Piso-piso to Php200-million: Memoirs of a farmer

Tiyo Badong is an active member of the Salvacion Farmers Development Cooperative  (SAFADECO) which now boasts more than 10,000 members and  Php200 million worth of assets.

Comfortably seated on a monoblock chair, Tiyo Badong’s aged but still sparkling eyes glow as he reminisced with pride about the place where he grew up and built his foundation, his family, and probably where he would like to be when his well-lived life comes to an end.

Tiyo Badong, whose full name is Salvador Flores Dugan Sr., is a 78-year-old agrarian reform beneficiary (ARB) from Maharlika Highway in Salvacion, Sorsogon City.

“I may be stuck in this place but it’s my choice and I had a lot of adventures and achievements here. I was a witness as to how this small barangay became progressive and I played my role in helping our people, especially the Salvacion Farmers Development Cooperative (SAFADECO), grow from what it is today,” he proudly said.

Tiyo Badong recalled that he became an ARB in June 1997 when he received his certificate of land ownership award for a 3,212 square meter agricultural land from the estate of Herminia Peralta, located in Salvacion, West District.

With this tract of land, he planted his roots and made memories that he cherished forever.

“I built my home there and started to establish myself by planting 30 coconuts and fruit-bearing trees. I never left Salvacion to explore as I relied on my awarded land while I served as a Barangay Councilor for three terms,” he exclaimed.

The land awarded to Tiyo Badong and his colleagues is part of the 10.1899 hectares parcel of the Peralta estate. The area is very strategically located in the heart of Barangay Salvacion which is traversed by the Maharlika highway.

Tiyo Badong said he was a father, a husband, a leader, a follower, a farmer, and a cooperative member. A role he assumed that molded him into what he is today.

He was very pleased with how a very small organization of farmers that was organized in 1992 has now more or less Php200 million worth of assets.

“In 1992, I was elected as treasurer of PAG-URUPOD cooperative, the now SAFADECO. We formed as an association of ARBs of Hacienda Pacheco in that same year. It had an initial membership of 16 during its registration with the Department of Labor and Employment,” he said.

He was also in charge of being the first caretaker of the organization’s first business, a small sari-sari store that sold household goods like rice, sugar, coffee, and other commodities that were the basic needs of the people, which was strategically placed near Barangay Salvacion’s chapel.

“We were able to help small copra farmers and other members of the community by making available their household needs without going to the town proper. During these early years, we also bought copra from farmers, which we sold to other traders,” he shared.

He remembered that for several years, they have sustained their simple enterprise but their income was just too small for the group members and their families. In their several years of operation, they have just earned more or less Php 20,000.00.

“With the help of my colleagues, we thought of every way to improve our operations. And worked doubly hard to make our coop succeed,” he said.

Tiyo Badong boasted that he played various roles in SAFADECO – aside from his job as a treasurer and store caretaker, he also took part as a member of its committees such as Audit and Election, until he selflessly served as the cooperative’s Chairperson in 2016 up to 2018.

“Modesty aside, they said that I played an important role in the development of the coop through the years. As they said SAFADECO will never be SAFADECO today without Tiyo Badong,” he beamed.

Tiyo Badong disclosed that he and his colleagues in the association that time have tried several schemes just to earn additional working capital for their operations.

“We even started the famous, piso-piso savings challenge. This is when all members saved one peso every day to earn additional funding for our sari-sari store and copra trading enterprise,” he said.

He also shared a funny trivia that a bottle of gin can be exchanged for a peso at that time as some of the members who can’t bring one peso were given the option to bring with them a bottle of gin, instead.

“I would collect the bottles, clean them up, and in some instances would use them to repack cooking oil for retailing. At other times, I sold them to a junk collector in exchange for a meager fee. So, the rolling piso is not alone. It was accompanied by a rolling bottle of gin that we throw away after using,” he exclaimed.

That’s the beginning of their success, they were established as a micro- cooperative in 2001, then propelled an enormous leap of opportunities building unique and dynamic goodwill that led to amassing millions of assets, creating hundreds of meaningful employments, and organizing activities to give back to the community and the environment.

“In 2001, we registered with the Cooperative Development Authority (CDA) and changed our name from Pag-urupod to SAFADECO and in 2012, our coop was one of the 12 agrarian reform beneficiaries organizations (ARBOs) who benefited from the launching of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR)-NATCCO-Microfinance Innovations in Cooperatives in Agrarian Reform Areas (MICOOP@ARAs),” he said.

The NATCCO or National Confederation of Cooperatives (NATCCO) aimed to enable selected relatively weak agrarian reform community cooperatives to provide bank-like micro-financial services to the ARBs and the whole community through the Build-Operate-Adopt-Transfer scheme.

“I am proud that our simple gestures and practices may have contributed ripples of change for SAFADECO to achieve what it has achieved today,” Tiyo Badong said proudly.

Jumping off as a barangay-level ARBO, it is now considered a large cooperative with more than Php200-million assets that offers a wide variety of services which include consumer stores, copra trading enterprise, money remittance, savings and credit, to name a few. It has around 10,000 members all over Sorsogon, Albay and Camarines Sur.

