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EVERYTIME I see Macajalar Bay, I remember lines of a beautiful poem which begins with, “Rage, rage, rage, against the dying of the light . . .” Deep inside I feel the pain and the anger not because of the dying of the light but in the impending death of an ecosystem whose beauty is both awesome and humbling.

Having worked with the fishing communities for ten years while working as Chief Executive Officer of a non-government organization in the 90s, I remember those sleepless nights that I shared with cooperative fisherfolk leaders in conducting nightly sea-borne patrols to catch illegal fishers especially 100-ton commercial fishing boats that were making gargantuan rakings at the expense of the small fishermen.

Yes, the grandeur that was Macajalar Bay spoke well for itself. But that same grandeur was then fast disappearing as it underwent progressive state of impairment and with it, the marginalization of the coastal populace. Unlike in the 60’s when fish would literally jump into their “bancas”, fish can hardly be caught now.

Why? What were the fatal blows that caused the death of this once mighty ecosystem?

The bay has been treated as a waste pit. First is industrial pollution. Chemical wastes from industries and factories were just dumped in the bay. These wastes poison sea life and even entered food chains.

Another silent killers are the chemical fertilizers and insecticides heavily used in the surrounding plantations and farms. These non-biodegradable, petroleum-based agricultural inputs are washed from soil into rivers and into the sea. Many of our fiherfolk can attest to the fact that when it rains, many fish float dead in the rivers and in the sea. Worse, we strongly suspect that the water table may already be contaminated by these toxic chemicals. In fact, one scientist wrote an article, “Drink Now, Die Later,” as he fears that our drinking water may not be that safe anymore.

The bay is also a victim of soil erosion and siltation. What men do in the uplands affects the life in the sea. Because trees were cut, soil has been eroding that destroys corals reefs as well as our mangroves. The illegal mining activities including hydraulics have worsened the condition of the bay.

What the fishing communities are experiencing in Macajalar Bay are now being shared by those in other major bays in the country. In fact, of the 13 major bays in the Philippines, 10 are already biologically dead.

Yes, our fishing communities belong to the poorest of the poor as they have painfully witnessed the fading away of fisheries and aquatic resources. They vehemently lament the massive ecological degradation as it deprives them of their legitimate livelihood.

As my tribute to Macajalar Bay including all the bays that have been sacrificed to the altar of greed and profit to advance growth-at-all cost development strategy, may I share this poem:

Will the bays which reign to give life

Be now devoid of breath? The bay has always been like a mother to us,

As we bountifully reaped its blessings.

Fishing lies at the heart of our culture, the fisherfolk its careful guardians

The bay is now facing a crisis, representing a danger to coastal people.

Soon we will see a time when the unavoidable reality of hunger

Will stalk the earth again.

Then how heavily will the meaning of a single fish

Weigh in our human heart!

Pray sons and daughters of the Earth

That the bay be restored to health!

Wake up all that are victims of the fallacies of life! We are being bombarded by garbage of knowledge spawned by materialistic, consumerist and diabolic lifestyle that sacrifices Mother Earth, the forests, rivers and seas. Let us stand up as “spiritus luminous” (enlightened spirits) or as “homo pacem” (men and women for peace) to advance the integrity of the ecosystems that are now fast disappearing, all for the greater glory of our Creator!  --SunStar CAGAYAN DE ORO


NO LESS than Paulo Pierre, a well-known author of the Book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, and working then as an Educator of the United Nations in the 80’s coined the term, Conscientisacao (Conscientization), “the action or process of making others aware of political and social conditions, especially as a precursor to challenging inequalities of treatment or opportunity; the fact of being aware of these conditions.”

The book has inspired me to write articles in SunStar to put forth in-depth reflections of painful socio-economic and ecological realities which I have been exposed to early in life when my conscientization process took-off, well rooted in being a student activist in the 70’s and having the opportunity to share such advocacy in the University’s School Organ as an Editor.

It was then the period of Martial Law and I remember writing an article entitled, a Barrio in a Cage, a story about Panalsalan, a barrio in Maramag, Bukidnon, which had been enclosed by a rich, influential Congressman then from the Visayas with 6-feet barb wire, making the barrio as the Congressman’s ranch.

I took pictures showing cows mixing with pupils at the elementary school or even entering a chapel during Sunday mass. The cows were the first to harvest the vegetables and crops, leaving the barrio people, the Higaonons, hungry and poor as ever. In fact, out of desperation, the father of a family mixed poison, Thiodan, in the food of his family at dinnertime and then committed suicide to join the family in the after-life. Another sad tale was on how a father of a family had gone crazy and burnt his house.

