Empowered are the indigenous peasant women of Sitio Liglig, Tanglag in Lubuagan, Kalinga who have defined and asserted their role in their community’s development through a socio-economic project despite the reality where there is low regard to women in their tribal community.
Sitio Liglig is a tribal community where men are recognize as the ones working for the betterment of the village. It was even a taboo for this community that a woman participates in community decision making and discussions during meetings. Just like most of the tribal communities in the Cordillera, women are just observers during the said community meetings. Their voices are sent via their husbands or male elders in their families. Their active role however in the resistance against the Chico dams in the 1970s to the 1980s significantly changed the community and tribal mindset on women, giving due recognition and acknowledgement to women’s role and participation in production, development and struggles.
Therefore, their persistent effort for the successful management of a rice mill in the community was a breakthrough for the recognition of their capacity in manning a socioeconomic project. This project was also very significant for the community’s recognition that women are men’s partners in community and nation building.
The success of the project was because of the desire of Liglig Women to end their suffering from the backbreaking job of pounding rice which they attributed as one of the reasons of some of their illnesses. It had been a long time suffering not only for women but also to the children who are assuming the task. After their long hours in the field under the scorching heat of the sun, they still have to endure an hour or two just to have food for dinner. This task had been hindering them for having enough time to rest or socialize in the community. They had a rice mill before but it had depreciated and there was no fund to replace it with a new unit.
In 1992, through the service of the Cordillera Women’s Education Action Research Center Inc. (CWEARC), the said women are trained of skills related to project management like auditing, book keeping and others. Along with CWEARC, women asked for financial assistance from another development institution which is the Montañosa Relief and Rehabilitation Services (MRRS) now Cordillera Disaster Response and Development Services (CorDisRDS) which was granted. They then made use of their traditional practice of innabuyog (working together) to facilitate the success of the project.
Their success in setting up the rice mill led to their incorporation into the wider community organization which is the Tanglag Community Organization for Unity and Development (TACOUD) as the women’s committee and mainly in-charge of the rice mill’s management.
The rice mill cooperative
Presence of a rice mill had given so much relief on women and children. It has also eased the hardship of the people in the said community in pounding, strengthen community unity and able to support greater participation of TACOUD in political activities especially for the women. It had also addressed the problem in carrying their palay to the nearest rice mill in town enduring hours of walk through the rugged terrains.
To manage the mill better, women and other members of TACOUD set up a system by organizing a cooperative that has clear policies. CWEARC and MRRS assumed assistance in developing the system.
The full operation of the rice mill cooperative has not only benefited the members but the whole community itself. Like any livelihood projects, the rice mill coop does not only speak of benefits, but it also speaks of responsibilities for the beneficiaries and the communities it is serving. They are given the task to maintain the stability of the equipment and the cooperative. They all have to work together for the progress of the project. Every member has to sacrifice time and effort to safeguard this livelihood project and ensure that the policies are being enforced.
On the other hand, lessons were drawn from the management of the old rice mill. The lessons include installing mechanisms to avoid petty corruption, unpaid credits and finance opportunism and come up with a strict monitoring system. It is also part of the cooperative’s policy to ensure that the benefit of the community always overrule self interests of few individuals. In this way, the cooperative will prosper.
In 2007, scarcity of rice was experienced in Liglig and neighbouring communities. As a response, MRRS offered a rice loan. They distributed 25 cavans of rice in Sukiap and Liglig and every household was able to get one can. It was agreed that the loan will be paid to the cooperative. Seeing the need for a rice cooperative especially during lean months, TACOUD decided to incorporate rice cooperative in their livelihood project. Thus, when the rice loans were all paid, they used it as seed money for the said endeavor.
Moreover, the rice collected from the payment of the rice mill is also added to the rice cooperative. The community’s rice supply then was continuously growing making it sufficient for the rice needs of the community.
