(First of 2 Parts)

THE country’s cooperative movement with over eight million members together with the Cooperative Development Authority and all the kindred mourns the death of Atty. Mordino Cua who passed away last Monday, February 22. He was a cooperative leader par excellence who journeyed 57 years of his 81-year life advancing the essence of cooperativism to make life better for the poor and struggling people.

I am writing this column in two series as my final tribute to a fallen cooperative hero whom I would describe as “sui generis.” His legacy will remain forever in the heart of every cooperative advocate who dreams of societal transformation to democratize wealth and power in a highly pyramidal social structure. I will now apply that unforgettable line from the movie, The Last Samurai. “Please tell me how he died? No, I will tell you how he lived.”

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Every generation is faced with problems inherent in its time and circumstances but there will always be leaders who will stand up to the call to uproot the cause of the problems.

This was true the last century when Rizal and Bonifacio rose-up to the call by waging struggle against colonialism as our country then had been suffering from long years of oppression and colonial rule.

The charisma of these few brave men inspired the many to organize resistance giving birth to a sovereign nation.

The advent of a new age saw our country beset with a new set of problems deeply rooted in the poverty and powerlessness of the people.

The challenges we face today may be different from those faced by our ancestors a century ago.

But the guiding formula that relies on the collective strength of the people has remained the same. For in truth, the people united can never be defeated.

This was true a century ago when the people collectively fought and dismantled successfully colonial rule.

This is truer even today when the people are organizing and mobilizing as they bind themselves to resist poverty through cooperativism.

The new millennium has produced leaders who are guided by the same nationalistic feeling, intellectual prowess and courage of the heart.

The clarity of their vision and ideas creates the energy to put a dream to reality. As a favorite poet who put it aptly, "they have been a noontide in our midst, and their vision has given us dreams to dream."

We are fortunate that we have such a man in our midst in Cagayan de Oro who has been advancing universally accepted and time-honored principles to make life better for those in the margins of development.

Nurtured in the Jesuit tradition to be "man for others," he has all these years put such spirit into action in his 57 years of advancing the tenets of cooperativism, in whose name and for whose cause he has committed his life.

The word of Winston Churchill could well describe his cooperative journey as a man "who gave so much for so little."

As a young lawyer in the 1950's, he opted to use his legal prowess in serving the "least of his brethren," not minding the prestige and financial windfall lawyering could have brought him.

He together with a few kindred had pioneered the organization of the Ateneo Cooperative Credit Union, which now proudly stands as the First Community Cooperative (FICCO), one of the 10 billionaire cooperatives in the Philippines.

He has exemplified personal traits that have made him a natural born leader to inspire people to unite, build coalition, and take responsibilities for their communities and to craft their own destiny.

He had trail blazed cooperativism in this part of the country based on insights gained from the many international travels and exposures he had then.

That many of the cooperatives he was managing became international awardees was a logical conclusion of his sheer determination to practice and to banner cooperativism as integral part of the Filipino life.

These cooperatives, be primaries or federations, are now standing tall nationally and internationally as lasting monuments of his 57 years of cooperative journey.

Thanks to his fighting spirit, undaunted all these years despite the many travails he had encountered, including his arrest and incarceration during the dark days of Martial Law for insulating cooperatives against political interventions by the cohorts of the dictatorship.

(To be continued tomorrow.)