After graduating from the University of the Philippines Los Banos, my niece went to work with Landbank Philippines. Fresh from college, she was assigned to the boondocks to meet the farmers and see for herself their real situation.
It was hard, but it was fun. Her youth made it easy for her to travel to the countryside to directly talk to the farmers who had a partnership with Landbank.
Landbank has a program to enable farmers and the cooperatives to help themselves. Her role was to validate with farmers if the program really helped them. It was an immersion that helped her mature as a human being and as a community worker.
It was an exposure that made her learn lessons in countryside banking and in really knowing if our government banks have served its clients especially in the boondocks.
After years of that experience, my niece joined a foreign-funded NGO for a higher salary and a new experience. Single and a dreamer, she now worked with a foreign NGO taking care of the IPs.
The other say, I dropped by a Landbank branch in San Pedro and met an acquaintance who was a former Landbank manager. The meeting was cordial and I took the chance to ask him so many questions (the journalist in me) about Landbank.
But it seemed it was not the LBP program we were so excited about, it was the experience with critical areas that was the topic for a moment. My two friends who were both assigned in Cotabato recalled their times together there.
They talked about threats of their life and how they coped with those threats. To be assigned in Cotabato is not a wish of any Landbank personnel. But the branch is there and somebody has to be assigned there.
One is a veteran and his or her value rises when he or she is from the Cotabato branch.
And so Bong Dela Cruz, the Assistant Vice President of LBP who heads the San Pedro Branch shared his own challenging experience in Cotabato because he was prodded to share by his former boss who is now retired.
Bruised probably by his Cotabato assignment, Bong felt so nostalgic about that assignment because he said he learned a lot not only of banking, but dealing with people from different cultures and sets of values.
Though he knows that was a thing of the past, that assignment for Bong is already embedded in his life. And probably it is this experience that has guided him to manage other branches of Landbank.
If he were afraid, he would have only stayed for a month. He was afraid alright but he wanted to face the challenge. So he stayed and thank God he said he was in Cotabato for almost ten years.
Dunno if I could last that long If I were assigned there. But Bong had a mindset that made him stay to serve Landbank.
He was a little apologetic because there is a different department of LBP that takes care of the countryside projects and programs. He could not comprehensively answer my questions about the farmer cooperatives in the countryside because there really is someone in charge of that program.
But as it is, I could see how busy his branch and entertaining clients in his office occupied a lot of his time. When we came, he was deep into paper works, something I really cannot understand.
Landbank, because it serves the LGUs, has more paper works to do. But though busy, Bong offered us the most basic in public relations: a freshly brewed coffee. What a morning for me!
Bong promised to invite their manager for a powwow so I could ask so many questions about the countryside programs of Landbank.
I am convinced that Landbank has so many best practices but the people are not aware of them. About time they do.