Igpanuyadug Sa Abaga Ta Bayug (Protect Mindamora Falls)

June 26, 2020

“Igpanuyadug Sa Abaga Ta Bayug” is now the call of the Indigenous People all over Mindanao and such call has reverberated even reaching no less than our beloved President, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. To understand from where that call is coming from, let me first go back in history. The indigenous cultures world-wide have understood and experienced life as a continuum between human and non-human species and between present, past and future generations. An 1848 speech attributed to Chief Seattle of the Suquamish tribe captures this continuum: “How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them? Every part of this earth is sacred to my people . . .” It is so amazing to know that the culture of the Indigenous People has shown the oneness and interconnectedness of all of God’s creation.  Indeed, the Unseen Being (the Creator) is seen through the wonderful scenery of nature evolving through billions of years. As vividly expressed by the Indigenous People, “Now we know that in our pilgrimage through this life there are holy places where one is made to feel kinship with the divine, Magbabaya; where the heavens seem to bend low over our heads and the angels come and minister to us.” It is there where the IPs connect with Magbabaya. Visit Mindamora Falls where you can see the 3-story waterfalls against the backdrop of radiating plants and blooming flowers and above are flocks of birds hovering above as if dancing to the music of the wind. What could be more amazing than that but now that beautiful scenery is being wrecked by powers-that be to transform that holy place into a tourist spot to make money.  Indeed, humanity has given high veneration to the profit motive that has captured the mind of all governments, all institutions, all universities and even all religious groups.  There is so much denigration of spiritual values and abuses of the rights of the IPs.  Let us see the amazing culture of the Indigenous People and the love to Magbabaya. What was even more awesome then that for thousands of years, the Indigenous People have lived abundantly in a land oozing with ecological resources in the spirit of sharing and services to one another.  They even collectively transformed the land into rice terraces, using technologies that trust in the inherent processes of nature. They were one with nature, knowing when to plant by just looking up the Big Dipper, when the cup–like formation of the stars is seen as tilted that water will flow, that is a sign that it will rain. They were once the masters of the land that no one owned because private ownership was not in their language for no one can own the land that outlasts him/her.  On the contrary, the land will own us as we will all must bow down to the majesty of the land because all will succumb to it when we die. That cultural heritage of Res Communis, that spirit of sharing and service has continued through the years, passing on to the present generation the harnessing of collective power of the Indigenous People which was manifested before in producing the 8th wonder of the world. The contemporaneous society of the Indigenous People has created a different world applying the same formula of harnessing the collective power which is, the genuine essence of cooperativism. Nothing could match the story of empowerment  of the Indigenous People than that of the newly organized cooperatives of the IPs in the six barangays in Kibulag, Talakag, Bukidnon called the “Igpanuyadug Sa Abaga Ta Bayug Agriculture Cooperative” whose razon d’etre is to protect the Mindamora Falls which is now threatened by two LGUs nearby which are now transforming the area into a tourist spot and in doing so, wrecking so much havoc to the environment.  “Abaga Ta Bayug” has been the sacred ground of the IPs not only to the more than 2,000  IP-members of the cooperative but to the millions of IPs in Mindanao.    Without even informing or consulting the IPs, these IGUs dared to intrude and the Chieftains of some the tribes are puzzled no end. “Tumindig po ang aming balahibo.” They wrote our beloved President Mayor Rodrigo Duterte “na sana po matigil na ang kasuwapangan ng iilan dahil kung ito po as magpapatuloy, kami po ay handang magpakamatay at pumatay.” By the way, the elected Chairman of the newly organized cooperative to protect Mindamora Falls is Sultan Abdul Amoran who is half-maranaw and half-higaonon. He is the Kumander of the Special Unit of the MILF North Eastern Mindanao Front with some 1,500 combatants based in Camp Arkam, Maguing, Lanao del Sur. I thank Sultan Amoran for listening to the plea to have a cease fire, form themselves into cooperative to fight the number one enemy of the country which is poverty and social injustice. Ang sagot po nila, “Mga pagari akon samasama tanu kooperatiba. Isa lang ang armas namin ngayon, KOOPERATIBA! Through cooperativism, I firmly believe that the second longest war in the world, the Mindanao War can now be stopped. But please let us join hands to STOP THE ON-GOING DEGRADATION  OF MINDAMORA FALLS, the sacred ground of the IPs! 

