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: salted, buttered, and strawberry. 
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.”

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

CCT Hosts TEE Plus/Pagdiriwang

The Center for Community Transformation (CCT) Group of Ministries recently hosted Pagdiriwang, an international gathering of Christians ministering to the poor.  The event brought together leaders, staff, volunteer workers and friends of Christian micro-finance organizations to celebrate God and His kingdom agenda of extending heaven to earth, through inspiring messages, eye-opening exposure visits, best practices sharing, worship and wonderful fellowship.  

Pagdiriwang is the Filipino word for celebration.  The conference is the fourth in a series of quadrennial worldwide gatherings organized by PEER Servants, a non-profit organization based in the US and a ministry partner of CCT. 

The conference coincided with the 4th Transformative Economic Empowerment (TEE), an annual training conference jointly organized by CCT and the Ka-Partner Network composed of PEER Servants, Hope International,, Five Talents and CCT.  It brings in micro-finance practitioners from around the world to identify and discuss sound practices in micro-finance.

The organizations represented and their countries of origin or operation were:
  • Action Contre La Misère (ACLAM), Haiti
  • Assist Community Initiatives (ACI), Uganda
  • Christian Action for Empowering Church and Community (CAFECC), Uganda
  • Christian Empowerment Micro-finance (CEMFIN), Zambia
  • Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services, Egypt
  • Christian Service Society (CSS), India 
  •,  South Africa, USA;
  • Hope International, Congo, China, Rwanda, USA
  • Integrity Foundation, India
  • Invest Credit, Moldova 
  • Iris Philippines Ministries, Philippines
  • Kallarisunchis, Peru 
  • Peer Servants, Burundi, Haiti, Uganda, USA 
  • Potter’s House, Guatemala
  • Urwego Opportunity Bank, Rwanda
  • The Wesleyan Church-Global Partners, Philippines
  • Women's Initiative for Health Education and Economic Development, Cameroon
  • Y Gro HEED, Sri Lanka
Other participants were friends or individuals working with these organizations from Mexico, Norway, Singapore, South Korea, and South Sudan.

The main speakers were David and Kathi Cohen, founders of Moringa Associates based in Australia; Reverend Calisto Odede, senior pastor of Nairobi Baptist Church, Kenya; and David Lim, a co-founder of CCT and currently president of China Ministries International-Philippines,    

Plenary speakers were Ruth Callanta, president and founder of CCT, Ron Chua, professor at the Asian Institute of Management, and Peter Lees, founder of Sharpening Stone Enterprises, an Australian organization. 

For their exposure trips the participants visited street dwellers, micro entrepreneurs and children ministered to by CCT.  

PEER Servants is a volunteer-based organization that partners with indigenous, autonomous micro-finance institutions in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America, and the Caribbean to empower the materially poor through micro-enterprise development.  Its first three worldwide conferences were Kopano, held in South Africa in 2004, Ricchari, held in Peru in 2007, and Reciprocity, held in the US in 2011.      
Pagdiriwang was held at the CCT Tagaytay Retreat and Training Center from November 8 – 14, 2015.

Dr. David Lim speaks on Experiencing God's Kingdom based
on Isaiah 58:1 - 14.
David and Kathi Cohen leading a morning devotion during the
eight-day conference. 
(Above) TEE attendees meet a group of micro-entrepreneurs during an
exposure trip, and (below) learn about the entries in a passbook
in which micro finance loans are recorded. 

A lechon (roast pig), centerpiece of the Filipino buffet,
intrigues guests.. 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Papa Danz: Sorbetero-Turned-Siomai Maker

Danilo Papalid's siomai microenterprise has improved his family's life
and created jobs for friends and neighbors. 

Sorbetero. Back in 2008, Danilo Papalid of Basak Pardo, Cebu City made ‘dirty ice cream’ using a manual ice cream maker and peddled it from a wooden cart.  The work was so difficult that he got sick and had to undergo three months of medication. When he recovered he left ice cream making forever.

For a year he worked as a vendor of siomai (Chinese dumplings), but quickly discovered that he disliked working for someone else. He saved up P12,000 before he resigned, used this amount to purchase a trisikad (bicycle with a cart attached), and started his own siomai business. During the first few months he made and sold the siomai himself.  He gave the business his own nickname: Papa Danz. 

