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Fr Oliver McCrossan Columban missionary to Philippines

A big thanks to Fr Oliver McCrossan from St Johnston who donated the following articles to the website on Feb 16 2009

BUILDING A PEOPLE’S BANK an interview with Fr Oliver 2005:


This year 2005 has been declared UN International Year of Microcredit. The microcredit movement continues to grow around the world reaching out to millions of poor people to build better lives for themselves. In the Philippines and in Mindanao in particular, Co-Operatives are thriving and making a significant difference in the empowering the materially poor and alleviating poverty. 
Here is the story of Ozamiz City Peoples Co-Operative (OPCP).

Fr.Oliver McCrossan talks to Mrs.Uly Procianos ,Manager of OCPC.

Oliver :Uly, can you tell me about how the bank began?

Uly : The OCPC actually started in 1967, as a credit union exclusively for the Knights of Columbus, a parish-based, Catholic organisation. The initial capital amounted to 1,268.20 Philippine Pesos . Fr.Timeteo Reuben, the Social Action Director of the Diocese, was the inspiration and founder. Fr Reuben received a lot of support from the Columban Fathers who were working in the diocese at that time.

 O: When did the bank open its doors to the wider community?
 U: That happened in 1972. A decision was made to include the wider community and so it expanded its membership to the urban center and the rural barrios surrounding Ozamiz City.
 O: You now own your own premises, how did this come about?
 U: In 1980 the co-op constructed its own building on a lot provided by the Diocese of Ozamiz under a lease contract for twenty-five years. The public image was greatly enhanced and we were perceived as “The People’s Bank” !
 O : You have had your “ups and downs” as well?
 U: Yes, of course! In 1983 the Co-Op experienced many problems which resulted in a “Co-Op Run”!, but we were able to recover and regain the trust of the members and the community. In fact, the following year we were awarded by the Ministry of Agriculture as The Most Outstanding Co-Operative in the Province of Misamis Occidental!.
 O: Who makes up the membership of the bank ?
U: Today our members number almost three thousand. They come from the poorest section of our community; small farmers; market vendors; small business people; ordinary wage earners; housewives; youth and students. Our total assets have reached almost sixteen million pesos. Loans granted in 2004 amounted to fifteen million pesos.
O: What services do you offer to your members?
U :These include ;
· Savings deposits which have the following types: demand deposit / time deposit/youth savers club
· Lending which includes micro-finance/livelihood/ agricultural production/ providential
· Mutual protection; in-house mortuary and life /accident insurance
· Counseling on legal and financial matters
· Trucking service.
· Our priority at present is a rural women’s livelihood project which involves growing fruits and root crops that will be processed and marketed.

O: Last month you held your 38th general assembly meeting what is your future plans for the Co-Op?

U :You know, the Co-Op is not simply working to help our members to be materially better off but to empower them to live with dignity.
With the help of the Almighty God we will truly become “A Peoples Bank”

O: Thanks Uly ,continued success to your work.

Profile of Co-Op Member: ROSALIND TABOTABO: Co-Op MEMBER
Rosalind Tabotabo received an award for “Excellence in Loan Repayment in 2004”. She talks about the big difference the Ozamiz City People’s Co-Op has made to her life.

“My name is Rosalind Tabotabo. I am 37 years old, married with four children. I come from a very poor family. My mother became a member of the People’s Co-Op back in 1995 and in 2000 we joined as well. I received a loan of 1,200 pesos ($25 US) and I opened a small shop, we call it “sarisari”. It was difficult keeping up with my loan repayments at the beginning. Some of my customers would not pay their debts! In the beginning, I paid back my loan every day! . Now I do it on a weekly basis. I have been able to save some money to repair our house and pay for my children’s schooling.

The Co-Op is different from other moneylenders, I feel I belong to a family, the staff is very supportive. I have attended seminars on leadership training. We have regular meetings in which we discuss important matters about our lives. We support one another in paying back our loans so that all the members will benefit. The Co-Op is making a difference in the lives of many poor people here in Ozamiz” 

Prepared by Fr.Oliver McCrossan: June 16, 2005


Paterno Maglasang was one of the first to join our Pedaling To Live Program. He has been a tricycle driver for twenty-seven years!. Both his parents died when he was only ten years old , as an only child, he was brought by his cousin to Ozamiz City, where he now lives with his wife Guillerma and four sons.

