined the offer.    

 and Janette opened a computer services shop in 2003. Starting out with five computers, the shop grew to have 20 computers by 2008. At this point the couple gave the business, no strings attached, to one of Kim's brothers. This brother was born with only one seeing eye and despite being intelligent and finishing college no one would employ him. 

The couple then bought a franchise of their first Waffle Time outlet. By 2015 they would have five outlets with gross earnings of about P1M  a month.

Going into The Refueling Business. Whenever Kim and Janette drove past a vacant lot near a busy intersection in Tagum City, one of them would say, “How I wish we could build a gas station right there.”  

They asked around, found the owner of the land and were told that they were the fifth to inquire.  The other four were fuel companies. Somehow, the owner took a liking to the young couple, and in October 2011 they signed a ten-year rental contract for the 300-square meter piece of land.  They also entered a contract with Petron, flew to Manila for training on how to manage a refueling station, and opened a gas refueling station after a few weeks.   

For capital, Kim and Janette used income from their waffle outlets. They also borrowed a land title from Kim’s parents which they used as collateral for a P1.5M bank loan.  

They opened a second gas station in 2014, this time choosing to be an individual player and not a franchise holder of any well-known company. They named their gas station Petrollo.  

Making a Wrong Decision. Early in 2015 Janette made a management mistake when she agreed to sell fuel to a friend at a price that was too low. The friend brought the fuel to small, remote villages where she sold it by the bottle mostly to motorcycle owners. A series of price rollbacks that year kept them from raising prices and the business ended up owing suppliers P13M.

In May 2015, Janette confessed the mistake and their business predicament to her husband.  Thankfully he did not rant or rage but simply decided to help her get over this problem.

Prior to this, the couple had become too engrossed with growing their businesses, coming home at 4 in the morning, seldom seeing their children, and neglecting their daily prayer habit. Although they had plenty of money, they had also begun to experience a sense of emptiness with their religious rituals and were seeking something or someone to fill the void.

"The weight of our problem made us feel like we were going crazy. Kim’s parents and my mother were angry with us them. We lost sleep.  The ringing of the cell phone made us nervous, thinking each time that the caller was a supplier demanding payment. We felt hopeless and helpless," Janette relates.

Then a friend told Kim about CCT.  He decided to check it out and found that attending a Bible study each week as required of all CCT Credit Cooperative members was not at all a bad idea but was in fact something he felt he  and Janette needed.   

Seeing the Light. During the first fellowship meeting both Kim and Janette attended, Pastor Peter Ligaya shared a reflection on the blessing of forgiveness using the verses Isaiah 41:10, Jeremiah 33:3, and I Peter 5:7. For Pastor Peter, it was just another weekly message, and he left the fellowship meeting totally unaware that two persons in the room had listened intently, took the message to heart, internalized it, and studied it further at home.

“We saw the light during that first meeting,” Kim says.

That was the beginning of their turning to the Lord.  They also found help in time of need, through the emotional and spiritual support of CCT staff and financial assistance of the CCT Credit Cooperative. 

Kim and Janette began to feel a strong yearning and hunger to learn more about God. Initially, CCT Team Servant Racel Aliviado discipled the couple using material from her church from about September 2015 to February 2016. She was surprised at the rate of their spiritual growth.

In February 2016, Kim requested Pastor Peter to lead a fellowship meeting every Sunday night so that his employees would also be able to hear God’s Word. Soon, staff, family members and friends of staff, and relatives of the Aguilars began attending the gathering held every Sunday at the Petrollo gas station at 9:30 in the evening.  The reason for the unusual hour is to give workers at the Waffle Time outlets time to travel from their work areas one or two hours away. After the fellowship, the Aguilars serve a heavy snack.

Because of their hunger for more of God, Kim and Janette attend discipleship sessions led by Pastor Peter twice a week.  He started them off with 12 biblical foundation lessons, then followed these with a discussion of the four spiritual laws, then with a study of the life of Job and the life of Christ. 

Pastor Peter, who has served the Lord for about 20 years, says, "Never in all my years of ministry  have I seen anyone whose hunger for learning about the Lord is as great as that of Kim and Janette, It is a blessing and a privilege from God to be able to minister to them." 

Hosting a House Church. Kim and Janette freely share their testimony with anyone who will listen: friends, relatives, staff and suppliers. The Lord has worked through them so that today, about 50 individuals have come to know Christ. Some of them regularly attend the late evening worship service at the gas station and now compose what is recognized as a house church. Others attend a Sunday afternoon worship gathering in the home of Kim's parents.  

In June 2016, Kim and Janette were nominated by CCT to the Lydia Award, an award program sponsored by the organization PEER Servants. Their business was noted for how it "blessed one person who in turn blessed others" and they received a a cash prize of $300.00.  They used the prize money to buy a frame tent for the gas station meeting place to protect attendees from sudden rain showers. "When it rains, we all have to meet in the office, which of course is crowded," Janette explained.  


Friday, April 7, 2017

Popcorn Business Owner is Thurman Award Runner-Up

Gemma Vasquez with her three popcorn variants: strawberry, salted, and buttered.  
Gemma Vasquez, popcorn micro-entrepreneur and CCT community partner since 2008, has been named honorable mention for Asia in the 2017 Thurman Award program. 

The Thurman Award recognizes individuals who demonstrate the values of perseverance, compassion, strength of character, and creativity. It was established by HOPE International in honor of Eric Thurman, its first CEO, and his wife Pennie. HOPE International, based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, USA, is a ministry partner of CCT.

Gemma and her husband, Jose, of Paranaque City began selling popcorn in 2007. Ten years earlier, Jose owned a tiny photography business just outside the Department of Foreign Affairs building in Manila.  After arrival of digital photography put him out of business, he went to work in Saudi Arabia.  However, things did not work out and he had to come home after four months.   

Having four growing children to support, the couple then experimented with a series of street food businesses. For a time, they sold fish balls (small patties made of fish meat, deep fried and served with a sweet and sour sauce), ice scramble (shaved ice flavored with milk and sugar, and sold with toppings such as mini marshmallows), and kwek-kwek (quail eggs covered with a batter and deep-fried until crispy).  

The businesses did not take off, though.  The fish balls and kwek-kewk ingredients spoiled quickly, and ice for the ice scramble melted easily.  They experimented with a fourth street food, popcorn, and decided to stick with it after discovering that it stays crispy even after three days as long it is stored in tightly sealed containers.

At the start, Jose sold the popcorn from a cart he himself made. A year later, Gemma joined the CCT Credit Cooperative and began receiving loans.  Using the loans to buy material for new carts and popcorn ingredients, they steadily built up their business. By 2014, they owned 15 carts. As their business grew, they sent for Jose’s childhood friends and former neighbors in Masbate, and gave them jobs as popcorn vendors.

Then in 2015, adversity struck.  Homes in the informal settlement where the Vasquezes and their popcorn vendors lived were demolished. Nine of the vendors went back home to Masbate  because they had nowhere else to go.  A few months later, their eldest daughter passed away due to a health condition.  Gemma recalls these blows without a hint of bitterness, saying that she knows God is always in control. And despite the trials, she never defaulted on her loans.

Today, Gemma and Jose are still in the popcorn business.  With her recent loans, Gemma bought a popcorn machine and a motorcycle.  The family has moved to a relocation site and built a two-story, fully concrete house. 

“I thank the Lord for the Thurman award honorable mention.  I also thank God that CCT trusts microentrepreneurs like me with large amounts of money for our businesses,” Gemma says. “Others believe that we are unable to pay our loans, but I am happy to say that I have a clean payment record.  I am further thankful that through my business, all the needs of my family are met.”