• Kim’s Dream
  • Orlando R. Ravanera

In the book, “The Little Prince,” it was said, “only through the heart that one can see clearly; what are essentials are invisible to the eye.”  This truism can be attested by 1st Lt. Jerome Jacuba, the Chairman of the Wounded Soldiers Cooperative with more than 100 members who were disabled in doing their duties as soldiers in the world’s 2nd longest battle, the Mindanao War.  Chairman JJ (as I call him) is a 31 yr.-old first lieutenant who became totally blind two years ago when a bomb exploded in an encounter in Maguindanao. As he was recovering then in VLuna Hospital, no less than the Commander-in-Chief President Mayor Rodrigo Duterte visited and even embraced him with tears in his eyes.

A year after that incident, the wounded soldiers who now belong to  PWDs (persons with disabilities ) were organized into a cooperative led by no less than a brilliant brave soldier named Chairman JJ who is now a good friend whom I brought along when I visited the cooperatives of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Marawi a year ago.  Some of these IDPs were former combatants either of the MILF or MNLF who are now organized into cooperatives but were once in combat with the military where 1st Lt. Jerome Jacuba was leading. Now they belong to one family, the cooperative family.

In his talk with former adversariesin a Cooperative Summit in Marawi City, Chairman JJ declared, “before when I have eyes, I could not see; today that I am blind, I can see that the war in Mindanao cannot be stopped through arms but through cooperativism. ANG PROBLEMA PALA AY KAHIRAPAN  AT SOCIAL INJUSTICE AT ANG PANGLABAN AY HINIDI BARIL O BALA KUNG HINDI ANG PAGKAKAISA PARA LABANAN ANG KAHIRAPAN. “

 Yes, Chairman JJ may be physically blind but not socially, environmentally, economically, politically and more so, spiritually.

What is even more amazing is that Chairman JJ and all the wounded soldiers are now being assisted by the cooperatives under the “Koop Kapatid Program” to regain hope and to fight another “war,” this time against  poverty, inequities and social injustice.

Through cooperativism, there are a lot to see and to discover.  Indeed, we are living in a world that is changing profoundly, where extraordinary phenomena are becoming ordinary: deepening inequality, decline in social justice, ecological turbulence due to climate change and recently, violent extremism that had put to center stage a Filipino suicidal bomber. There is apparently a dysfunction of the present development model that is growth-at-all-cost that is likened to a giant off balance. So as not to fall, it has to run and in running, it steps on communities, forests, seas, rivers, agricultural lands and even on people themselves, leaving havoc on its path.

Yes, there are a  lot to see, to reflect upon and to understand socio-economic-environmental realties

.We must “see” that we have lost our ecological integrity and security because we have allowed a few greedy loggers and miners to massively exploit our natural resources.  I have heard that a logger in the past could earn as much as three hundred sixty million pesos in just one shipment of logs.

Yes, the relevance of cooperativism is now being seen during these most challenging times to democratize wealth and power in a highly skewed societal order.  In fact, as the wounded soldiers formed their own cooperative, they are joining people from all walks of life now numbering more than 11 million members.  They now see that the only way to draw the marginalized sectors into the development processes is to harness their collective spirit, to pool their resources together, although how meager, to fight poverty and hunger.

Yes, the people from all walks of life are now serving notice to one and all that they have awakened and will not allow anymore poverty, corruption, apathy and deceits.  Enough of the selfish pursuit of instant wealth, power and self-aggrandizement.  It is time for collective action to unfetter the people from the vicious cycle of economic difficulties.

Welcome 1st Lt. JJ to the world of cooperativism.  You have bravely fought a war in Mindanao, giving up your eyes and was even willing to give up your life so that others may live. Indeed, what greater love there is than one brave soldier willing to die so that others may live! To you dear Chair JJ, our firm salute and warm embrace.