Empowering the Poor & Vulnerable : The Oro Integrated Cooperative Shows the Way

June 25, 2020

Harnessing the people’s collective power and potentials is the one to defeat poverty, the country’s number one enemy that deprives the people of welfare and dignity. Studies have shown that poverty looms paradoxically in a country that is oozing with ecological wealth because of the powerlessness of the people to have access and control over their resources.  Who controls? Who decides? Who benefits? Not the people but a few oligarchs. That is a great social injustice. The Studies concluded.  Democratizing wealth and power to promote social justice is what cooperativism is all about. This is mandated by the highest law of the land in Chapter 15, Article 12 of the 1987 Constitution which states,” to promote the viability and growth of cooperatives as instruments of social justice, equity and economic development.  For a society to continuously have such a highly stratified economic set-up, rectifying social wrongs has been the battle-cry to advance social justice, equity and a kind of development that puts the people at the center of progress. In a highly skewed societal set-up, there is that imperative need to launch a collectivist counter culture against the lethal combination of powerlessness, apathy and greed. The people’s collective struggle emanating from the strength of the human spirit will bring forth, in the long term, a society that is more humane and just. In 1966, a few good men and women led by Atty. Mordino Cua trail-blazed a progressive path to serve the people by organizing a cooperative named after its place of birth, the Oro Integrated Cooperative otherwise known as the OIC.  With a measly P88 as its starting capital but firmly relying on the organizers’ strong abiding faith on the time-honored and universally-accepted cooperative principles and values, the OIC, after 54 years, has grown by leaps and bounds.   Today, OIC serves its members financially with a capital of Five Billion Seven Hundred Million Pesos (P5.7 B), money that they themselves own and manage to liberate them from the clutches of economic difficulties. It is operating with some 18 branches and going 20 branches this year spread throughout Mindanao with one branch operating in the beautiful island of Bohol.  Today, OIC stands as a formidable ally of the poor – the farmers, the fisherfolk, women, workers, vendors, drivers, lowly government employees – constituting a development force of some 160,000 strong members scattered throughout Mindanao especially in Cagayan de Oro and the provinces of Misamis Oriental, Bukidnon and Tagbilaran City who are now engaged in small and micro enterprises. In its own right, OIC has equalized financial opportunities for the marginalized sectors through its twelve financial windows front-lined by 18  branches that provide regular and privilege loans. While commercial banks have considered the poor non-bankable, here is a cooperative that thinks otherwise.  Indeed, when the poor harness their collective potentials and pool their resources together, it is just magical and wondrous! OIC has provided the empowering path to the helpless, the downtrodden and the oppressed as it hits the crux of the problem.  Studies have shown that poverty is rooted in the dis-empowerment and the social exclusion of the people.   As such, the only remedial measure is to empower the poor to craft their own destiny.  They must put their future into their own hands – not to the politicians, not through grants, not to development agencies be government or non-government organizations – but through their own efforts. In truth, it is only they who can liberate themselves from the viciousness of poverty because unless they act for their own welfare, all the outpourings of development assistance will be for naught. Indeed, OIC has exemplified the truism that cooperatives have become the countervailing force against poverty, social injustice, gross inequities, climate change and even against violent extremism that is now trailblazing social transformation for People, Planet, Prosperity and Peace. For those who have dreamt, struggled and even died for it, social change has been so elusive all these years despite 14 years of martial law and two people-powered revolutions.  The systems and structures perpetuating poverty are still as formidable as ever. But not anymore under the present dispensation of President Mayor Rodrigo Duterte who is now empowering the poor and the vulnerable especially the Indigenous People to fight poverty.  OIC is indeed the cooperative of those who struggle to make life better for the people through their own empowerment.  While it banks on the grassroots initiatives of mobilizing resources for the poor, yet OIC could not be left behind technologically being the first cooperative to use an Automated Teller Machine dubbed the Pinoy Coop ATM. It has exemplified concern for the communities and the environment in so many ways as it is the beacon of light amidst the darkness of poverty. When a cooperative bank was in distress as in the case of the Cooperative Bank of Misamis Occidental which had been put into receivership, OIC readily offered a helping hand in coordination with other cooperatives, as together they worked for its rehabilitation, the first of its kind in the whole country.  Indeed, OIC is a kindred spirit to those in need. OIC has showcased what cooperativism should be, which is, a vehicle of social transformation.  It has become a feather in the cap of the cooperative movement not only locally but also nationally and even globally.    To the Board of Directors chaired by an amazing cooperative leader, Madam  Doris Calapiz and to  the  Management and Staff headed by a humble but firm CEO  Mr. Rene Hilot and all the one hundred sixty thousands members of OIC, our firm salute and warm embrace from your partner agency – the Cooperative Development Authority.  MABUHAY ANG OIC!