My advocacy to expose such painful societal truth was used against me by influential people, charging me as a Leftist-Propagandist, then put me to prison.

Inside the prison cell, I wrote a poem, Veritas Liberabit Vos (The Truth Shall Set Us Free).

Such bitter experience turned me into a passionate writer which I carried as a Columnist, writing articles about “Veritas” that intend to motivate the readers to act to be set free out of painful realities which came about because of the people’s apathetic attitude.

When people are informed and conscienticized, collective actions follow.

This had been the case of the ecological people in the uplands of Cagayan de Oro when upon knowing that indeed, there was no such thing as rule of law in environment, they readily took direct actions through human barricades to stop the massive flow of illegally-cut logs.

No less than His Eminence Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, S.J., who was then a priest and the Director of SEARSOLIN in 1991 reported to us that some fifty ten-wheeler trucks carrying illegally cut logs were passing Cagayan de Oro from one o’clock to five o’clock in the morning as he instructed his staff to monitor. When a security guard took pictures of these trucks passing in front of SEARSOLIN, an armed escort ran after the guard. Thus, no way can deforestation be stopped but through people’s direct actions.

For ten-years, human barricades went on, beginning first in 1991 with some 300 farmers, Indigenous People and fisherfolk, lying in the street and dared logging trucks to run-over them before these 50 logging trucks every night could pass. Then, in 1999, the number of barricaders went up to 6,000 and finally, we put in clear categorical term the statement, “The people united can never be defeated.” Finally, the rule of law won through the conscientization ptocess.

This time, the people direct actions are not anymore on barricading logging trucks. This time, the actions are long term on a much broader context but the strategy remains: mobilize the collective power of the people, especially those in the margins so that they can be drawn into the mainstream of development processes.

Paulo Pierre has said it all in the “Pedagogy of the Oppressed.” A thorough social analysis has become imperative. Only through a conscientization process through a dialogical approach that one can understand the critical issues besetting society which cannot be known through the mainstream media which seem to be subservient to the interest of the Oligarchs.

Finally, let me share with you the conscientization process which has been experienced by our ecological people, the Lumads and the peasantry that was why they opted to stage human barricades upon knowing that we have already lost our ecological integrity for the simple reason that this country has not followed the rule of law.

Yes, in this country, no one is above the law; all must bow down to the majesty of the law because we follow the rule of law and not of men. Please be informed that our millions of hectares of dipterocarp forest should have not been logged for reason that these were lying then 1,000 meters above sea level or in slopes with more than 50% gradient where logging was disallowed by existing laws.

Today, we have lost our ecological security, the reason why ecological disasters have become the “new normal.” Please remember that even with a strong army, a country that has lost its ecological security is not secured at all. Let conscientization now begins!  --SunStar CAGAYAN DE ORO

ON OCTOBER 3 to 5 this year, the 14th National Cooperative Summit will reel-off in Davao City carrying the theme, “Overcoing Challenges, Succeeding Together Under One Apex.”

As usual, thousands of cooperative leaders all over the country will attend representing some 27,000 cooperatives with some 14 million members.

Indeed, the cooperative movement in the Philippines has scaled the heights to trail-blaze the imperative need for paradigm shifts in a country where only a few oligarchs are in control of the economy.

Democratize wealth and power. That is the call of those who are in the margins of development. But such call is easier said than done in a highly skewed societal order.

While our forefathers had waged a revolution to topple down a colonial regime to fight for freedom, cooperativism has loomed in this country to free the people from the quagmire of poverty, hunger, disempowerment and social exclusion.

In this light, cooperatives are working not so much for the freedom OF but for the freedom FROM hunger and poverty in a land that is oozing with ecological wealth.

Unfettering the people from hunger and poverty calls for a strong advocacy as it is all about shifts in paradigms and in socio-economic-political re-structuring. That is what cooperativism is all about as no less than the 1987 Constitution mandated the creation of the cooperatives “to promote social justice, equity and economic development.”

Those in the margins should now be drawn into the mainstream of development, the powerless should be empowered and the voiceless should now be heard. Their respective cooperatives should now articulate important issues besetting them and only by conducting Cooperative Summits that these issues be properly advocated.

The question is that, after all these years of conducting National Summits, what were the issues that have been articulated and resolved? It is now the right time to advocate for relevant pressing issues in the spirit of Biyaya ng Pagbabago. Let me elaborate.

In the life of the peasantry, any long term development can be won or lost through agriculture, yet, the 70 percent of our people who are in the rural areas and are involved in agriculturally-related activities are still as poor as ever as everyone is profiting from farming – the fertilizer dealers, the compradors, the landlords, the agri-business corporations and the usurers – but not those who are working under the rains or under the excruciating heat of the sun – the farmers.

