The Saints that Guard and Guide Farmers in Hinunangan, S. Leyte

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Created on Friday, 15 March 2019 Published Date

Over the past 50 years, the cooperative movement is alive and even getting stronger in Hinunangan, Southern Leyte due to the enduring presence of a farmers organization known as “Saints Peter and Paul Multi-Purpose Cooperative (SPPMPC).

The name which bears two popular biblical characters by itself implies deep religiosity of the townsfolk. Their long-lasting belief that Saints Peter and Paul had given them all they need rooted back to the time of Rev. Fr. Frederick Wakeheim, a Canadian Scarboro Missionary who founded and transformed this coop from scratch to one of the most viable, dynamic and richest farmer cooperatives in Eastern Visayas.

SPPMPC is also the first non-government organization in Region 8 which is currently engaged in the Build Operate and Transfer Project in partnership with the local government unit of Hinunangan. Said BOT project involved the financing and construction by the cooperative of the PhP 15-million commercial complex which is now being used as the town’s public market.

In an exclusive interview with the BOD Chairman Mr. Honorato Vacal, Jr., he said that the municipal government did not spend a single centavo for the project, which consists of 35 stalls and a 90 room pension house.

Accordingly, this commercial center will be converted into a community Hospital when the complex is turned over to the local government after 20 years as stipulated in the signed BOT Contract.

SPPMPC literally started from scratch with a meager capital of only PhP 837.50 in the year 1968. This initial capital was sourced out from the 36 original members who respectively contributed 25 pieces of coconut before processing them into dried copra. Today, this farmers' cooperative is continuously growing and on its way to becoming a billionaire's coop with a whooping capital asset of PhP 850Million.

In the words of Mr. Vacal, "thru the years, Sts. Peter and Paul is considered a financial icon to its more than 8,000 coop members. Many of them had successfully lifted their families out of extreme poverty because of the programs and services being extended by SPPMPC," Mr. Vacal pointed out.

In more than 5 decades of cooperative existence, the BOD Chair admitted though that they have also experienced some rough rides. In fact, during its formative years, there were times the cooperative almost went down financially, but because of the strong and persistent spiritual guidance of its founder - the late Fr. Wakeheim, the cooperative has ostensibly learned the trick of recovering fast in every storm that besets them.

Fr. Wakeheim is fondly remembered as an intuitive and dedicated institution builder, thus he exhorted the pioneering 36 members to set aside at least 25 pieces of their coconut harvest, processed them into copra and the money generated served as initial capital, and the rest is history.

But according to Mr. Vacal, it’s not always rosy-all-days for the coop, things get rough too when they experienced delay in the collection of loans from delinquent farmer-members. However, due to majority’s synergistic resolve to pursue their goals, SPPMPC eventually recovers until it totally bounced back and attracted the attention of government agencies and institutions.

In 2001, SPPMPC became one of the national Gawad Saka Awardees. This is the Department of Agriculture’s most prestigious award, which helped much in boosting the image and cooperative zeal of the officers and members, resulting in the enticement of more farmers to join the coop in either regular or associate membership status.

People from all walks of life got interested in joining the organization and became highly conscious of cooperative movement. Today, its members has grown dramatically to more than 8,000 individuals, and has expanded its coverage areas to other municipalities such as: Anahawan, San Francisco, Macrohon and Silago, all of Southern Leyte. As if these are not enough, the cooperative also transcends boundaries when it successfully established two branches in the towns of Hindang and Abuyog, both in Leyte province.

Among the slew of exemplary achievements or milestones of SPPMPC were the acquisition of the following worthy projects:

1. The Farm Level Grains Center built through loan assistance from DA's Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries (formerly National Food and Agriculture Council);

2. Two- Storey Pensionne House with fully air-conditioned rooms and function hall;

3. Corn mill facility constructed within the 150 hectare FLGC Compound;

4. A one-stop-hardware store where construction materials are being sold catering to, not only the coop members, but the community and nearby towns; and as earlier mentioned,

5. The construction of Commercial Center under BOT scheme wherein after 20-year of operation the management and ownership of the center will be turned over to the LGU.

But more than the physical infrastructures, the multi-purpose coop has been overly aggressive in providing its farmer-members with financial assistance ranging from farm capitalization or palay production loan (up to PhP 50,000 per FB) ; housing loan (PhP 2Million per household); capacity or business loan (another PhP 2Million); emergency loan (PhP 20,000), and last but not least, hospitalization loan of up to PhP 50,000.

As part of SPPMPCI’s social responsibility, it also maintains a regular scholarship program that accommodate at least 10 deserving students of its farmer-members at a time, shouldering the daily and book allowances including other related school expenses from high school to college.

Two farmer-cousins in the name of Mr. Felimon Segovia (70) and Mr. Juanito Segovia (71) of Barangays Sto. Nino Uno and Otama, respectively, took pride in being members of this coop for more than 3 decades. According to Mano Felimon he has five children and all of them became professionals because of the loan assistance provided by SPPMPC. While Mano Juanito also echoed similar praises to the cooperative for always being there for them.

Both proudly narrated how they were able to succeed in their farming endeavors and met the needs of their respective familites “all because of good graces first from God, then from the two Saints – meaning the Sts. Peter and Paul Cooperative.”

“If not for SPPMPC, we are not sure if we could have been as successful farmers as we are now,” the two farmer-cousins finally stated in unison.  (FRANCISCO C. ROSAROSO, Chief, RAFIS)


GALLERY

Mr. Honorato Vacal Jr. showing off the Gawad Saka Trophy which the coop received in year 2001.

The Php 3.88Million worth of NAFC-Farm Level Grains Center II project which Sts. Peter and Paul has established which was fully paid in 2015.


The two-storey pensionne house with fully air-conditioned rooms and function hall were farmers' trainings are conducted.


The diorama model of the BOT project which was constructed by the Coop and which will be turned over to LGU-Hinunangan after 20 years of commercial use by stall-owner members of Sts. Peter and Paul Multi-Purpose Coop.

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