An Island of Peace in Uptown

June 20, 2020

One of the many attractions in Uptown CdO is a lush 80 ha “island of peace”. Ranked as the number one golf course in Visayas-Mindanao and designed by the renowned American golf course architect Robert “Bobby" Jones Jr. Pueblo de Oro Golf & Country Club is the ultimate safe haven for many enthusiastic golfers not only from Uptown or the city, but from all over the country and even beyond. Since Mike Gayoso took over as club operations manager the atmosphere has changed drastically for the better at the Club and among it's members. “It is a true blessing to be able to live and work here in Uptown serving the players and making sure everything is properly organised at the Club.  After the community lock-down we opened again beginning of June and operations have now started to normalise” added Mike. In fact he lives just a stone-throw away enjoying his condo-living lifestyle at his serviced apartment in Primavera Residences just besides SM-Mall, a development with all the amenities and convenience he can possibly desire. The 18 hole all-weather par-72 golf course has attracted not only locals but also many foreigners, especially Koreans, Australians and Americans, and many have strategically bought properties nearby, either private homes or posh condominium units, to be able to enjoy a unique lifestyle centred by their favourite game. The Golf Club has also great facilities like a driving range, a practice putting green, tee houses, a pro shop, restaurant, bar, and showers and lockers for male and female. The VIPs of the city are all playing at the Club several times a week and it is therefore considered not only a place for sports and pleasure but also for important business talks. While the men often choose to swing the golf clubs, women hang out in the nearby mall or go dining in the many community restaurants around Uptown. There are also great opportunities for trekking and biking with the kids which makes the whole area very family friendly. Mike further added “We had important national golf tournaments being played here at Pueblo like the 'Philippine Golf Tour' and the PAL Tournament but this year's biggest tournament 'Mindanao Meet', a tournament of all clubs in Mindanao, had to be postponed.” Cagayan de Oro is also called the “city of golden friendship” and you can truly see that spirit among its citizens.  Welcoming everyone with an open heart is one of the main traits of this booming city in the South of the Philippines that is attracting investors from the region, from all over the country as well as from abroad. The City of Cagayan de Oro has drawn out a clear development plan to make it a Metro City within 2025 and more infrastructure developments are under way like for example the Opol-Canitoan diversion road that will speed up the way to and from Laguindingan Airport for all Uptown residents. The City is expanding considerably in the Uptown area with residential and commercial developments towards Lumbia and beyond. As the city grows and more people like foreign and Filipino retirees, OFWs and seafarers are deciding to settle in this vibrant place it is becoming clear that the best area to live and to invest in is definitely Uptown CdO. And if you are a golfer that's not even a question.

