Working Hard In Silence, Letting Success Make The Noise
The Humble Beginning
The Samar Multi-Purpose Cooperative (SAMICO) birth can be traced back to its origins as a spin-off of People’s Credit and Finance Corporation during the time of President Estrada in 2000. After being duly registered on December 10, 2001, it started its operations on January 2002 with only four (4) dedicated members and 40,000 asset. Founding members initially were part of People’s Credit and Finance Corporation’s Project Management for Samar area dating back to 1999. Now SAMICO Chief Executive Officer Engr. Manuel Mabini and Chief Operations Manager Allan Llanita, together with Finance & Accounting Division Manager Hylene Badilla and Human Resources Manager Ninna Romano, originally thought of creating a corporation, but due to member consensus opted to start a cooperative instead. “At the beginning, it was really difficult because we didn’t have any money. We only had a salary of 5 thousand pesos, and we agreed to give 1 thousand each to fund SAMICO’s share capital as required by the Cooperative Development Authority (CDA). Took us almost 2 years before we could actualize the plan to be cooperative”, said Ninna.
On Dealing With Negativity
In its humble years, Operations Manager Allan shared that their greatest setback was the lack of support from the local government. “Are you sure of this Cooperative that you want to pursue?”, the words of the then Catbalogan Mayor, as recalled by Allan. The reason for this is because at that time, it was presumed that the textbook life-span of a cooperative in their area declines after oath-taking and induction rites, which was actually true to cooperatives before them. Despite cautionary tales, the initial members pushed forward. Ninna recalls a time when a home office was unheard of and the four (4) members could fit into one (1) motorbike to travel long distances for meetings in staff houses. When asked where they are now, “We are now a recognized cooperative. If there are activities by the local government, we always have a slot provision. Events like Charter days, Graduation, Job Fairs, it’s almost automatic that SAMICO has a booth”, Allan proudly shares, “We serve as the big brother of cooperatives here. If they want to learn from us, we teach them free of charge.”
After months of just renting space, SAMICO has eventually been able to buy its first office and now have established their 8th branch in the Visayas Region. At present, SAMICO is at their 15th year with a total asset of 196 Million. With a vision to advocate sustainable community development in the Visayas region, SAMICO’s affiliates initially come from microfinance programs, most of whom are small entrepreneurs. Their 9,000-strong membership has enjoyed benefits such as mutual funds, salary loans, hospitalization benefits not just for the member but for their family, and more.
Sharing The Triumph
As like many cooperatives whose backbone services include credit, microfinance, and salary loans, SAMICO continues to push through new frontiers by partnering with Bounty Fresh in 2012 and providing manpower in the poultry industry. Since then, it has seen a need for increase of poultry production, and is currently undertaking new developments in infrastructure. It also addressed the needs of its members after the catastrophic Yolanda typhoon through housing repair assistance and easy access to savings withdrawal. Though the unfortunate calamity has prompted some members to either resign or migrate, SAMICO has been able to overcome the challenge of restructuring members’ financial obligations.
With notable accomplishments under its belt, SAMICO continues to look toward to the future. Their 5-year plan consists of helping more and more members of the marginalized sector elevate their game in terms of product marketability. Operations Manager Allan believes that the potential is big, and hopes that the farmers will understand the benefits of organic farming in the long run. He states that the transition might take some time, but is hopeful nonetheless that gradual intervention can be accomplished.
The Secret Revealed
The secret to SAMICO’s success and longevity is its ability to collaborate and unite. Board meetings are goal-oriented and productive, and members support each other. Saving and investing is also a fundamental ingredient to their advancement. However despite their financial success, they keep a low-profile: they believe that their approachability fosters camaraderie which in turn helps in spawning positive impact on their members.