From P3,500 to billions?
PERSPECTIVE - Cherry Piquero-Ballescas (The Freeman) - June 6, 2019 - 12:00am

Such is the story of the Lamac Multi-Purpose Cooperative located in the mountain area of Pinamungajan, Cebu.

Like most rural areas in this country, the residents of Lamac, mostly farmers, previously lived amidst impoverished rice fields and mud puddles, with no access to safe water, electricity, and roads.

Now, Lamac is widely known for its successful Multi-Purpose Cooperative, which started in 1973 with a P50 contribution from 70 members (tenants and small farm owners) and which grew, across more than four decades, to its present billions in assets!

Their success story mentions the important role of Boholano migrants who decided to group their resources and efforts together to help each other out in 1973. Soon after they organized themselves into the Lamac Samahang Nayon Consumers’ Cooperative, they started with a consumer store to market their agricultural produce and also to provide for the needs of the community. The members also decided to unite together to make an access road to reach the town proper more easily. These moves attracted more members and profits for their cooperative through the years.

Like every organization, however, the Lamac Samahang Nayon Consumers’ Cooperative had challenges. By March 13, 1992, with the involvement of young professionals, the Samahang Nayon was transformed, its name changed to its present name, the Lamac Multi-Purpose Cooperative registered with the Cebu Development Authority under BLOMES Inc. (Barangay Lamac Organization on Management Effectiveness System Inc). Under this new setup, refresher courses for coop members were offered and better financial management also pursued.

With collaborative linkages with government, non-government organizations, local and international, and businesses, among others, Lamac Multi-Purpose Cooperative reported that 66% of the over 100,000 members as of 2018, are still farmers with an adequate number of fishermen.

The award-winning cooperative has since ventured into food production (like fresh carabao milk drinks, coco sugar), piggery, organic vegetable farming, cocoa production, management of a coco ice water plant which helps their fishermen-members to keep their daily fish catch fresh, a T-shirt printing service, and dormitory managed by their youth members. The cooperative reported having its own bank, bakery, and the Hidden Valley Wave Pool and Mountain Resort in Lamac. Housing programs are also offered to their members on easy installment plans. Hundreds of members have been given employment. The coop also reported their plan “for a member-family to own a 500-square-meter lot of which 37 square meters will be the house size and the remaining land will be for vegetable gardening, milking carabao, and other livestock.”

Ellen Limocon, the general manager of the Lamac Multi-Purpose Cooperative credits the success of their coop to their “spirit of volunteerism, unity and faith in God.” According to her, “we always look back and never forget where we came from.” LOVE (standing for loyalty, oneness, valor, and empathy) is the acronym for this coop’s core values.

Beyond Lamac, the cooperative has also expanded, opening more branches in various parts of Cebu and other provinces in the Visayas, their successful model inspiring other cooperatives and communities.

Bayanihan, or helping each other within a community, is a Filipino cultural value practiced through centuries. Volunteerism helped build the grand Ifugao Rice Terraces. The early Lamac farmers struggled TOGETHER beyond their challenges with bayanihan and, across decades, created an inclusive, participatory, and successful cooperative.

Their story isn’t just about how their small P3,500 contribution grew beyond millions. Their collective efforts, hard work, and their linkages with partners, in government, in business, among civil society, locally and globally, transformed a poverty-challenged rural community into a proud, self-reliant successful and inspiring model!

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