It has been a long drawn struggle to have a paradigm shift from conventional to sustainable agriculture through cooperativism but until now the relevant issues for such paradigm shift remain unheard. We have been advocating to free the land from the stranglehold of big business because in Mindanao, the choicest of lands are under their control but to no avail. We cannot even make this agricultural country be self-sufficient in its basic staple food, rice, which remains under the control of the rice cartel.

In the case of the so-called electric cooperatives, they are providing light to their member-consumer-owners, yet, they are putting them in the dark as regards the genuine ownership of these ECs. The unbundling of rate has shown that their MCOs have paid all these years two items that will make them capital shareholders such as amortization of loans and reinvestment.

For these two items alone, each MCO has already paid-up tens of thousands as their capital shares yet these have not been recognized. There were attempts in the past Summits to include advocating of this very critical issue which is manifesting the highest degree of social injustice but never has such issue been tackled that puts in clear categorical term the relevance of Coop Summits.

As regards the massive exploitation of our natural resources, we have already lost the 17 million hectares of dipterocarp forest and all the mega-diversity, 10 of the 13 major bays in the country are now biologically dead, 25 major rivers are now without water or highly polluted – all to the detriment of our ecological people. The cooperatives of the Indigenous People, the farmers and the fisherfolk – have been advocating for environmental protection during the previous summits.

Today, our Lumads are organized into cooperatives to nurture and preserve these resources because we have allowed the power hunger few to use their power to perpetuate their greed at the expense of the welfare of the people and the future of the coming generations.

For those who just see cooperatives as business organizations and not for social transformation, it is time to broaden your myopic perspective. Unless you transform a highly skewed societal order, unless you effect paradigm shifts, unless you empower the people to craft their own destiny, poverty, social injustice, inequities and hunger will always prevail in a society where unbridled consumerism and materialism rules.

To be a cooperative means social transformation and no transformation can be had unless the cooperatives do advocacy, be issue or policy-wise. A cooperative without advocacy is like a night without stars. So during the coming 14th National Cooperative Summit, let it be different from the previous ones. This time, the Summit must prove equal to the term, Transformative Cooperatives for people, planet, prosperity and peace! --SunStar CAGAYAN DE ORO

SOCIAL injustice looms in so many ways in a highly skewed societal order. It is seen in the life of the peasantry tilling the land not their own, and if they own the land, they do not control the mode of production and marketing. This is the reason why everyone profits from farming except those who work under the excruciating heat of the sun – the farmers.

It is manifested in the life of the Filipino buyers who are victims of so many marketing layers as everything sold in this country, from needles to tractors, passes at least five marketing layers. A bag of Ammonium Sulfate fertilizer which is just bought in Ukraine at P100 per bag is sold in Mindanao at P1,500. Lipitor bought in New Delhi at 30 centavos per pill is sold in the Philippine pharmacies at P50.

But the height of social injustice is perpetuated in the life of the 11 million member-consumer- owners (MCOs) of so called Electric Cooperatives who until now are deprived of their fundamental right as shareholders of their respective multi-billion peso ECs.

Every time the MCOs will claim such right, they will just be told that they have only contributed P5 as membership fee. The truth is, in the unbundling of their monthly payment, it is shown that from the very beginning, each MCO has been paying two items as their patronage contributions which are: a) the total amortization cost which is about P0.36/kWh and b) the provision for Reinvestment which is about P0.11/kWh. This means a monthly capital contribution of about P94.54 based on the monthly consumption of about 200kWh per month or about P1,134.48 per year. After all these years (about 40 years as MCOs), each one has a total patronage capital contribution of about P45,000. This is very categorically stated in the EC’s By-Laws under Sec. 1, Article 2, “the members are the joint owners of the Cooperative with their individual equity in its assets determined on the basis of their patronage.”

I was informed that the MCOs are not even notified of their respective patronage capital contribution which is contrary to the provision of the By-Laws under 2(b) Article VII, “. . . within a reasonable time after the close of the fiscal year notify each patron of the amount of capital so credited to his account.”

There are about 119 ECs in the country and in region 10 alone, we have about eight, namely: Fibeco, Buseco, Moresco 1 and 2, Camelco, Moelci 1 and 2, Moresco 1 and 2, and Laneco and all these years, these so-called ECs have not recognized the MCOs’ patronage capital contribution. Such is the height of social injustice. This is a contributing factor to why the people are still in the quagmire of poverty.

