There have been several fires in Cebu City in the recent weeks, but one, in particular, has hit close to home. 

In the early morning of February 8, 2019, a fire razed across Sitio Calero, Barangay Tinago, located in the neighborhood just behind the Eduardo Aboitiz Development Studies Center (RAFI-EADSC), Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, Inc.’s (RAFI) main office building.

While the fire was put out in a matter of minutes, it inflicted some serious damage to 68 households, of which six were RAFI Micro-finance, Inc. clients. Sadly, there was also one casualty because of the fire.

By the following Monday, the RAFI Surge Team had procured and packed seventy (70) relief kits consisting of a water container, cookware, underwear, and trapal (or a thick canvas tarpaulin). 

The RAFI Surge Team distributed these packs to the affected families in the Barangay Tinago gymnasium with the support of the staff from the Cebu City 3 RMF Branch.

In addition, school supply kits were also given to elementary and high school students, while RAFI also provided financial assistance to the family of the deceased fire victim.

Barangay Tinago Captain Domingo Lopez, who was present during the distribution, thanked RAFI for the assistance, saying that it was greatly appreciated as most of the families were left with few or no belongings.

The Humanitarian Disaster Preparedness and Response Unit of the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, Inc. (RAFI-HDPR) contributes to the effectiveness and efficiency of the disaster preparedness and surge capacity of the Local Government Units.

Over 1,500 employees of the Microfinance Program of the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (RAFI Micro-finance, Inc.) gathered for the fourth general assembly held last February 2, 2019, at the IEC Convention Center (IC3) in Cebu City.

In line with RAFI’s campaign #1happyRAFI which promotes camaraderie to each RAFInians, employees from different RMF branches from the different parts of Biliran, Bohol, Cebu, Iloilo, Leyte, Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, Samar, and Southern Leyte gather together to meet their colleagues and witness the accomplishments that RMF has achieved for the past year, 2018, and reveal the plans for 2019.

The general assembly, according to Riella Mae Christa Guioguio, Vice President for Finance, is all about the employees whom she described as an “important asset and investment” of the company.

“Our growth plans for the next five years may scare some other organizations but not RAFI Micro-finance, Inc. because we know we have what it takes to propel RMF to the next milestone because we have our hardworking, dedicated, humble, simple, yet passionate employees. And that’s all of you my dear RAFInians,” Guioguio said.

She also added that 2019 is a turning point for RMF to prepare for aggressive growth and help the organization reach its goals.

“We need to pause and look inwards to be self-aware of what needs to be repaired, strengthened or added. We need to go back to the basics; our people, processes, systems. By doing so, we will have [a] solid foundation as we start our marathon towards our wildly, big goals,” she added.

RMF Chief Operations Officer Ma. Theresa Catipay then shared through a video presentation the various accomplishments that were achieved in 2018.

“This is a very special moment that I would like to share to you (the accomplishments) because as one team, I believe 2018 was a very important year because we have really grown double the size of 2017,” Catipay said.

In 2018, RMF released a total of P4.3 billion to 265,000 clients, achieving the target in net income of P346 Million. RMF also opened a total of 141 RMF branches within the Visayas area, relaunching of the new sector loan, pursuing the community outreach initiatives, and implementing the Boost Accelerator Program.

“There was so much challenge in 2018 but over and above the challenge is that I think, we are blessed with a very good year,” she added.

Awards for the branch staff were also given during the assembly wherein Catipay together with Deputy Director for Operations, Ailyne Lim, and Strategic Management Officer, Jonar Dorado handed out the awards for the following categories:

• Most Outstanding Trust Staff — Kimberly Velasquez of San Juan Branch

• Most Outstanding Branch — Cebu City 1

• Most Outstanding Branch Manager — Gina Gimpayan

• Rookie Trust Staff of the Year — Aldwin Plasquita, and;

• Rookie Branch Manager of the Year — Anthony Gera

Special Awards:

• HoPE – Giver Excellence Award and the Housing Improvement Product Champion Award — Baybay 1 Branch, led by Romel Banoc

• PhilHealth Product Champion — Compostela Branch

• Education Product Champion — San Fernando Branch

• WASH Product Champion — Daanbantayan Branch

Winners received cash prizes, certificate, trophy, and a plaque as a symbol of victory and a reminder that it takes hard work and consistent effort to achieve major goals.

In the afternoon, the Kool Adventure Camp of the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (RAFI-KAC) participated in the program of activities as the Team Dynamics facilitator, followed by the launching of the new Employee Insurance Benefits Package.

The program ends with RMF employees gathering at the center of the venue hall for a #1happyRAFI family souvenir photo.

The Microfinance Program of the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (RAFI Micro-finance, Inc.) provides financial and non-financial services to micro-entrepreneurs with a mission of elevating lives of the vulnerable and disadvantaged communities through stable and rewarding livelihood.

Nearly 200 sales professionals of Virginia Food, Inc. (VFI) from all over their branches in the Philippines, welcomed with drum and bugle corps, converged for their sixth National Sales Convention (NASCON) from February 6 to 8, 2019, with the theme “Converge and Beyond Limits.”

