FOR MANY, a zigzag road is symbolic of a long and winding journey that can be compared to a difficult life. But for 36-year-old Edita Muhi, she considers living beside the zigzag road as a blessing, despite the many challenges.
Ironically, for Nanay Edita, she opened up a small business along the Old Zigzag Road located at the foot of the Quezon National Park, which gives you a preview of her difficult life.
“My business is a canteen, a sari-sari store (small shop) and coconut dealership. That is our primary source of income. Our store is the last stop for tourists before the winding road heading to the Bicol Region,” Nanay Edita said in Filipino. “In 2014, we experienced hardships when the zigzag road was closed for two weeks during Typhoon Glenda. It was a very difficult time as sales were very low and there were not much travelers.”
These travelers happen to be Nanay Edita’s usual customers. Together with her husband, she runs the 24 by seven store to support their four children. Three of them are already in school.
Despite finishing a two-year diploma in Agriculture and Technology, Nanay Edita knew that she wanted a source of income that would allow her to be close to her family so she could take care of her children. “I thought of putting up this small business because I felt that this is something my husband and I can manage. While my husband can cook, I can run the canteen as a server. The whole family helps run this business,” she said.
Jazmin, her nine-year-old daughter, has learned the skill in preparing suman (sticky rice), a favorite delicacy among Filipinos. Nanay Edita makes sure that her children also learn the ropes of the business. She instills this value among her children because she also started very young doing odd jobs.
“I was a working student in high school. My father died when I was very young and it was only my mother who worked to raise the family,” recalls Nanay Edita. “My children know the value of living a simple life because my husband and I started this family and this business with very little resources.”
Nanay Edita’s husband, Odelon, used to have a contractual job with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. When he lost the job, the couple learned that Edita was already pregnant. After a few odd jobs, they decided to put up a small store along the highway. They started very small.
Nanay Edita, knowing the importance of having adequate capital resources, joined Tulay sa Pag-unlad, Inc. (TSPI) in July 2002, so she could take out a Php 5,000 loan. She used the first loan to buy goods for the store such as chips, vegetables, and other ingredients to cook pancit (a noodle dish).
“I was happy when I got the loan because that meant additional capital for my small store. You will really feel a sense of happiness when you know that you have extra money to further grow the business,” she said.
But a growing business with very little resources would seem inadequate for a growing family. Nanay Edita, in order to support the needs of her family and of the business, applied for small loans from other sources, some from informal lenders. The decision to take out so many loans proved to be life-changing, as it also paved the way for Nanay Edita’s most difficult life challenge.
Coming out big
Typhoons were not the only challenges this young mother had to face. With a growing business, a growing family, and a growing liability due to many small loans that needed to be repaid, Nanay Edita eventually found herself in deep debt.
“The huge debt was the reason I could not sleep at night! I thought of ways to pay my debts day and night. I have grown really thin. I got tired of my life then. I could not buy my children what they wanted. They would sometimes skip school because I have nothing to give them,” she said.
Nanay Edita, being a loyal client of the NGO, is thankful that despite this major life challenge, TSPI has given her the trust and confidence to keep pushing for business growth. TSPI, being an advocate of microenterprise development as a means of getting out of poverty, has entrusted her with useful capital for the business.
“TSPI helped me with a small loan to increase my business earnings. I am happy that I am also able to reinvest the earnings back into the business. When I got the loan from TSPI, I paid off some of my debts amounting to more than Php 30,000,” she happily said.
Aside from TSPI’s assistance, Nanay Edita is also grateful for the power of prayer. She believes that prayer is her lifeline when she is in need. She also considers her husband as her inspiration.
“At night, my husband and I would pray. My husband is my source of strength. He always tells me, ‘God will not give us a burden we cannot carry,'” she said.
Though many from her community believe that she has made it big, she remains God’s humble servant. She helps her siblings and others whenever they need financial help.
From her trials, she believes God is telling her to use her life as an example for her family and others. For Nanay Edita, it was life’s many zigzags that led her to a straight path in life.
The text and photos in this article were provided by Ms. Joanne G. Fajardo, TSPI’s Marketing Communications Supervisor. With reports from Mr. Benjamin Freeman, Opportunity International Australia’s International Communications Officer.