In the past Mindanao-wide Cooperative Congress, the participants have the following Declaration:

“We have witnessed hunger and poverty in an island oozing with ecological wealth. We are well aware that the cause of economic deprivation if rooted in the powerlessness of the people to have access and control over their resources and over their utilities which are fast slipping through their fingers.

Even the millions of MCOs of electricity are being deprived to exercise their rights as owners because those running the affairs of the so called electric cooperatives (ECs), who through all these years have formed powerful cabal of vested interest, are stubbornly insisting that these ECs are cooperatives despite the fact that they do not adhere to time honored and universally-accepted cooperative principles and practices and notwithstanding the fact that Supreme Court has ruled resoundingly on the EC’s non tax exemption for not being genuine cooperatives.

However, instead of registering with CDA, what the ECs did was to “unleash formidable arsenal of lies, deceit, fear-mongering and cash-backed lobbying to ensure the continued proliferation and hold of private interest over electric cooperatives. Member-consumers were enticed with bags of grocery items and other goodies to sway their mindset. Lies and deceits were employed to cast doubt on the economic viability of electric cooperative if it would be registered with CDA.”

Let us serve notice to one and all that the only countervailing force against social injustice which is legal and peaceful is COOPERATIVISM. This is well stated in the 1987 Constitution which is “to promote the viability and growth of cooperatives as instruments of equity, social justice and economic development.” Indeed, let justice be done till heavens fall.  --SunStar CAGAYAN DE ORO


IT HAS been said that in the absence of a major change, the global systems will collapse in less than hundred years. We are now on the 18th year of the 21st century but we are not anymore certain if we can reach the 22nd century which is only 82 years from now. The earth continues to warm, the 236-meter iceberg in the Artic and Antartic which is twice the area of Europe is melting without let-up at the rate of 1000 hectares every day, the oceans are rising, endemic species are becoming extinct and the unimaginable is becoming imaginable: the end of life on earth.

This grim unsustainable environmental scenario is made horrible by the unsustainable economic reality where the wealth of a few oligarchs in the world is equivalent to the total assets of some 3.6 billion people or half of the world’s population. Indeed, Mother Earth and the people are being sacrificed in pursuance of the growth-at-all-cost development strategy where money is used to make more money and not to enhance the quality of life of the people. Unbridled materialism and consumerism is the order of the day, devoid of spirituality where diabolic minds towards self-aggrandizement are in control.

The much needed paradigm shift towards new dimension of spirituality has become imperative, where the spiritual consciousness of the earth’s inhabitants must now focus on regaining back the lost ecological integrity and in the process, becoming God’s stewards having been created in the image and likeness of the Creator. Indeed, protecting God’s vanishing creations is the highest form of worship because creation is a reflection of the Creator Himself. Yes, the blooming of the flowers may be very beautiful but it pales in comparison to the blooming of the human spirit.

Such wonderful blooming of the spirit is now becoming more evident in the life of the Indigenous People, the Higaonon Tribe, in the uplands of Cagayan de Oro who have been evangelized in the last 25 years by an astonishing spiritual leader of the Christ, the Livingstone Fellowship, Pastor Noli Garvida. The amazing spiritual transformation of the Higaonons is not only underscored by some phenomena like the curing of a leper casting out leprosy through an intense pray over by a spiritual leader par excellence or the bringing back to life of a mother who died after losing so much blood after giving birth because of the joint prayers of Pastors over the dead body. Most important than these miracles is that through the spiritual awakening of the tribal people, they have regained back the ecological integrity amidst the massive onslaught by the loggers and miners whose greed has no match against the determination of the ecological people to protect God’s creation. That for me is even more phenomenal than any miracle of curing the sick or regaining back a life.

In a country that has already lost the 17 million hectares of dipterocarp forest and all the billions of life forms that dwell in the forest ecosystems for billions of years, isn’t it more astonishing that a portion of these dipterocarp forest still flourish in barangay Pulang Lupa, Dansolihon?

Why is this so? There are now 16 Pastors and 14 Churches of the Christ, the Livingston Fellowship in Dansolihon and nearby upland barangays who have lifted the spiritual consciousness of the Higaonons to be stewards of God’s creation. That for me is what matters. One’s spirituality may manifest the transformation to become a saint but what really matters is the societal effect of liberation against ecological degradation that will somehow save the earth.

Yes, the Earth is now dying in the absence of a major change. That major change is now in the offing by enhancing spiritual consciousness because unless there is spirituality, materialism will continue to wreak havoc.

This is what really matters: the development of the human spirit and in effect, is exemplified through the blooming of human potentials in oneness with nature. Such truism is manifest by the biblical lines: “What profiteth a man if he gains the whole world but suffers the loss of the Spirit.”