Another service offered by the cooperative is buying rice from the community. The cooperative purchases a ganta (2.5 kgs) of milled rice for P70.00 (US$1.7) and sells it at P80.00 (US$1.92)/ganta. It has provided a venue for the community to sell rice in times of emergency. With the generated profit, the members are able to borrow from the cooperative in times of emergencies like medication, tuition fee of children, and the cooperative is able to support the fare of their participants for seminars and organizational development activities held in the town center.
Policies of the rice mill operation
In order for the community to be involved in the operation, they formed several clusters which are rotating every month. These clusters are Dallug, Ambato, Kupyaw, Gawaan, and Bannong-Gaang. Each cluster has a leader, treasurer, purchaser, maintenance and operators that composed of women and men. These people have particular tasks that help ensure the continuity of operation.
The milling schedule is on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Payment is either in cash or in kind (rice). Each can (the size of the 17 kilograms of cooking oil) is charged P20.00 (US$0.48) or one chupa (large size sardine can) of milled rice. Credit was one of the most significant lessons from the old rice mill that TACOUD believed to have caused its failure. It is then very important part of their new rice mill to enforce a “no credit policy”. Consideration is however given for dire situations where a minimum credit of 5 chupas or the milling for 5 cans of unhusked rice, is allowed. Deduction of 5 chupas everytime the debtor comes for milling is done until he/she has paid all the credit. The cooperative also made guidelines in terms of the mill’s operation. These guidelines included ensuring that the machine is in good condition before starting the engine; ensure that the engine has enough gasoline before turning it on and avoid emptying the tank before refilling it; ensuring cleanliness; immediate replacement of damaged spare parts; and only the maintenance group will be the ones in charge of the repair during the occurrence of machine dysfunction to avoid chaos. The bottom line is the cluster officers shall ensure the smooth flow of the rice mill’s operation and management.
Moreover, there is an annual assessment on the how the cooperative operated and it is in this assessment that the members identify the strong and weak points. In cases of failure, they draw lessons from it in order to avoid its occurrence in the future. Further, the coop policy states that the members should grasp and follow the right principle of criticism and self criticism.
They have to avoid envy, unhealthy competitions between clusters and other attitudes that can break the cooperative and the unity of the people itself.
Meanwhile, part of the member benefits is being entitled to have a free rice mill once a year. For monitoring purposes, they have a record of all the members indicating who has already availed and those who did not.
Responsibilities of the rice mill cooperative committee
The rice mill cooperative committee is composed of eight people (committee head, treasurer and six cluster heads). This committee is the one in charge in managing the rice mill. They ensure that the orientation and policies of the mill are enforced. Moreover, they are the ones facilitating cluster assessments and serving as role models in the implementation of policies. Also, they are facilitating the overall audit and assessment every after six months. Further, this committee reports to the members of the cooperative annually every general assembly of TACOUD.
The rice mill is owned by the community as stressed earlier and the fund shall be used not for self interests but for the interests of the people. Collected funds shall be used for community activities. On the other hand, if there are seminars held outside the village, representative/s can use the fund to attend and re-echo the seminar to the members.
All the expenses and income shall be recorded properly and the overall treasurer is in charge of the task.
The cooperative has designed “1/4 policy” where in from the income, ¼ (25%) is allotted for maintenance, another ¼ shall be deposited to the bank for depreciation purposes, ¼ is segregated for political activities and the remaining ¼ of the income is allotted for contingency purposes. The depreciation fund shall be strictly enforced so that when the rice mill engine depreciates, there is a sure fund to buy new one.
“Mutual Aid fund”
Being a cooperative, the organization has designed a scheme called “Mutual Aid fund” where in part of the rice mill income shall be separated for credit purposes. The 1/3 of the allotted fund for political activities is used for this purpose. In cases of emergency, a member can borrow a maximum amount of P500 (US$12.00) from the said fund without interest. However, they have a responsibility to pay their debt after one to three months in order for it to be used by other members.
Some recommended improvements from the members
After one round of cluster assessments, there are several recommendations brought out. One is to further develop the rice mill like building a concrete water container to accommodate more water, create a better placement of the rice husks and buy a hose to ease the hard work of fetching water for the mill’s water container.