Held at the Kool Adventure Camp of the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (RAFI-KAC), Center for Leaders at Cansomoroy, Balamban, Cebu, the convention was spearheaded by Stanley Go, Vice President for Sales and Marketing together with Paolo Aloyan, National Sales Manager, and their Human Resources Team. 

NASCON is an annual initiative of VFI to empower and motivate employees through different skills training, the celebration of the different milestones, and goals accomplished in the past year and set new goals for the current annual year.

It was participated by 193 delegates consisting of Key Account Specialists, Sales Managers, Area Sales Coordinators, Van Salesman and Support Groups from different regions. 

Upon registration, delegates were divided into 14 different tribes, followed by a short welcoming message from Stanley Go, who then acknowledged the presence of different delegates.

“We have our own physical and emotional limits, but we can break these boundaries and limits because we have each other and we help each other,” Go said during his speech. 

“This year, it is quite different. We are focusing on self-discovery; discovering more of our team as well… I think it is very much aligned with the theme for our national sales conference — Converge and Beyond Limits,” said Go in a separate interview. 

As per Go, it is a challenge to prepare NASCON since their organization is expanding. 

“Our understanding would be experiential learning so we dissect the learnings by doing some activities and these activities are extraordinary. It pushes your physical and mental toughness especially for persons like me who are afraid of heights,” Go added. 

Sharing their team’s experience on the catapult challenge, Reynaldo Mensidor, Jr., Operations Sales Manager of Virginia Food, Inc. said that their KAC experience has tested and somehow strengthened their team in achieving one objective.

The RAFI-KAC aims for campers to gain a deeper self-awareness and build an effective mindset for the challenges ahead, improve communication and collaboration in their professional relationships that shall drive high performance for 2019.

With the Virginia Food, Inc. (VFI) National Sales Convention (NASCON), RAFI-KAC breaks new record having a total of 193 in-camp delegates.

The three-day activity was ended with delegates putting up their commitments on the commitment wall, writing their goals for the current year.

The Kool Adventure Camp of the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (RAFI-KAC) is the first and only fully dedicated Adventure Education Center in the Philippines. RAFI-KAC equips organizations and individuals with the character, competence, and citizenship to be leaders of change through powerful learning experiences.

In 2015, the United Nations General Assembly declared sanitation as a basic, universal human right.

Now, imagine yourself waking up every day in a home without a proper comfort room. Difficult, right?

But for Elvira Paras, this was a reality for her family for the past six years — the lack of a sanitary toilet forced them to defecate in the open.

Living in the mountainside of Toledo, Cebu, Elvira works at home as a seamstress. As part of her daily routine, she takes care of their vegetable garden and a few piglets in the backyard.

Together with her husband and five children, she said life moves at a slower pace in the province.

Elvira shared that her family struggled for years to find a decent toilet until recently she learned of the small, affordable loan offered by RAFI Micro-finance, Inc. (RMF) in collaboration with Water.org — a U.S. based non-government organization which helps families by providing access to sanitation facilities.

She said that she learned about the RMF’s Housing Improvement — WASH loan through a RAFI Micro-finance, Inc. trust staff.

“When I heard about it, I was really interested to avail. I grabbed the chance because at that time my family still don’t have a decent comfort room,” Elvira said in Cebuano.

In lieu of a toilet, they use the field, the bushes, and the river nearby. Elvira recalled how her family struggled, as they had no choice but to go outside — increasing the risk of being bitten by an insect, or worst, a snake. During heavy downpour, the river she said is definitely a dangerous option.

Elvira found herself frustrated with the fact that her home has no easy access to a clean toilet.

With only a few materials, her husband decided to build a makeshift comfort room made of plywood, corrugated iron sheet, and a sack; they were able to purchase a toilet bowl but they could no longer afford to build a roof — it was still not enough.

“It saved us temporarily but the situation was still difficult. When it rains, we would bring an umbrella while we sit in the toilet bowl. We don’t have a choice. We didn’t have enough money to finish it,” she said in vernacular.

After learning she could take a small loan, it did not take long for her to apply. In November of 2018, Elvira availed of the WASH loan and they started to work on the renovation of their own comfort room.

With a smile on her face, Elvira proudly showed her new toilet. The facility was finished in two months and is complete with a concrete wall, a new roof, and an operational toilet.

“I won’t have to worry anymore. We can use the toilet anytime we want,” she gladly said.

“I am very thankful to RMF because our dream of having our own comfort room was realized when I availed of the WASH loan. I was able to provide comfort for my family,” she added.

As RMF reached its 20th year of serving the micro-entrepreneurs, they have made a partnership with Water.org to provide the clients an additional financial services that they could avail in order for them to build a comfortable and decent bathrooms to protect their family’s health.

RAFI Micro-finance, Inc. (RMF) celebrates its 20 years of elevating the lives of Micro-entrepreneurs. RMF is a program of the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (RAFI) that provides the vulnerable and disadvantaged with comprehensive financial services that enable them to have a stable and rewarding means of livelihood to elevate their quality of life.