Since the birth of his eldest son, twenty–seven years ago, Paterno has been driving a tricycle around the streets of this city. He has never owned his own vehicle until April 2006 when he proudly took ownership of his own tricycle through the Pedaling to Live Program. The lines on his face tell his life story, each day from early morning to sundown he is ferrying people to school, market and their places of work. He has a number of regular customers from the many years he has been in Ozamiz.

Guillerma, his wife looks after the house and takes in laundry . They also rear pigs in their small backyard to supplement their income. Paterno and his family were delighted when he received his own tricycle after he had completed his payments. Each day he deposits a small amount of his earnings in his savings account in the coop.

The Program also provides Paterno and his family with health insurance. His daughter, Judy is being helped through the scholarship program. She is studying hotel and restaurant management.

For Paterno, Guillerma and his family the Pedaling to Live Program is making a difference!

17 May 2007 Fr.Oli McCrossan
Pedaling to Live Program
The program is now into its third year. We have 55 tricycles in operation. Of those 30 have been “awarded” after the driver has completed his payments for his vehicle. The other 25 drivers are still in the process of paying. They pay one dollar a day. The steady payments by the drivers are used to purchase more vehicles. One vehicle costs us on average almost 350 dollars. So far it has been largely successful. We continue to buy old vehicles and recondition them. There are many applicants to join the program.
At present we provide scholarships to 39 children from elementary to third level education. These are children of the drivers. This is the second year of the scholarship program At the start of each school year we provide school uniforms and school supplies. The families very much appreciate this help.
All the families are members of our health  insurance scheme. As well ,the drivers are insured against accidents.
This year the drivers and their wives have participated in a one day recollection at a venue outside the city. There will be a follow up recollection later in the year. Seven wives have attended a health training workshop in Chinese oriental medicine.
The program continues to benefit the poorest families in Ozamiz. The local cooperative in Ozamiz provides  valuable assistance in the day to day running of the program.  


Jerry Arena is a member of the Pedaling to Live Program.

“I was born, forty years ago , in the town of Ramon Magsaysay , sixty  kilometers from Ozamiz City . My wife Wilda, is from the same place. My father’s small farm was unable to support all our family so we decided to move here to Ozamiz City in 1998 in search of  work. We moved into a “squatter area” and I drove a rented tricycle to make a living. Our six children , 5 girls and one boy were born here in Ozamiz. Life has been a struggle for us, I barely earned enough to feed our family. At that time I drank and gambled most of the small amount I earned. My life changed when I joined the “Couples for Christ” ( A Catholic organization focused on helping poor  families). I left behind those vices.

Then in 2005 the local government in Ozamiz demolished our houses to make way for a tourist park. Over 300 hundred families lost their homes.They moved all of us out of the city to a relocation area 5 kilometers outside the city.

I have to make the journey back into the city each day because that is where I earn my livelihood. With the help of Couples we built this house, it is very small , only two small  rooms, but it least we have a roof over our heads! We are used to living with very little. We make do with what we have.  

On September 18 , 2006 I joined the Pedaling to Live Program. Then on June 16 , 2007 I completed  my repayments and took ownership of my tricycle. I continue to be a member of the program. I have 1000 pesos (30 dollars) savings in the cooperative. The Pedaling has helped our family because I now own my own vehicle unlike  before when I had to rent every day. My day is very long. I work from 5 am and get home around 9 pm at night. I feel very tired. Even so our family are grateful to those people who have helped us.

May God bless them all!

Prepared by : Fr.Oliver McCrossan, Date : 13 June 2008 

Danilo (54 ),his wife Bernadette (52 ) and daughter Divina (15 ) make up the Borja family. They live in one of the poorest areas of Ozamiz City , here in the Philippines. For the past 18 years Danilo has worked as a tricycle driver. Every day from early morning until evening, he is ferrying passengers around the streets of this city. Each  day is a struggle to survive.

In 2007 Danilo became a member of the “Pedaling to Live Program “. He received his own tricycle with the condition that he pay back fifty peso($1) a day towards the total cost of the tricycle. Danilo worked very hard to complete his repayments .As a result he now owns his own vehicle, he keeps all he earns for himself and his family.