Papa Danz's siomai comes with a hot and spicy sauce.  
Tweaking a Siomai Recipe. One might assume Danilo used his former employer’s siomai recipe to start his business, but he didn't.  He used a recipe he learned from a short culinary arts course he attended when he was younger. However, he says, “Mahal yun,” implying that if he strictly followed the recipe, he would not be able to sell his siomai at just P3.00 per piece.  So he tweaked the recipe and used sayote (chayote) as an extender.    

He also made his own sauce. While siomai in Manila comes with soy sauce, calamansi and toasted garlic, Danilo’s siomai comes with a spicy sauce as is common in Cebu. He altered an old sauce recipe and uses TVP (texturized vegetable protein), plenty of garlic and siling labuyo (hot chili pepper) in it.  "Siomai fans in Cebu like the sauce hot," he explains. 

Creating Jobs. A series of loans from the Center for Community Transformation Credit Cooperative helped him build up a small fleet of 15 trisikads, buying them one at a time, about one month apart. The trisikads are equipped with a steamer, a portable stove to keep the siomai warm, an ice box to keep soft drinks cold, and a motorcycle battery and lights for vendors who work  into the early hours of the morning.

Each new trisikad meant a new job for a friend or acquaintance. Many of the vendors who work for Danilo are former ice cream vendors he got to know during his ice cream selling days. 
A siomai vendor heads  for a day of  work.  His trisikad is equipped
with a steamer, portable butane stove and ice box.  Hanging at top
top center is
puso or rice cooked in woven young coconut leaves.
Behind the vendor is netting he can lean on when there's time to
take a quick nap. 

“Niyaya ko sila na magtinda ng siomai para sa akin.  Sabi ko sa kanila mas sigurado ang kita sa siomai. Ang siomai, malakas kahit mainit, kahit malamig. Pwede  yan pang ulam. Pwedeng pangtanghalian, pwedeng pang hapunan, pwede rin pang meryenda. ("I invited them to sell siomai for me. I told them that you earn better income from siomai. Siomai sales are high in cold or hot weather. You can eat it with rice, for lunch, supper or as a snack.”) “Apektado ng climate change ang negosyo sa ice cream" ("Climate change has affected the ice cream business"), Danilo volunteers, explaining that on rainy or stormy days ice cream sales are low, and ice cream makers can only expect to earn much when someone rents a cart or buys ice cream by the canister for a private gathering. 

The vendors receive their pay (18% of their sales) every 15th and 30th of the month.  They earn extra by selling soft drinks and miniature puso, Cebu's 'hanging rice' that is cooked in woven young coconut leaves. Those who work during the day station themselves at the public market and outside schools.  Night vendors wait outside internet cafes and night clubs for customers. The jobs have helped to improve the lives of his workers.  “Dati gasera lang ang gamit nila, ngayon may kuryente na sila.  Dati walang tubig, ngayon may tubig na sila,” he says.  ("Their houses used to be only lit with kerosene lamps.  They have electricity now, and water as well.") 

Another way Danilo has created jobs is by buying puso from his neighbors. He and his wife, Roselyn, used to make the puso themselves. They would weave the coconut leaves at night and boil the rice in the early mornings. This left them exhausted and, Danny admits, would make him hot-headed with the workers. So he decided to buy the puso from neighbors instead. This move means sure sales each day for puso makers in the community. 
With ambulant vendors to do the selling, Danilo did the cooking for about a year. In 2014, he trained a nephew to make the siomai and relinquished the job of cooking to him. Today he oversees operations and takes care of purchasing. 

Impact on Family. The success of the business has allowed Danilo and Roselyn to move son James, 10, to a private school. Daughter Abigail, has the privilege of being in a science class at the local public school, so there is no need to move her to a better school, Danilo says.  

Profits have also allowed the purchase of a 75-square meter lot where a two-story building is nearing completion. He intends to use the second floor as his family’s residence and the ground floor for business. He was also able to purchase a ¼ hectare piece of rice farm for P70,000 and so far has received profits from four harvests. 

Early in 2015 Roselyn gave birth to fraternal twins, Harley and Harold. Danilo was already starting to sell siomai in Argao, his hometown, at that time. However, because Roselyn could not manage caring for twins alone, expansion had to be temporarily discontinued.

Danilo hopes to keep his business going steadily, knowing how much it has helped his own family and many others in his community. "Thanks be to God for always being by my side," he says.  

Danilo Papalid was a semi-finalist in the 2015 Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards.  

