FROM out of their ancestors’ innovative mindset loomed the 8th wonder of the world – the Banaue Rice Terraces.

What was even more awesome then that for thousands of years, the Indigenous People of Mountain Province had lived abundantly in a land oozing with ecological resources in the spirit of sharing and services to one another. They even collectively transformed the land into rice terraces, using technologies that trust in the inherent processes of nature.

They were one with nature, knowing when to plant by just looking up the Big Dipper; when the cup-like formation of the stars is seen as tilted that water will flow, that is a sign that it will rain.

They were once the masters of the land that no one owned because private ownership was not in their language for no one can own the land that outlasts him/her. On the contrary, the land will own us as we will all must bow down to the majesty of the land because all will succumb to it when we die.

That cultural heritage of Res Communis, that spirit of sharing and service has continued through the years, passing on to the present generation the harnessing of collective power of the Indigenous People which was manifested before in producing the 8th wonder of the world.

The contemporaneous society of the Indigenous People has created a different wonder of the world applying the same formula of harnessing the collective power which is, the genuine essence of cooperativism.

Nothing could match the story of empowerment of the Indigenous People than that of the Tam-an Banaue Multi-Purpose Cooperative (Tam-an BMPC) that created the most wonderful scenario more than the Rice Terraces because what blossomed is not just from nature but that of the human spirit that was trail-blazed by a charismatic leader named Mr. Jose Tomas, Sr., a cooperative leader par excellence.

Organized in 1989 with just some 25 pioneering members and a starting capital of P25,000, the cooperative has metamorphosed to become today the first billionaire cooperative in Region 2 with a total assets reaching P1.8 billion and a total membership of more than 100,000 cooperators.

Paglilingkod. Pagmamahal. Pagbabago. The spirit of cooperativism that is sincerely exemplified by the cooperative to draw the poor and the vulnerable to the mainstream of development processes to become the liberating force in whatever endeavour it is into, be it on provision of loans, services for micro, small or medium enterprises, agri-tech tourism, coffee shops, hotel and restaurants, gasoline stations, provision of technical courses in coordination with TESDA, among others. The cooperative has also trail-blazed programs, i.e., the establishment of integrated organic farms, from enrolment to employment, etc.

This multi-awardee cooperative is now into agri-tech, giving priority to human development with hundreds of graduates who are now employed. Lately, Agri-Tech Program has included young inmates of the Solano Jail in coordination with the Bureau of Jail Management & Penology.

I have inter-acted with the 30 young inmates who graduated from the course on organic fertilizer manufacturing when I visited the cooperative recently.

Just imagine that while in prison, these young inmates have become productive as they maintain gardens at the prison backyard.

Soon they will be manufacturing organic fertilizer, making use of their idle time asthey undergo genuine transformation to become responsible citizens.

Some of the young inmates were into drugs before and are now amazingly being transformed.

Yes, like a caterpillar, a young inmate has entered a cocoon and in due time he or she will transform into a “butterfly, living a normal life to scale the dignity of life to greater heights.” Thank you so much Tam-an BMPC.

The Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Jose Tomas Sr. is indeed an extra-ordinary cooperative leader whom I can liken to a river of consciousness connected to the Ocean of Consciousness called Love, called God.

He exemplifies a transformative cooperative leader for people, planet, prosperity and peace.

The Chairman, Mr. Wilson Daulayan and the vice-chairman, Mr. Melchor Carnate, are providing good governance together with equally amazing board of directors. Ms. Belen Bandao, the Administrator of the Agri-Tech is a great teacher paving the way for developing the capacities of the trainees.

All told, Tam-an BMPC is so awesome. Indeed, the blooming of the flowers may be very beautiful but such blooming pales in comparison to the blooming of the Tam-an BMPC, As CEO Jose Tomas, Sr. Shouts,”God is great,” the kindred retorts, “All the time.”