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LANDBANK guides visually impaired performers through COVID ordeal

BOHOL – Amidst the daily hustle and bustle in this Province’s major airport and seaport terminals, an ensemble of visually impaired musicians entertains and comforts passengers with their soothing voices and pitch-perfect harmonies.

With their distinct black glasses, acoustic guitars and percussions, these talented individuals perform old to contemporary hits from early morning to seven o’clock in the evening, making the trips of visitors a memorable experience.

Performing for arriving and departing passengers serves as the primary source of income for 41-year-old Junare “Jun” A. Baculio to sustain the daily needs of his family. Jun also leads fellow visually impaired performers as the general manager of the Bohol Persons with Disability (PWD) Workers Multi-Purpose Cooperative (MPC), which started in 2016 and is composed of 63 members with different disabilities.

The Bohol PWD Workers MPC mainly sources funds from busking at different local airports and seaports, including the Bohol-Panglao International Airport and the Tagbilaran Airport and Pier. They also operate four massage parlors where other physically challenged members offer various massage services.

The co-op’s lending services have also delivered significant relief to its members, especially when facing financial difficulties due to unexpected situations. They enjoy loans with zero interest rate for their needs, instead of previously relying on loan sharks that charge as high as 20% interest per month.

The pandemic’s silencing effect

However, nothing could have prepared the cooperative from the COVID-19 pandemic, which hit the tourism sector hard and drastically reduced passenger traffic. The once jam-packed airport and seaport terminals turned into deserted hubs without any signs of activity.

For the members of the Bohol PWD Workers MPC, this meant putting their entertaining melodies into pause and soothing massage services on hold.

And as silence filled the airports and seaports that were once alive with their music, the co-op members struggled to make ends meet and provide for their families. With their performances halted, members were left with no other source of daily income, which also cut off the co-op’s source of funding for their relending activities.

“Parang huminto lahat dahil sa pandemya. Lahat kami ay nawalan ng pagkakakitaan, simula sa pagkanta sa mga terminals hanggang sa pagmamasahe. Pero tuloy pa rin ang buhay, naghanap kami ng iba pang pwedeng pagkakitaan at lumapit kami sa iba’t ibang organisasyon,” Jun Baculio recounts.

LANDBANK helps show the light

The Bohol PWD Workers MPC turned to the Land Bank of the Philippines (LANDBANK) to help them sustain their livelihood and endure the pandemic.

As the co-op’s reliable partner over the years, LANDBANK maintains a strong relationship with the co-op, with a total loan exposure amounting to P1.1 million.

LANDBANK first extended a helping hand to the co-op in 2017 through a loan worth P830,000.00, for the purchase of a service vehicle and to augment the working capital of their relending business.

With their new service vehicle, the members are conveniently shuttled to the airports and seaports, including other areas and communities where they are tapped to perform.

The Bohol PWD Workers (MPC) availed of a loan from LANDBANK to purchase a service vehicle to conveniently shuttle their members from their respective houses to their workplaces.

Since the pandemic significantly decreased their income, LANDBANK approved the restructuring of the co-op’s existing loan in 2022 under the I-RESCUE (Interim REhabilitation Support to Cushion Unfavorably affected Enterprises by COVID-19) Lending Program with a lower interest rate.

The co-op’s existing rediscounting line was also converted into a term loan amounting to P300,000 under the Program, to help cover the daily necessities of the members’ families during the pandemic.

“We are very much thankful to LANDBANK. They patiently catered to our financing needs to make the co-op successful, fruitful and productive. Hindi kami nahihirapang lumapit sa kanila,” said Jun.

As the country reopened several tourist destinations, the cooperative also made a successful comeback to the airports and seaports, in stride with the economy’s continuing resurgence from the pandemic.

Last January, the Bohol PWD Workers MPC was able to fully pay its restructured term loan with LANDBANK and partially paid in advance its converted rediscounting line.

Today, the co-op looks to expand its operations by tapping the Bank’s assistance anew for lot acquisition and the construction of its new head office.

LANDBANK has continued to support the financial requirements of the Bohol PWD Workers MPC along with the whole cooperative sector. As of 31 January 2023,

LANDBANK’s outstanding loans to the sector have reached P66.6 billion serving over 1,360 co-ops nationwide.

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