The savers | Inquirer Opinion

The savers

/ 05:10 AM November 20, 2017

There’s an inspiring story about a group of housewives who started to save as little as P50 per week, and who, after merely five years, have accumulated more than P3 million in savings and income annually, which they divide among themselves at the end of each year.

I recently met Digna Nibay and Lea Layno, president and treasurer, respectively, of the Habitat Savings Group in Tagaytay City. I learned of their story from the Center for Community Transformation (CCT), a Christian organization supported by Filipino philanthropists, and with an extensive livelihood, microfinance, and educational programs for the poor.


Digna was a washerwoman and Lea was selling kakanin (rice cakes) when they first met a CCT adviser who urged them to form a savings group with their friends. They laughed because their families were barely making ends meet. The adviser said that if they scrimped on their phone load expenses daily, they could have weekly savings.

Encouraged, Digna and Lea formed a savings group of 10 housewives plus Digna’s husband. They meet weekly for Bible study, and they end each session by contributing a minimum of P50 and a maximum of P250 to a savings fund.


The pooled fund is loaned to any member who needs to pay for school fees, medical expenses, appliance purchase, and birthday or wedding parties. The loaned amount is charged 2-percent interest per week (way below the 20 percent per month charged by loan sharks). Since almost everyone borrows and interest payments are earned by the savings group, it all largely goes back to the borrowers when the accumulated funds are distributed back to them at yearend.

Aside from interest income, they use their common fund to buy food provisions at wholesale prices, and then sell these
to members at retail prices. They buy and butcher live pigs, as well as cavans of rice, which they then retail to each member at market prices. As a result, they collectively earn the income that otherwise goes to retailers.

Thirty-two members of the savings group borrowed from the group fund to buy washing machines, spinners, dryers, and irons after they obtained the laundry service contract of a Tagaytay hostel. In addition to the salaries they pay themselves, the business owners get a share of the laundry business income. This is on top of their savings and income shares from the savings group.

The savings group has grown to 186 members this year. And from an original loan amount of as low as P500, it now lends up to P100,000 to members who are purchasing tricycles or spending for
house renovations, among others.

The moral values strengthened by regular Bible study and inherent peer pressure have minimized delayed payments and outright delinquency.

The members now each contribute P250 per week. At yearend, they get back their accumulated savings of P12,000, and partake of the income earned by the common fund. In December 2016, the group distributed P3.6 million as “share out” to all the members.

The CCT has assisted in the formation of 60 savings groups in the province of Cavite alone that cater to groups of employees, farmers, construction workers, and even schoolchildren.


There are essentially three kinds of group saving schemes: the Rotating Savings Credit Association where members deposit monthly to a common fund, and each member takes turns receiving the total amount collected each month; the Accumulative Savings Association where the accumulated savings are distributed to all members only after six months or one year; and the Accumulative Savings Credit Association where the savings fund earns interest from loans extended to members and income from livelihood
projects of the group, just like the savings group of Digna and Lea.

These modest schemes help cultivate a healthy habit of saving among our less fortunate countryfolk, and provide them practical ways to build or access capital that they can use to start livelihood businesses aimed at improving their lives.

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TAGS: CCT, Center for Community Transformation, Flea Market of Ideas, Habitat Saving Group, Joel Ruiz Butuyan, saving
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