“We started as a small sari-sari store in Barangay Salvacion. Now, it has seven (7) fully- furnished branches in the City of Sorsogon, the municipalities of Gubat, Irosin, Bulan, Castilla, Pilar and Daraga in Albay. The prospect is to open new branches and satellite offices in Albay and Camarines Sur in 2022,” he revealed.

Despite their success, Tiyo Badong reflected that without the support of DAR this cooperative and its members might not be successful in its endeavors.

“I am living proof that DAR improves the lives of the farmers. With their various support services, such as credit and financing assistance, agri training, farm inputs and machinery, among others, that were provided to us and the hard work and perseverance in cultivating our farms, me and my wife Flor, 76 years old, raised six (6), successful children,” he said proudly.

As he sat back in his chair relishing the life he had, Tiyo Badong muttered: “I was respected by the farmers and community because of my being an ardent agrarian reform advocate. And as long as I can, I will always support my fellowmen through the help of the DAR.” (By Rejel Guariña)

Mula sa piso-piso hanggang sa Php200-milyon: mga alaala ng isang magsasaka

Komportableng nakaupo sa monoblock chair, ang mga mata ni Tiyo Badong, bagamat may edad na ay may kislap pa rin habang ginugunita ang lugar na kanyang kinalakihan kung saan niya itinayo ang pundasyon at pamilya at kung saan ang lugar na maaari rin niyang pagpahingahan pagdating ng araw na kailangan na niyang mamaalam.

Si Tiyo Badong, na Salvador Flores Dugan Sr. ang buong pangalan, ay 78 taong gulang na agrarian reform beneficiary (ARB) mula sa Maharlika Highway sa Salvacion, Sorsogon City.

“Maaaring natigil ako sa lugar na ito pero desisiyon koi yon at marami akong adventure at nagawa rito. Saksi ako sa pag-unlad ng aming barangay at nagampanan ko ang pagtulong sa mga tao rito, lalo na ang mga taga-Salvacion Farmers Development Cooperative (SAFADECO) sa tagumpay na tinatamasa nila ngayon,” pagmamalaki niya.

Naaalala ni Tiyo Badong na naging ARB siya noong Hunyo1997 ng matanggap niya ang certificate of land ownership award na may sukat na 3,212 square meter na lupaing pang-agrikultural mula sa lupain ni Herminia Peralta, na matatagpuan sa Salvacion, West District.

Sa lupaing ito, itinanim niya ang kanyang ugat at gumawa ng mga alaalang gugunitain niya pang-habangbuhay.

“Dito ko itinayo ang aking bahay at sinumulan ang aking pamumuhay sa pamamagitan ng pagtatanim ng 30 coconut at fruit-bearing trees. Hindi ako umalis sa Salvacion upang humanap ng kabuhayan, sa halip ay umasa ako sa aking lupain at nagsilbi bilang Barangay Councilor ng tatlong termino,” aniya.

Ang lupang tinanggap ni Tiyo Badong at ng kanyang mga kasamahan ay bahagi ng 10.1899 ektaryang lupain ng mga Peralta. Ang lupa ay nasa magandang lokasyon ng Barangay Salvacion patungong Maharlika highway.

Ani Tiyo Badong siya ay isang ama, asawa, lider, tagasunod, magsaka at cooperative member. Mga papel na ginamapanan niya at naghulma sa kanya kung ano siya ngayon.

Natutuwa siya na ang nasimulan nilang maliit na organisasyon noong 1992 ay mayroon na ngayong humigit-kumulang na Php 200 milyong ari-arian.

“Noong 1992, nahalal ako bilang ingat-yaman ng PAG-URUPOD cooperative, na ngayo’y SAFADECO. Nagbuo kami ng asosasyon ng mga ARB ng Hacienda Pacheco noong 1992. Mayroon itong 16 initial membership nang ito ay irehistro sa Department of Labor and Employment,” lahad niya.

Siya rin ang unang naging caretaker ng unang negosyo ng samahan, ang maliit na sari-sari store na nagbebenta ng mga pangangailangan sa bahay gaya ng kanin, asukal, kape at iba pang pangangailangan, at kung saan matatagpuan sa daanan ng mga tao sa kapilya ng Barangay Salvacion.

“Natulungan namin ang mga maliliit na magsasaka ng copra at iba pang kasapi ng komunidad sa pamamagitan ng pagtitinda ng mga kailangan nila na hindi na pupunta pa sa bayan. Sa mga taong ito, binibili rin namin ang copra ng mga magsasaka at ibebenta namin sa iba pang trader,” kwento niya.

Naaalala pa nito na sa ilang taon, napanatli nila ang kanilang negosyo subalit maliit ang kanilang kita para sa kanilang mga pamilya. Sa ilang taon na ito ay kumita lamang sila ng Php 20,000.00.

