Two weeks ago, retired CDA Director Richard B. Lebeng was laid to rest after succumbing to cardiac arrest at the age of 77. May he rest in peace. His life and career and that of the Cooperative Development Authority (CDA-CAR) somewhat got intertwined somewhere when he became the first Regional Director of the office when it was formally opened in March, 1992. If the CDA-CAR Office was not created, he could not have become a Regional Director at least not that early. CDA-CAR was one of the second batch of offices established after the original 7 CDA regional offices nationwide in 1991. CDA Dagupan Extension Office at that time covers Region I, II and CAR.

Director Lebeng was then a Senior Cooperative Development Specialist (Sr. CDS) at CDA Dagupan Extension Office before he was promoted to take the Regional Director Position of this newly created regional office. Well, his appointment was appropriate since he hails from the region having been born and raised at Agawa, Besao, Mt. Province. The place where they earn the distinction of mixing the English language with the local dialect in their ordinary conversation. He, therefore, is at home unlike other officials who are assigned in the Cordilleras, not familiar with the distinctive and unique culture, takes time to make the necessary immersion.

Together with Director Lebeng who transferred from CDA Dagupan were: Mr. Domingo Duyayag, CDA II assigned in Abra;  Ms. Leticia Saguilot for Ifugao; Felicidad Ramos – Cenon, CDS II for Mt. Province; Ms. Marina Janet Abalos, for Benguet. While the others have long been retired and or separated form the service, the last two are still with the Agency enjoying the roller coaster ride until the present.

Some people who had personal knowledge of the actual events back then related to me that CDA Director Francisco Caronan of Region I and his team have to come to Baguio to conduct the interview for additional personnel to complete the staff of CDA-CAR. Since there was no office yet at that time, the interview was held at the NORLU CEDEC Building. (NORLU CEDEC is a co-op federation with address at Bokawkan Rd., Baguio City). While the interview was going on, the Baguio City Schools Teachers Association (BCSTA) Building was being renovated and refurbished which will become their office until 1995. Some of the newly hired staff were also sent to CDA Central Office to get some of their extra office tables, chairs and other fixtures for the new office.

Lebeng steered the helm of the CDA CAR leadership for 11 productive years until his retirement in June 17, 2003. I was then a new employee but I was able to get acquainted with the man in that short period of time just before he retired. Of course, every leader has its own weakness(es), but Director Lebeng is a man who stands on his principles and doesn’t back down when challenged. Being pragmatic, he approaches issues and problems realistically and usually resort to simplistic (uncomplicated) solutions which, to me, is admirable. He was accorded with proper retirement rites in June 17, 2003.

Since 1995, the CDA – CAR office is now located at the 4rth floor, Lyman Ogilby Centrum, Magsaysay Avenue, Baguio City. (by Franco Bawang Jr.)