The Third World War Waged in Peacetime

June 19, 2020

We salute the present dispensation for the utmost measures being done to capture the spread of COVID-19 that has already killed some 1,000 Filipinos. Indeed, this government has acted like a good “Father of the Family” to protect the health of the people and save lives as mortality in our country is one of the lowest against the pandemic that had already killed almost half a million people world-wide. Previous administrations should have done the same precautionary measures when the onslaught of ecological disasters had wrought havoc to the lives of Filipinos. Remember the Ormoc Typhoon in 1991 that had caused so much devastation that claimed more than 6,000 lives. Such was followed by series of typhoons that killed tens of thousands of lives, i.e., Typhoon Sendong in 2011 hitting the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan that claimed more than 3,000 lives and rendering some 11,000 families homeless and Typhoon Haiyan that had killed more than 10,000 Filipinos, among so many typhoons wrecking so much destruction to lives and properties.  So much destruction had already happened worldwide  due to nature’s wrath as Mother Earth is now facing its 6th extinction due to climate change. At a time when a quarter of the world’s population is threatened with starvation due to the erosion of soil fertility, water and genetic diversity, chasing the mirage of unending growth and wrong development paradigm by global corporations becomes a major source of genocide.   Indeed, the people and the environment are being sacrificed to the altar of greed and profit by the world’s elites and oligarchs. Killing people through the destruction of nature is an invisible form of violence which threatens justice, peace and survival.  Editor and author Claude Alvares calls this destruction the Third World War, “a war waged in peacetime, without comparison but involving the largest number of deaths and the largest number of soldiers without uniform.” Yes, we are now so concerned to stop a pandemic but the same concern should have been given to the destruction of the environment. We in Cagayan de Oro City were shocked no end when some 3,000 people died and 11,000 families were rendered homeless on that fateful day of Dec. 17, 2011.  Sendong left an indelible imprint, serving due notice to one and all that indeed there is no free meal in nature.  The pains that we are inflicting on Mother Earth  are now making all of us accountable, exacting a heavy toll  through ecological disasters that are becoming harsher and harsher. We must now face the stark realities that we have lost our ecological security because we have failed to do our role as stewards of God’s creation. We know that even with a strong army, a country that has no ecological security is not secured at all. Yes, we are now very much vulnerable to ecological disasters and we fear for our dear lives every time Gaia (Mother Earth) manifests its ire.  The horrible crimes we have committed against Her are unforgivable.  Her “lungs” – the forest – are almost all  gone.  We are guilty of a massive massacre that have erased our mega-diversity, the highest in the world which are endemic only in the Philippines.  Her “veins” – the rivers are either polluted or have no water at all. (In fact 25 major rivers in the country are already biologically dead.  Her “blood” – (the lakes, seas, watersheds) are heavily silted or polluted.      How long shall we allow the death blows to our ecosystems by those who continue the massive exploitation of our resources with utter disregard for nature and for the welfare of the ecological people who are suffering the brunt of ecological destruction?  Unfortunately, we have allowed foreign corporations to economically invade Mindanao, either to transform the areas left by the loggers into massive plantations or to be mined endlessly.  This time, we have never learned!       Today, the fury of nature is upon us now.  Sendong has awakened us to the bitter reality that unless we heal Gaia back to life, we will all perish.  Such awakening process was long in coming.  The truth is, our ecological people have long been suffering in silence.  A great injustice has been committed against them when our resources were exploited no end, causing their displacement, the loss of livelihood and even their very life.       The time of reckoning has now come. We are now going against a pandemic that has claimed a thousand lives. We should be more concerned with the revenge of nature which had eliminated from the face of the earth tens of thousands of our countrymen directly through ecological disasters or indirectly through hunger and poverty.  We must now save the environment and in so doing, save our ecological people from further demise.  In so doing, we save not only them but our very own lives -  all for the greater glory of God – the Unseen Being, our Creator!   In my reflection, I cannot help but surmise that the Unseen Being has allowed the looming of COVID-19 to awaken a humanity in deep slumber.  The Homo Sapiens must now give highest respect to the sanctity of all life forms.  In pursuance of humanity’s materialistic and consumerist lifestyle, millions of species have already been made extinct that have been there for billions of years even before the Homo Sapiens came into being. There was no empathy from the Homo Sapiens when these species were being made extinct.  Perhaps the Almighty Creator wants the Homo Sapiens to feel what those species were feeling then before they became extinct – thus, the corona virus loomed. Let us therefore respect the sanctity of nature as all creation is the manifestation of the Creator. Stop man’s egoic mindset that has transformed man from having been created in God’s likeness and image into  the image of Satan making  the Homo Sapiens the most flawed species, the only species that killed more than 100 million of its own kind  in the 20th century alone.


June 18, 2020

Let us recall the popular lines that time and again come to the inner recesses of our mind every time the cooperative movement face challenges as exemplified by the corona virus pandemic. We were saying then as we say now that a strong army can conquer a kingdom but that the strongest army in the world cannot stop an idea whose time has come. Indeed, no way can COVID-19 defeat the firm determination of the cooperatives to be a countervailing force against poverty, inequities, social injustices, climate change, violent extremism and now the pandemic called corona virus. The one billion members of the cooperatives world-wide including some eleven million cooperative members in the Philippines know that indeed cooperativism has come of age and that, no force on earth can stop it now. This truism has been affirmed by the USAID, the United Nations and by the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA).   Please allow me to put this in its proper historical context. Do you remember that that for the first time in the UN history, it declared 2012 as the International Year of the Cooperatives stating that cooperative enterprises build a better world.  On its part, the ICA has declared 2011 to 2020 as the Cooperative Decade as it describes the cooperatives as the People’s preferred Development Model and the fastest growing enterprise that will replace the present dominant paradigm. What is so amazing was the 3-month Research-Study conducted last year by the International Cooperative Development Council headed by Dr. Judith Hermanson of the United States Agency for International Development or USAID. In summary, the Research Study has concluded that the existence of the cooperatives influences the over-all quality of life of the community and the members enjoy better economic position and that cooperative members have greater resilience as measured by access to resources in times of emergency than non-members. It finally concluded that the Philippines is the Cooperative Leader in Asia and the Pacific.  Wow! So wonderful! The paradigm shift from neo-liberal capitalism to cooperativism is already long overdue.  The unsustainability in ecology must now be rectified because, in the absence of a major change, the unsustainable pattern of resource use will cause the collapse of the world system in less than a hundred years.  The unsustainability in the economy, where individualized aggrandizement and accumulation of wealth is the order of the day, must now be debunked to give way to the collective efforts towards inclusive growth through cooperativism. Albert Einstein once told us that we cannot solve a problem with the same thinking that has given rise to the problem, thus, from a consumerist and materialist thinking, there must be a shift to regenerative mindset, from having more to being more.   The UN has categorically defined the DNA of the cooperatives as members-owned, value-based and sustainable.  Being members-owned, the problem of gross inequities will be solved as the mebers are the main stakeholders as they own and manage their own enterprise.  The members are the ones to control, to decide and to benefit – thus, democratizing wealth in a highly iniquitous society. Being value-based, the cooperatives give high adherence to time-honored and universally-accepted cooperative principles, values and practices of participation, democracy, equality, service, industry, cooperation, honesty, transparency, accountability and most importantly, concern for the environment and for the communities.  In a world so enamored in externalities and trivialities that is giving high veneration to the profit motive and external looks and so much denigration to spiritual values, transformative cooperatives for people, planet, prosperity and peace is the urgent call of the times. In cooperativism, there is no such thing as moderating one’s greed as cooperatives’ raizon d’ etre is for service and not for profit.  Money will be used to enhance life and the well-being of the people and NOT to make more money. The cooperatives are considered as the builders of sustainability and by 2020, they will be the acknowledged leaders in social, economic and ecological sustainability.  This means food security, inclusive growth and ecological integrity will be the priorities rather than business and profit.  The one billion cooperative members worldwide are giving notice to one and all that social change is now in the offing; indeed, social transformation is now sweeping the globe as humanity is now in the threshold of the earth’s tipping point.  If the present dominant paradigm continues, meaning, “business as usual,”  then, we will tip the balance in favor of death.  The paradigm shift towards cooperativism, that advances the blueprint of the cooperative decade, will tip the balance in favor of life as the roadmap makes the cooperatives the countervailing force against resource depletion and economic stagnation.  Yes, the cooperative’s time has come and no force on earth, be Cartels or global  cooporatives can stop them. Not even the much dreaded Corona Virus!

