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Does the Shoe Fit?

By Lisa Leslie Henderson

Day 2: Opportunity International Philippines Insight Trip

As I reflect on the experiences of the day, in the hopes of choosing one to highlight in this blog, my thoughts drift to Imelda Marcos – the wife of Former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos. I’m thinking of her shoe fetish—she had over 3,000 pairs of shoes at one time, 765 of which today are on exhibit in the local Marikina Shoe Museum—and I think: how on earth did she choose which shoes to wear every morning? Renewed by the idea that I have many fewer items to consider, I circle back to the events of our first full day here, and find myself adding to the list of memorable experiences upon which to write, rather than narrowing. Like Imelda’s shoes, what would you choose?

  • Receiving an economic briefing on the Philippines and the state of local microenterprise from the US State Department
  • Spending time with women from various OI lending groups at their local centers, learning about their individual businesses and how their success is changing their families’ lives
  • Delighting children with the magic of Polaroid photos and taking the time to shoot a few hoops with them in the street
  • Hearing from OI lenders and administrators about what makes OI successful and what ancillary products they are offering to further opportunity and reduce risk in their client’ lives
  • Connecting with other Insight travelers over meals and on long bus rides?
  • Discussing local health reproduction legislation
  • Observing passionate discussion about the legality and business consequences surrounding staggered insurance payouts
  • Walking through the marketplaces in search of OI clients’ stalls, tasting their garlic cashews and cooked rice snacks dipped in coconut sauce
  • Gleaning a firsthand understanding of how the promise of Manila’s economic opportunities draw men and women from rural areas right into the urban slums

What about this one: listening to Filipino mothers talk about their hopes for their children. Hearing dreams like, “I want them to finish school” and “I want them to have a better life.” It made me reflect for a moment about how mothers are so similar everywhere in the world; they want what’s best for their kids and they work hard, day after day, to make this possible.

It was amazing to see the joy on their faces when they told stories their son, an engineer in Dubai, or their daughter, working successfully in Manila – both direct results of OI’s college scholarship program.

It was also gut-wrenching to see the total disappointment of others, their eyes welled up with tears, as they talked about how their college-aged children have had to drop out of school for financial reasons.

Rumor has it that Imelda Marcos once said, “It the shoe fits, buy it.” And that is just it, if the shoes don’t fit, the person wearing them may trip and fall or be unable to walk due to painful blisters. Imelda had plenty of shoes that fit, and these Opportunity International clients are doing their best to equip each of their children with a pair that can take them places.

Read about Day 1 of Lisa’s Trip to the Philippines.

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