The Bank and the Buried
It’s been two weeks now that I’d been getting help from melatonin to induce myself to sleep. And now I know why.
No, not why melatonin induces me to sleep but why I can’t seem to fall asleep even when I’m all spent mentally and physically.
Quite hard to believe the reason maybe, but now that I have at least an iota why would make me even more sleepless. But at least, I won’t be nursing “kaba” and “kutob” as if someone’s preying on me.
I come from a town that few people know and fewer still have been to. Long years ago, it had been “famous” for a spring resort and bowling lanes but something close to mismanagement had send it to finally stop operations. Now, the place is one big jungle of weeds and wild-others.
Sitting beside the erstwhile resort is a rural bank that has seen two managements in a period of almost four decades. There is another rural bank established a decade ago and is the breakaway of the 4-decade old one.
If you are running a business (let’s say, a bank), you need to let people know what services you are offering. And if you are a bank, and for goodness sake, wants to alleviate the people’s economic status (which, in this little town of ours, a fifth municipality at that), extending loans would surely sell like hotcakes.
In a town where most folks depended on their rice paddies, small-scale livestocks and piggeries, and with little (even tiny) effort from the municipal government to at least give programs benefitting the townsfolk, the income they get were just not enough to feed their own families, even send their children to school and so worst, couldn’t cover the interest. But still, a small few could paying only the interest and the penalty, the principal loan untouched for decades.
Our long standing debt of 20 years had been covered and paid by two land titles. No, we aren’t fully paid yet. Come July, we have another payment due which my two siblings and I share. A good thing that there are three of us sharing to pay the INTEREST. But what of others?
You see, years passed, interests and penalty accumulated, my poor townsfolk suddenly can’t keep up with the payments. Seeing more of its interests and shrugging the town’s plight, the bank said “let’s organize the debtors by barangay, and call them “Fund Group” with the goal to “help” collect and remind each other to settle their dues.”
The bank also laid a rule that “for every debtor who pays or renews their loan (regardless of the terms), 1% of the loan principal is added and set aside to be called “Fund 1”. The “Fund 1” is the bank’s guarantee should any member of the group defaults from payment. The bank shall collect this and keep this “safe”.’
The thing is, the fund fees from the time it was started up to the time when the bank changed management, was unaccounted. The townsfolk were asking then, “where is our fund?” And so the bank, in all its lingo and language game told them to start another. So the “Fund 2” came into being.
The funds, they were assured, are just guarantees, and a member can borrow from the Fund. The share of the member shall also be returned once the loan is fully settled. The Fund is safe. But where is it if it’s not earning interest for the member? Safe, as in safe in the bank’s vault? Maybe. In the first place, the Fund goes straight to the bank.
Here’s more. A member can only renew a loan after getting the signature of the Group’s 3 authorized signatories. Without the signatures, a debtor cannot renew the loan. With the signatures, the signatories are bound as co-makers.
So why can’t I sleep?
For two weeks now, the bank has been vigilant in taking its interest at hand. Debtors are beginning to lose possessions. “Na-sheriff” is now a common word in our hapless town.
My parents are worried. My mom is one of the authorized signatories making her a co-maker for the loans she has co-signed. Already, one of the co-maker signatory has been given a “sheriff” notice.
The group already sought an audience with the bank’s president. Out of the country, they say.
Now, my parents are devastated. We can barely pay our loan. How on earth does the bank expects us to help pay for the loan my mom co-made?
In the first place, the “Fund Group” was the bank’s idea. The authorized signatories from the “Fund Group” was the bank’s idea, too. Members had been begging off for the thankless duty of being in the group but the bank said no.
Now, the legal battle is yet to be started. The group of debtors said, why hire a lawyer when they cannot eat three meals a day?
The legal battle is yet to be started. With the self-pitiable attitude, the town has already lost.
Regular melatonin for me.