Green and sustainable developments: is CdO ready?

June 16, 2020

The recent lockdown and Covid-experience made us all more aware about the importance and value of living in a sustainable, green and healthy environment. Having been 'restrained' for a long period of time made us truly appreciate the comfort of open spaces and natural environment. In fact, the spread of viruses and other diseases are drastically reduced where there is natural vegetation, plenty of sunlight, natural ventilation and breathable spaces. Now more than ever Green Building, passive green design and sustainable development concepts are all key factors in planning our future environments. But what is a Green Building? “Green building is the practice of creating structures and using processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building's life-cycle from planning to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation and deconstruction.” says the American Environment Protection Agency's website. The city's development plan (comprehensive land use plan 2019-2027) already envisioned a sustainable way of building new green low density areas, green belts, parks, open spaces, tree parks and tree strips along the main thoroughfares. In Cagayan de Oro there already are some green developments like for example Luxe Hotel in Limketkai that was actually certified as the first LEED Gold (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) building in the Philippines in 2013 and 2014. Another LEED certified building is the Pioneer House CdO, the only LEED Platinum Certified Building in the Visayas and Mindanao. Further there is Cepalco's Green Office Building along Mastersons Avenue in Uptown with it's photovoltaic panels and aim to be a 'Net Zero' building. A 'net zero' building is a building with zero net energy consumption, meaning the total amount of energy used by the building on an annual basis is equal to the amount of renewable energy created on the site. And finally, as the only residential green building and EDGE certified development in Cagayan de Oro there is Primavera Residences and Primavera City developed by IDC (Italpinas Development Corporation). Both projects have been awarded by important international recognitions like by the Philippine Green Building Council-Leadership in Green Building Award and the International and South East Asian Property Awards. EDGE is a green building certification system developed by the International Finance Corporation, which is part of the World Bank. EDGE stands for Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies, and the certification has the goal of reducing the environmental impact of buildings in three areas: direct energy consumption, water consumption, and the energy footprint of construction materials. For example in IDC's both developments passive green design features are the type of exposure of the building to the sun to minimise its impact evaluated during planning phase through a special software, the natural shading features created by various cantilevers, the natural ventilation created through the internal courtyard of the building (called chimney effect), the solar panels on the rooftop powering the common areas of the development. As the environment and our quality of life gets more and more important the focus of of both developers and home-buyers is set to shift to developments that are green in design and architecture, sustainable, eco-friendly and most of all liveable. With CdO's development plans under way this is a great opportunity to become one of the leading green LGUs in the Philippines that values quality of life and respect for nature. Residents from Primavera Residences are actually some of the best witnesses to the great lifestyle of green condo-living and they are very eager to share their experience on how it really feels like living in a green building.


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