“Sa tulong ng aking mga kasamahan nag-isip kami ng iba’t ibang paraan upang mapaunlad ang aming operasyon. Nagdoble sikap din kami upang umunlad ang aming kooperatiba,” aniya.

Ipinagmalaki naman ni Tiyo Badong ang iba’t ibang papel na ginampanan niya sa SAFADECO bilang ingat-yaman at store caretaker, naging kasapi rin siya ng committee gaya ng Audit and Election, hanggang sa nagsilbi siya sa cooperative bilang Chairperson noong 2016 hanggang 2018.

“Hindi sa pagmamayabang malaki rin ang bahagi ko sa pag-unlad ng coop sa pagdaan ng mga taon. Sabi nga nila ‘ang SAFADECO ay hindi magiging SAFADECO kung wala si Tiyo Badong’,” pagmamalaki niya.

Ikinuwento ni Tiyo Badong na siya at ang mga kasamahan niya sa asosyon ay gumawa ng iba-iba paraan upang magkaroon ng dagdag na puhunan para sa kanilang operation.

“Ginawa rin namin ang piso-piso savings challenge, kung saan ang mga kasapi ay magtatabi ng piso araw-araw upang makadagdag ng pondo sa sari-sari store at copra trading enterprise,” aniya.

Ibinahagi rin niya na pwede rin ang bote ng gin kapalit ng piso noon sa mga kasapi.

“Iniipon ko ang mga bote at lilinisin upang gawing pang-repack sa mantikang ibinebenta namin. Ibinebenta rin namin ito sa mga junk shop kapalit ng kahit na maliit na halaga magkanon lang ng maidaragdag sa puhunan. Kaya’t ang piso ay hindi nag-iisa kasama rin ito ng bote ng gin,” aniya.

Dito ang naging simula ng kanilang tagumpay, nakapagtayo sila ng micro-cooperative noong 2001, kung saan nagsunud-sunod na ang oporunidad upang kumita sila at makapgdulot ng milyong halagang ari-arian at makapag-organisa ng mga aktibidad na makatutulong sa komunidad at kalikasan.

“Noong 2001, nagparehistro kami sa Cooperative Development Authority (CDA) at nagpalit kami ng pangalan mula Pag-urupod sa SAFADECO at noong 2012, ang coop na ito ay isa sa12 agrarian reform beneficiaries’ organization (ARBO) na nakinabang sa Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR)-NATCCO-Microfinance Innovations in Cooperatives in Agrarian Reform Areas (MICOOP@ARAs),” aniya.

Layunin ng NATCCO o National Confederation of Cooperatives (NATCCO) na ang mga napiling agrarian reform community cooperatives ay mapagkalooban ng tila-bangkong micro financial services para sa mga ARB at ng buong komunidad sa pamamagitan ng Build-Operate-Adopt-Transfer scheme.

“Ipinagmamalaki ko na sa simpleng gawain namin ay nakapagbigay kami ng kontribusyon sa mga pagbabago ng SAFADECO at makamit ang tagumpay na tinatamasa nito ngayon,” ani Tiyo Badong.

Mula sa barangay-level ARBO, kinokonsidera na ito ngayon bilang malaking kooperatiba na may mahigit Php200-milyong ari-arian na nag-aalok ng iba’t ibang serbisyo gaya ng consumer stores, copra trading enterprise, money remittance, savings and credit, at iba pa. Mayroon na itong 10,000 kasapi mula sa mga lalawigan ng Sorsogon, Albay at Camarines Sur.

“Nagsimula kami ng maliit na sari-sari store sa Barangay Salvacion. Ngayon, mayroon na itong pitong (7) fully- furnished na mga sangay sa lungsod ng Sorsogon, at mga bayan ng Gubat, Irosin, Bulan, Castilla, Pilar at Daraga sa Albay. May mga plano pang magbubukas ng sangay at satellite office sa Albay at Camarines Sur sa 2022,” pagbabahagi niya.

Sa kabila ng tagumpay na ito, sinabi ni Tiyo Badong na kung hindi dahil sa suporta ng DAR ang kooperatibang ito at ang mga kasapi ay maaaaring hindi nagtagumpay sa kanilang mga pinasok na gawain.

“Ako ang buhay na patunay na ang DAR ay nagpapaunlad sa pamumuhay ng mga magsasaka. Sa kanilang mga support service, gaya ng credit at financing assistance, agri trainings, farm inputs at machineries, at iba pa, na ipinagkaloob sa amin, kasama na ang aming pagsisipag at pagpupursige sa aming bukirin, ako at ang aking asawang si Flor, 76 taong-gulang, ay nakapagpalaki ng anim (6) na matatagumpay na anak,” aniya.

Sa kanyang pagkakaupo habang nilalasap ang nagdaan sa buhay niya, tahimik na sinabi ni Tiyo Badong: Ginagalang ako ng mga magsasaka at ng komunidad dahil sa aking masigasig na pagiging agrarian reform advocate. Sa abot ng aking makakaya, palagi kong susuportahan ang aking kapwa sa tulong ng DAR. (Rejel Guariña)