Carvajal: Amazing Lamac

Orlando Carvajal

WITH partisan politics wrecking every other development program in this country, I thought I’d write about my brief visit with a farmer community that is an acclaimed model of sustainable development and which I found to be throbbing proof that a people’s initiative has better chances of holistic success than anything initiated (dictated?) by political agents.

I’ve heard a lot about Lamac Multi-Purpose Cooperative but didn’t get around to dropping in for a visit until recently. It was just as well because they have been in expansion mode for something like ten years now and what I saw, what I experienced, far exceeded my expectations.

What I saw, felt, and experienced was a thriving community of empowered, self-reliant, self-sustaining, environment-friendly, and resilient community of small farmer-tillers who live out the vision of its founder and its original voluntary members.

To think that Lamac Multi-purpose Cooperative, a positive socio-economic development reality, actually emerged from the ashes of a failed government-decreed political enterprise. It transcended its political beginnings when it became the private initiative of someone with a vision.

When Lamac’s Samahang Nayon got bogged down in political intramurals, Barangay Captain Narcisa De Gracia tossed politics and founded a cooperative the way it should be formed, by volunteerism not by decree, and grew it with the only true nourishment of a social enterprise which is a sustained education program on the principles of cooperativism and of good citizenship.

The cooperative has now more than a billion worth of assets that members own equally. It is a truly democratic institution in that each member has one vote each regardless of amount of fixed deposit and its supreme managing authority is the general assembly of members.

It manages its own Hidden Valley Mountain Resort, adds value to the products of its integrated organic farms, has its own water system, a pasteurizing and ice-cream-making facility for its carabao milk. It also makes sugar and chocolate from the coconuts and cacao that its farmer-members produce, etc., etc.

As soon as I arrived home and started reflecting on my Lamac experience I could not help wondering what if we have more Lamacs in Cebu. What if we cooperativize the whole country? If in a cooperative the supreme ruling and managing authority is the general assembly of its members, would cooperativism not be the true way of making the Philippines genuinely democratic?

Lamac is a dazzling success story. If even only a part of you thinks of being inspired into making a difference in other people’s lives, Filipino lives especially, Lamac is one amazing place (and people) you must touch base with.