• Kim’s Dream
  • Orlando R. Ravanera

“Let a hundred flowers bloom and a thousand hearts content,” this dictum speaks well of the seventeen (17) dynamic women of Maranding in Lanao del Norte who in 1996 organized the Maranding Women Investors Multi-Purpose Cooperative (MWIMPC) with an initial capital of P19,500.

The blooming of the flowers, no matter how beautiful, pales in comparison to the blooming of the women of Maranding whose number has since multiplied now to more than 11,000 members  and whose initial capital of P19,500.00 has now reached P196,000,000.  Wow, so amazing as is a concrete manifestation of women empowerment and drawing those in the margins into the mainstream of development processes by harnessing their collective potentials through cooperativism.

What these women envision is just to have a stable and dynamic cooperative with a heart in a progressive society, yet, it is that simple vision that did shape the future for them in the island of Mindanao which has been described as “a major performer and a primary contributor to the country’s productive capacities.”  However, it is a “development characterized by exploitation, where dominant classes, distant elites and rapacious transnational corporations deplete the island’s resources leaving the majority of the population in poverty.”

Mindanao, aptly called the “food basket” of the nation, oozes with abundant natural resources – vast agricultural lands, teeming fisheries, huge mineral deposits, rich in forest resources – yet, its six regions are suffering from high poverty gap ratios compared to the regions in Luzon and in the Visayas.  The poor in Mindanao are the poorest through-out the nation and where 14 of the 25 poorest provinces are found.

However, the lethal combination of poverty, conflict and gender inequalities have no match against the determined women who are working together to reclaim back the future for their children.  They are now serving notice to one and all that they have awakened and that, they will not allow anymore poverty to strip them of their God-given dignity. Through their cooperative, they are collectively harnessing their potentials, energies and experiences.

In the world of cooperativism, no one shall be left behind – such is the spirit that drove them to help the victims of the Marawi Seige three years ago.  They could not accept that the internally displaced persons in the war torn areas during the height of the Siege would just be eating cartoons or malongs. So on March 23,2017, the Maranding Women Investors Multi-Purpose Cooperative led by the General Manager herself, Marilou Banding divided themselves into two groups to distributed food and cash for the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program. The other group was led by Ms. Vanessa Benzon that was caught in a crossfire of the gun battle between the government troops and the ISIS-inspired Maute Group in the municipality of Calanogas, Lanao del Sur. That turbulent encounter resulted to the loss of some twenty million pesos due to the rampage when everyone was running for safety. Apparently, that  cash loss was due to force majeure  but how come, the women of Maranding had to bear painfully all the losses.  I believe justice demands that it should not be. Well, the Maranding Women have told me that despite all the pains, the endless joy of the hungry and oppressed victims of war every time they received the much needed assistance because of the spirit of compassion is greater than any material wealth!

That love and compassion has not only been shown by the Maranding Women during the Marawi Seige. The women have exemplified what it is to have a heart in a progressive society as manifested in their giving of gifts to prisoners, distributing school supplies to first grade pupils in the identified depressed areas, feeding program to less fortunate, conducting gift-giving programs on Christmas, paying tributes to parents and getting involved in various health services and church activities.  Indeed, “a thousand hearts content with the blooming of the flowers in Maranding.”

The blooming of MWIMPC has become a beacon of light and hope amidst the darkness and despair of poverty and conflict. The cooperative is now well connected to government agencies and the non-government organizations for financial and technical support. With its core values of commitment, honesty, oneness, spirituality, excellence and neutrality (in settling disputes in fair and just manner), MWIMPC is the long-awaited empowering and transformational leader whose wondrous holistic performance shows the way on how to have peace and prosperity in this broken but beautiful island of Mindanao.

It is the prayer of the empowered women of Maranding for the concerned government offices to have a meticulous analysis on whether that money that got lost during the height of the encounter be solely charged to the Women Cooperative as such happened due to FORCE MAJEURE!