Progress in any rural community begins
with the people themselves mastering the art of saving their modest funds
and using them productively. This is true in Asia today as it was in Germany
104 years ago when, after failing to generate results with charity,
Frederick Wilhelm Raiffeisen founded the first credit union among the
depressed and starving of Heddesdorf. Like the 28 English pioneers who
started the Rochdale consumers union, these cooperatives appealed to
elemental human nature: linking self-interest to community betterment. As
cooperatives have grown, so has economic democracy.
Despite this promise the Philippines, like many Asian lands,
is littered with the wrecks of mismanaged cooperatives that spawned popular
disillusionment. It was against this handicap that Angel Mandac of the
Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement labored when he first came to
Barrio Bantug in 1960 to arouse interest in a credit union. SILVINO
ENCARNACION, a tailor by trade who then was Barrio Lieutenant, and his wife,
ROSARIO, a public elementary school teacher, accepted the challenge,
gradually enlisting responsive neighbors.
Starting in May 1960 with 17 members and 73 pesos in cash deposits, the
Bantug Community Cooperative Credit Union now has 181 members and P26,447.52
in assets. Neither the largest nor the wealthiest among credit unions in the
Philippines, it is distinguished by its integrity and creativity. Most
consequential are the changes members are prompting in their barrio of some
4,000 inhabitants. From chronic habits of dependence and borrowing from
moneylenders to pay for illness, baptisms, rice until the next harvest and
even gambling debts, Bantug is progressing as residents learn to save and
plan ahead. With capital from their own "bank," members of the credit union
finance small businesses, improve their houses, pay tuition for children
attending college and invest in better seeds and fertilizer. All of this was
made possible by careful management of cooperative funds and emphasis upon
productive loans based on the borrower's character.
SILVINO and ROSARIO ENCARNACION are proving that regardless of how modest an
individual's circumstance and discouraging the condition of his community,
these can be altered. With associates in the Bantug credit union they are
showing that barrio folk can be encouraged to learn new habits releasing
them from old limitations to build the decent life all seek.
In electing SILVINO and ROSARIO ENCARNACION, treasurer-manager and chairman
of the credit committee, respectively, of Barrio Bantug Community
Cooperative Credit Union, Munoz, Nueva Ecija, to receive the 1968 Ramon
Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership, the Board of Trustees recognizes
their wise management of a credit cooperative that soundly improves life in
their low-income barrio, without incurring bad debts.