The Secret to Arlene’s Pots

Posted on May 2, 2022

Being known as the Mestizo District of Ilocos Sur, Vigan has been a tourist attraction for its well-preserved, Spanish-era town and historical atmosphere. Taking a walk to Calle Crisologo is like a time-travel to the past.

The CARD Mutually Reinforcing Institutions (CARD MRI) first began its operations through its microfinance NGO, Center for Agriculture and Rural Development (CARD), Inc. When the needs of its clients start to evolve and required a more diverse line of financial and non-financial services, its clients then graduated and were transferred to CARD SME Bank, CARD MRI’s thrift bank. Now, CARD SME Bank has a total of 29,237 as of April 2022.

Arlene Aquino is a resident of Vigan, Ilocos Sur and one of the many clients of CARD SME Bank Vigan Branch. Her pottery business has been their family’s bread and butter. Because of her hard work for 23 years, her eldest graduated with a bachelor’s in education and her two younger children are now taking their desired courses in college.

Arlene used her past cycles of loans as capital for her pottery business. Because of her excellent performance in the thrift bank, she can now avail a loan of up to Php 100,000.00. After this cycle, she is planning to avail a car loan to also be utilized in her business.

Her pottery business was doing well even during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. A lot of plantitos and plantitas took up gardening as a hobby. Pots became in-demand, making her business boom. She did business with wholesalers and retailers alike. However, when things are starting to go back to normal, the demand for supplies slowed down.

Thankfully, because of Arlene’s charm and accommodating personality, she was able to keep the business relationships she established during the pandemic. Customers would explain that it is her smile and excellent customer service that make them come back for her pots. The pots are for sale, but the friendship she was able to give them is free.

Arlene is a naturally friendly person. In fact, at her age, she still has someone whom she can call her best friend. A few years ago, she suffered from migraine attacks that prevented her from making pots herself. She found a partner in Rosalina Tolentino, also a CARD SME Bank client. She helps her not only in her tasks and responsibilities in the business, but also in their tasks as center officers.

CARD MRI empowers communities through enabling women to become community leaders. Every bank branch is composed of group of women called “centers” wherein officers are elected. These are composed of a center chief, secretary, and treasurer.

Arlene is a center chief and her duty is to maintain a harmonious relationship towards the account officer and the members. Meanwhile, Rosalina acts as the center treasurer. Together with the secretary, they manage their center so that the co-center members remain disciplined and obligated to pay for their dues.

When Arlene’s migraine attacks got worse, her best friend, Rosalina, took the responsibility of being the center chief on behalf of Arlene while being the treasurer at the same time. She co-presided the weekly meeting with the account officer and took charge of her co-members with collecting the payment of her co-members every week. Because of that, Arlene is beyond thankful to her almost-sister friend, Rosalina.

Camaraderie is a word that sums up Arlene’s journey as an entrepreneur. While anyone could make pots, Arlene’s unique personality is the secret ingredient to her business’ success.