99th Baguio Charter Day Anniversary Issue
     
Supplements
99 thoughts on Baguio's Centennial
Esther someone else like her?
A tribute to those who care for Baguio
A pasture of hope:
Good Shepherd Convent
Through the barriers of silence & isolation
They're loved because they care
The man called morris
Teacher volunteers:
Pathways to Higher Education
My best teacher
Indigenous women and a cooperative
Two Baguio families are local visionaries
Top 10 reasons why getting a Baguio education is worth it
Conversations with Gaia
Winning Photos
99th Baguio Charter Day Cartoon
by: Elizabeth Mamanglo

It seemed only yesterday that the birth of MOFAMCO or the Mothers and Family Multi-Purpose Cooperative came into being. Time ticked very fast and to date, the coop is actually 24 years old, nearing its silver anniversary.

The simple and industrious mountaineers comprising MOFAMCO’s biggest number have been part of the unabated migration to Baguio, a few years after the destructive World War. Like any venturesome individual, they found themselves one day in Baguio, their dream city.

This was done by way of the only bus they know — the red, gray, and yellow Dangwa transit. They were not only magnetized by the luxurious glow of the city at night and beautiful man-made landscape but were chiefly motivated to seek the proverbial green pasture for their children’s future. True enough, for many found employment in the different mining areas. However, those who came later when employment in the mines became saturated encountered a big disappointment.

Lowly educated and lowly skilled, the men folk settled in on and off jobs as laborers in road and housing constructions. Somehow, the women must utilize resourcefulness to the fullest in order to help augment the family income. They found it in the busy marketplace even as they played hide and seek with the policemen. In the homes they raised a few hogs and fowls. They also did weaving, knitting, and crocheting, reserving their products in time for the tourists’ influx to the city during summertime.

After a series of consultative meetings, 15 of these indigenous women finally formalized in April 1985 the operation of the MOFAMCO as a savings and loan association. The pure intent was to help the members take turns to avail themselves of seed capital that they could muster and invest in their respective buy and sell livelihood.

The same group of poorly clad Igorot women sought recommendation from their parish priest in Baguio Cathedral, the late Father John Pardou, to the parish council officers in control of the church’s fund from whom they proposed to borrow P20,000 as additional capital for their budding cooperative. Despite the rector’s pressing endorsement, their proposal was vehemently denied.

“Where do these prospective members and borrowers come from? What type of occupation are they engaged in? What concrete assurance can you give of a hundred percent return of the money to be borrowed?” were among the queries thrown to the core group leaders by the elite council officers. Mentioning their barangays, where most of Baguio’s urban poor reside, and the kind of work they do for a living was more than enough reason to turn down the proposal. The exchange of side-glances with wiggling heads and wry smiles was the council's explicit way of telling the women that they were not at all bankable.

This dismal encounter with the elitist council didn’t linger long even as it sank deep in the skins of the marginalized women, rather it had shaken them unequivocally to a ringing call of challenges. Yes, at that time they were the industrious peddlers of bottles, old newspapers, water, fruits, and vegetables. They lived in small tenements in the suburbs of the city. They were the regular recipients of CRS (Catholic relief services), commodities donated by the US like corn meal, milk, bulgur, and used clothing. Of the group leaders, only four were college graduates with the rest either high school or elementary drop outs. Nevertheless, they were determined to do their best in the interest of the organization.

They can no longer tolerate the big time money lenders who extracted so much interest. They encou-raged every member to roll up their sleeves and double their time of work to be able to contribute a bigger share capital. The leaders being an Igorot majority, membership followed the same trend.

It was difficult to raise the minimum share capital of P200 and P500 as maximum that they were paying by installment on a weekly or monthly basis. A rummage sale on CRS used clothing made them exceedingly happy and richer with P5,000 that was added to their fund. Yet, it was not enough for their growing needs.

To the rescue came NORLU (Northern Luzon Cooperative Development Center) who lent P20,000, and this was followed by a friend from the Religious of the Assumption Congregation in the person of Sister Gertrude Borres, who pitched in another P20,000.

Five years later, the struggling but steadily moving coop under the supervision of the vicariate head, the late Monsignor William Brasseur, and housed at the Sangkabalayan Building within the Baguio Cathedral Compound had its first taste of a million pesos in assets. For the simple folk it was a milestone and a reasonable cause to celebrate in Cordilleran style. They were unaware that in the next five years, another great milestone was awaiting them — that of MOFAMCO winning a national award in 1995, the Bayaning Filipino Award sponsored by ABS-CBN in cooperation with Ugat Foundation. Members were humbled but mighty proud of it. The award was in recognition of MOFAMCO's successful grassroots initiative under the institution category, where they bested other regional entries. It was another cause of celebration in thanksgiving to Kabunyan or Maknongan.
Other than savings and credit, continuous informal education on cooperatives, Christian family life, gender sensitivity, nutrition education environmental advocacy, mutual aid, cultural enhancement, and outreach in terms of coop trainings to starting village coops outside Baguio were gradually integrated. On the environmental aspect, the earlier coop members were required to do re-greening activities in their respective backyards; be it vegetable for organic home consumption or ornamental plants for sale. They had to do this before the release of a loan. Trainings on waste management and waste recycling were also given in support of the city government’s program. Hence, during trade fairs, many of MOFAMCO’s members are among those displaying and selling their ornamental plants. In matter of culture, so that the MOFAMCO youths would not forget their roots, they were given trainings on ethnic songs and dances and were able to mount concerts in the city and nearby schools in Benguet. They were likewise able to produce some tapes and CDs on the subject.

Where the government and later on the Catholic Church had created divisions in provinces and vicariates in the once one Mountain Province or in colonial times the Grand Cordillera Central, MOFAMCO was the automatic venue to bring these people together again. The coop became the opportunity to renew old ties, revisiting their past through songs and dances, reaffirming their rich values and common cultural heritage. More importantly, it was a homely venue for helping one another in enhancing such culture and in charting their socio-economic life within the mainstream of modern society.

With firm resolve, full trust in Divine Providence, and leaders who are honest and service-oriented, simple and flexible operations complimented by the wholly committed and industrious loyal members has been and is still the formula of the coop’s positive direction. It has kept the organization afloat through out the many years in high and low tide. For a long time, officers and management staff sacrificed to work with little or without pay. They coordinated and readily availed themselves of needed trainings from equally dedicated and pioneering coop experts from the NORLU and the Baguio Benguet Community Credit Cooperative, all within the city.

Moderately entrenched therefore on potential good ground, MOFAMCO continues its snail-paced but sure climb and growth. Present-ly, it has over 3,000 in membership and still growing every month. In 1997, it has moved from the Sangkabalayan Building to its newly purchased house and office at the city market area. The general membership has always been thankful to the kind parish priests of Baguio Cathedral on the 14 years free use of Sangkabalayan and its facilities. Special mention is hereby given to the late Rev. Father John Pardou, the late Monsignor Sebastian Dalis, and Rev. Father Victor Munar. The coop likewise has a satisfactory capital enough to sustain the individual needs of members in their various business activities.

A good number of members have grown simultaneously with the cooperative economically and educationally. Some improved their houses from huts to concrete structures, some were able to buy stall rights in the market, some were able to expand business enterprises, and some were able to buy farm lots. Above all, they were able to send their children to school from elementary to college.

MOFAMCO, with God’s blessing, is now ready to face a bright prospect in the ongoing tumultuous but challenging millennium. For after all, simple folks are bankable.
 
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