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Jatulans: Hardworking Miswa and Canton Makers

Hard Times. Arthur and Nida Jatulan, newly married, started out selling clothing in Rizal province and did extremely well. Then, hard times came when the youngest of their four daughters was diagnosed with cancer. “For two years we spent more time in hospitals than at home,” Nida says.  “We sold everything we owned to pay for hospital bills and procedures including two operations and chemotherapy.” The child, however, passed away at age four. 

Emotionally exhausted and with all their resources drained, the couple decided to return to Arthur’s childhood home in Samar.  For five years, they worked in his parents’ copra business but earned only enough for their daily basic needs.  “It was obvious that if we stayed in Samar our daughters would never go to college,” Nida explains, so late in 1999 they returned to Rizal.

Business Beginnings.  To be able to build up capital, the couple borrowed the year-end bonuses of two nieces. They used this to buy sotanghon (Chinese vermicelli) which they retailed to stores.  By February 2000 they paid back the loans and with their earnings of P3,000, decided to start making miswa for a living. Miswa is a thin, brittle noodle used in humble dishes such as ginisang patola and batchoy TagalogFor advice, they went to a relative experienced in the business.  The relative not only gave them information generously, but also let them hire one of his workers.

The Jatulans started out buying six sacks of flour every other day.  The worker made this into miswa every two days, and Nida and Arthur delivered the finished product to public markets in Rizal and Metro Manila seven days a week.  Despite their hard work, the couple and their children still lived a hand-to-mouth existence. 

The miswa-making process involves stretching dough by
 hand (above) and drying it in a charcoal-fired dryer (below). 
A Hand Up. Things began to change, though, when Nida joined the CCT Credit Cooperative in 2004.  With a series of loans,  starting with the standard initial amount of P4,000 they were able to hire three more workers – two miswa makers and a runner.  Instead of their going to the market for ingredients and supplies every two days, a company began delivering a truckload of flour, salt, cassava flour and packaging supplies every 15 days. By 2007, their house, previously made almost entirely of old roofing sheets and plywood, had cement walls and a nice, tiled kitchen.  They also bought a refrigerator, a dining set, and cell phones, and had a landline phone installed.  The eldest daughter married before finishing college, but the two younger ones earned degrees in business administration and marketing. 

Expansion.  After finishing college, Karine began to help run the business, particularly with quality control, and the family set their minds on expansion.  In 2012, they bought the rights to a 1500-square meter piece of land in San Jose, Antipolo and built a production area about five times the size of their old one. They also built a charcoal dryer capable of drying 330 large bilaos (flat baskets) of miswa at one time.

By this time, the business was providing jobs for 15 persons, mostly neighbors or acquaintances from Samar. About 30 percent of the product was being packaged under the label IJK Miswa and sold in public markets and talipapas (temporary neighborhood markets) in the cities of Pasig, Marikina, and Antipolo, and in the province of Rizal. About 20 percent was delivered to two clients in Taguig who repacked it into smaller packages which were then hawked by ambulant vendors. About 50 percent was packed under the brand name Crystal for a Chinese client who supplies the product to stores such as Robinsons, Rustan Supercenters, Shopwise, Cherry, Landmark and selected Puregold outlets.  A certain percent was also exported to the US by this Chinese client.

Almost from the start, Nida and Arthur had dreamed of making pancit canton. Canton, Nida points out, is eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, is served by all kinds of food establishments – from lowly carinderias, to canteens, fast food diners and full service, high-end restaurants – and is always on the table during special occasions.  Demand is high all year round and shoots up around Christmas.  Miswa, she adds, is eaten all year round but demand drops during the hot months and during the Christmas holidays. The dream to make pancit canton had to wait for several years though, because unlike miswa which is mixed and shaped entirely by hand, one needs expensive equipment to make pansit canton. 

A Dream Comes True.  In June 2015, Nida received a loan of P300,000 from CCT. They used a portion of this amount to build a pancit canton production area, and much of the rest was used to make initial payment on equipment such as a mixer, a roller, and a cutter. In August, the Jatulan family's dream came true when they finally began making pancit canton . 

“All this is no longer for me,” Nida says, indicating the  miswa and canton production areas with a sweep of her hand. “This is for my daughters and to ensure a good future for my grandchildren.”

Arthur and Nida Jatulan today, with daughters Irene (second from left) and Karine, sons-in-law
and grandchildren. Nida was a semifinalist in the 2015 Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards program.