MY MEMBERSHIP in BARP (Blessed Association of Retired Persons Foundation, Inc.) gave me the chance to meet and work with people that work like the ballpen. The ballpen does its job silently but surely, without fanfare but cannot fail to gain notice of. Such are the kinds of Tolentino D. Opiniano, Alejandro R. Quitoriano and Florentino G. Awingan. They are now all gone to the great beyond but still clearly kept portrayed in memory for what they have done in BARP.

For this month of February, the month that yearly ushers the mandated elections of cooperative officials, i would like to call attention to “Tol” Opiniano.

When I came to BARP in 2006, upon the invitation of its founding president, Prof. Federico A. Balanag, a former co-mentor of mine in the then Baguio Tech, later University of Baguio, Mr. Opiniano was serving as the general manager of the BARP Multi-Purpose Cooperative. He served in that position until his very last working moments. Though his assignment ever kept him busy, He did not fail to respond when I encouraged him to submit an article “for possible publication in the future.” I have one on file which I now feel timely to share with Sunstar readers in order for you to appreciate what the man is and his thoughts are. We may title it as “Practice of cooperativism among early Filipinos.” Thus verbatim with the least editing:

“Before we had a written history, economic activities were already going on in the group of islands of ours. Oral accounts of some old people dwelling in a western island of Dagupan City called Calmay, relate to trades people coming from far a away place up north in a small metropolis by the sea called Vigan, where “damilis” abound, their “balangays” heavy with wares of baked clay or sand which they refer to as “banga”, “karamba,” or “dalikan,” sailing along irregular coastlines to a wind and sea-protected cove to a place of convergence “Pagdadagupan” (Dagupan) to exchange their products with “asin” (salt, which abounds elsewhere in western Pangasinan, and spices coming from Bayambang town and its environs. These were transported in carts to pre-designated drop areas. Transactions were pre-arranged. Exchanges were made following an unwritten code of honor. The locals just left their products in these areas for the buyer to pick up even without their presence.

“This must have been the reason why it is so explicit in Art. 4 of R.A. 6938, which says that “every cooperative shall conduct its affairs in accordance with Filipino culture and experience and the universally accepted principles of cooperation.” In the local language, the Filipino culture referred to here could mean “talentalec” (mutual trust), “panagraem: (respect or due regard), “kinatakneng” (worthy of respect or honorable and “panagkikinnaawatan” (mutual understanding).

“Ammoyo” or “tagnawa,” which is ‘bayanihan’ in the national language, bespeaks of an unconditional agreement of mutual trust and assistance.

“Then before the middle of the nineteenth century, Robert Owen, 1771 to 1858, made critical observations on how business was then conducted in his native England. As a result, he became a strong advocate of cooperation. He first organized product cooperatives, advocated better housing with reasonable rentals, established schools for the youth and trained his employee’s thrift, sanitation and orderliness. *That is why he is considered the Father of Cooperatives (New Standard Encyclopedia).

“In 1844, in Rochdale, England, twenty-eight (28) weavers set up the Rochdale Equitable Pioneer Society. The Society opened as small grocery shop in Toad Lane and in a few years they owned a flour mill, a show factory and a textile mill. **the success of this early cooperatives was replicated in England, then it spread to Europe. (A Call for Cooperative Revolution by Roberto Pagdanganan).

“This new development in the conduct of business in Europe did not escape the attention of our Filipino patriots that were promoting our cause in that side of the world. Dr. Jose Rizal, ever the thinker and the doer must have employed the cooperative system gathered from his sojourn in Europe when he arrived in the Philippines and organized a marketing cooperative among the farmers in Dapitan in the year 1896; this preceded the organization of more formal cooperative later by more than half a century.

“Since then, cooperativism has gotten a firm foothold in our country.”

By the way, “Tol” was known in BARP as “Mr. Ilocano Walking Dictionary.” For this reason, he was empowered to review and “declare” the wording of the Iloko version of the “BARP Song of the Life” as final by yours truly. I will forever remember and thank him for that.