The once drab and slow-paced economic life in Del Carmen where residents are mostly left out in the mainstream of development processes is increasingly becoming a thing of the past.
Del Carmen is one of the six municipalities of Siargao, an island known as the surfing capital of the Philippines. The island lies some 50 nautical miles southwest of Surigao City and is geographically seperated from mainland Mindanao by the Mindanao Deep.
What distinguishes Del Carmen from the other municipalities in the island is a strong grassroots cooperative called the Del Carmen Multi-Purpose Cooperative,otherwise known as Delcampurco. That the cooperative has put to action its mission of service is shown by its growing membership, now numbering about 700 from the original 30 when it started a decade or so ago.
The leap in membership is the logical result of the co-op's finding its mark in keeping the economy moving by providing credit to make the poor members productive. However,increasing membership means higher credit demand to finance various micro-enterprise activities of the members composed mainly of small fishers, women,vendors, teachers and farmers. It was against the backdrop when FPSDC provided the much needed capital of one million pesos in 2002.
With its infusion of a much-needed capital to Delcampuro, FPSDC has helped ensure that the coop is able to provide greater service to its poor members. Once small fisherfolk are now operating fishcages; once-upon-a time idle people have found employment by operating coop-financed jeepneys and motorrelas or doing well as vendors; many women who wanted to earn are now undertaking livelihood activities.
In the context of Delcampuro, the availability of credit has made community members more productive. It has also helped members to resolve issues and unfetter them from the clutches of usurers and pangs of property.
The following account by two coop member-beneficiaries say a lot about the Delcampuro experience:
Pacita Hornales, 50-year-old mother of two, once worked with a tiny daily capital of P350, buying and selling fish. The miniscule capital meant a very limited income for her family of which Pacita was sole bread-earner,
But life turned for the better when she joined Delcampurco, which qualified her to borrow P20,000, enough to rent a stall in the market, greatly expanding her clientele.
Pacita's example illustrates how poverty is no match against an industrious and enterprising spirit, backed by capital provided by a service-oriented cooperative. "The volume of any business has increased so much that I had to buy a motorcycle to deliver orders to far-flung barangays," Pacita proudly says.
With her improved income, Pacita was able to give her children better education. "Thanks to the cooperative, my elder daughter is now in college, taking up nursing, while the younger one is in 2nd year highschool,"Manang Pacita says.
Where does Pacita keep her savings? "Of course, at Delcampurco,in the form of saving mobilization and capital build-up," said Nang Pacita, adding that "the essence of cooperativism is service. I was able to make use of the co-op's fund and in effect,brought me where I am now. I feel that others should also be able to benefit through my savings, that's why I have no hesitation in putting my money there." Manang Pacita concludes.
To those who frown on the concept of gender and development, the. best argument is the life exemplified by Mrs. Gene Japus, who was able to sustain her family of four amidst a continuing onslaught of poverty.
How does Gene Japus perceive her involvement with cooperativism?" Cooperation, self-help, mutual service,"she answers. And in Del Carmen, this cooperativism is best exemplified by her experience with Delcampurco.
Gene's buy-and-sell business prospered all these years because Delcampurco had provided her with the much-needed capital to start wholesale fish-vending. In fact, Gene has helped in job generation by hiring several workers, especially in storage and delivery services.
Whatever success she has achieved in her business, she attributes partly to Delcampurco. "I started by borrowing from usurers, charging exorbitant interest rates ('five-six')," Gene says, claiming that usurers "benefited from the toil of the poor."
By its very existence, Delcampurco has freed the victims from usurers, one of whom is Gene. Gene, who badly needed a bigger capital, is thankful to FPSDC for infusing funds to Delcampurco. "The lack of capital was hindering our struglle to be more productive,"she opines.
By working with the coopcrativc, Gene's close-knit family is now able to access its basic needs even in these most difficult times.
The co-op way
The stories of Pacita and Gene illustrate how, despite all the difficulties they faced, it is possible to become more productive to provide a better life for one's family. Their common vehicle against poverty was their cooperative,which has come of age in their pverty-stricken region(Caraga).
Delcampurco has shown the way on how a cooperative can make a difference in empowering the poor to build their own organizational strength, and thus, craft their own destiny. FPSDC has helped them find the way.
The story of Delcampurco is the tale of struggle of some 700 poorpeople, including Pacita and Gene. It is FPSDC's pride to be part of their struggle of better life.