by Cesar Ilao III and Nel Benjamin Magdaleno
It was a busy day at the Municipal Hall of Los Baños. Colorful streamers and bamboo stalls were seen at the ground floor of the Hall, portraying a classic Filipino fiesta. Different cooperatives lined up to showcase their unique products to interested buyers. This was during the third day of the First Los Baños Cooperative Festival.
One of the stalls boasted attractive weaved products. From Cavinti, Laguna, 57-year old Larry Javier and 53-year old Helen Ramos of Kalakal Cavinti Souvenir Shop (KCSS) made their way to Los Baños.
Established by 20 Cavinti government employees in 2009, the cooperative grew to 45 members. KCSS promotes products such as hats, bags, and baskets made from pandan leaves.
Like other cooperatives, members have different tasks. KCSS is comprised of members who implement policies, and participate in the production and sales of the product – with the overall goal of providing the needs of its members.
Javier said that KCSS is not exempted from challenges. He said that the raw materials they need are scarce during rainy season. Additionally, they cannot export their products to other countries, because their pandan products absorb moisture when transported to distant places.
As of now, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) is finding solutions to their problem. Javier also explained that KCSS still cannot enter larger markets,
“Hindi kami makapasok sa mga supermarkets and malls. Kung map-penetrate namin yon, mas malaki yung market,” said Javier.
Despite these challenges, Javier said that KCSS is thriving in their sales. Through Facebook, buyers outside Cavinti can check their products. He expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to join the Festival, because it serves as an outlet to promote their products and attract customers.
He added that their success cannot be measured by profit alone,
“Nasusukat ang kaunlaran ng kooperatiba kung ang lahat ng miyembro ay nagkakaroon ng satisfaction. Kung hindi naman nage-enjoy ang miyembro, aalis sila,” said Javier.
Javier believes that the contribution of cooperatives to the society is vital. He said that cooperatives spark economic activities and reduce unemployment. But he did not limit its benefits to the economy, because he explained that cooperatives bring unity to its members towards a common goal, despite different upbringings.
According to Javier, joining KCSS helped his family in their daily needs and discover new people and business partners, while Ramos said that she learned to weave different pandan products through KCSS.
Javier encourages other cooperatives to be open to changes. “Dapat lagi silang open sa changes, kasi ngayon napakabilis na ng trends. So dapat aware sila. Dapat nasusundan mo yung gusto ng tao,” explained Javier.
Javier believes that KCSS has a long way to go. He dreams of seeing their cooperative grow in numbers and export their products. For now, they are glad to show their potential in a lively cooperative festival.