Danilo, for the first time in his life, has started his own savings account in the local cooperative!.

Divina his daughter is in 4th year High School, she is benefiting from the “Pedaling to Live “ scholarship program which pays her tuition fees, books and uniform. She is getting good grades and wishes to continue on to college after she graduates from high school. Both  parents are very proud of her

The “storms of life” have been unkind to the Borja family.

”I had polio as a child and my left leg and foot is deformed as you can see. Thank God I am able to pedal my tricycle.” says Danilo.
Bernadette says “When I was three years old I began losing my sight. I went to school for a while but I could not read the small letters. Over the years my eye sight has gotten worse. Now I am able to do very little. Danilo, Divina and my neighbors are a great help to me, where would I be without them?”

In 2007 a fire in their community destroyed their home. They salvaged a few sheets of corrugated tin and some wood. Everything else went up in smoke. From  the funds we received to help the fire victims, a new house has been built for the family.

“The fire completely destroyed all we had. We have a new two-roomed home now, thanks to the kind people who donated to help us” says Bernadette.

Just few weeks ago along with some of the neighbors , I blessed  their new home. It was a happy celebration. I read this prayer at the blessing :

“For the kindness of people near and afar , we say thanks. For the gift of good neighbours , we say thanks. For Danilo, Bernadette and Divina who show us courage in the face of sickness poverty and disaster, we say thanks. For the God who shows him/herself in the poor, we say thanks.”
Danilo, Bernadette and Divina ,the Borja family.

The funds we have received from our benefactors are making a difference to the Borja and other families here in Ozamiz, On their behalf I thank you and ask God to bless you.  

Written by Fr.Oliver McCrossan, Ozamiz City, October 15, 2008.


I met Josefino as he stopped to pick up a passenger. From head to foot he was dripping wet from the heavy rain, he looked miserable.

Josefino is just one of over three thousand drivers of pedicab or “sikad-sikad” here in the city of Ozamiz in Mindanao. They are the main source of transport in the city. The word means “sikad-sikad” ( pronounced “see-kad”), literally means “ to pedal with the feet”. The sikad-sikad drivers all come from the poorest barrios of Ozamiz City. Almost all are forced into this work because there just aren’t any other jobs available. One good result is that Ozamiz has less pollution from traffic fumes and noise as other cities in the Philippines as a result. As well as providing for drivers and their families, a local industry manufacturing and repairing the pedicabs, provides work for many others.

Josefino Baylo was born in 1965. His mother says, “ While very young the local doctor gave him an overdose of medicine which left him severely paralyzed. He was very lucky to survive!” He now walks with a limp. He did not finish high school, as the eldest in his family he was forced to leave school and work to support the others. Living by the seashore, he dived for crabs and sold them at the local market.
However, he could not earn enough to look after his family so in 2002 and in spite of his severe handicap, he decided to drive the sikad-sikad. His wife is Helen. They have three young children, ages six, four and one year old. Helen took in laundry for washing to earn some money but she got sick and had to stop. She says “My back was painful and I developed a stomach ulcer, so I had to stop.”

Josefino begins his day at 6.00 am. Every morning and ends at 8.00pm. He brings students to school and shoppers to the market. An average fare is two pesos. He can only carry two passengers at a time. “ Because of my disability I am slower than the other pedicabs and so I get less fares.”

Josefino does not own his pedicab, he rents it for fifty pesos each day. After paying his rental every night he takes home an average of fifty pesos. ( less than 1 euro!) This small amount has to take care of the daily needs of his wife and children. It is a daily struggle just to survive! ! “When I come home after a day out in the sun and rain, I have pains all over my body”

In spite of his disability Josefino struggles on bravely to care for in his family. His neighbours speak of his courage and hard work. They give help as best they can, but most of them are poor as well. Recently he joined an organization called “STAND” which campaigns for the rights of the disabled in Ozamiz.The organization only began to years ago and is slowly “getting to it’s feet”! with the support of the Columban Sisters. Josefino is delighted to be a member. He has applied for a small loan of five thousand pesos ($100) from the organization, to set up a little shop in his barrio.

Ozamiz City is situated in North-Western Mindanao. Columban sisters, priests and lay missionaries are continuing their work helping the poor and needy. Ozamiz has a population estimated to be 110, 000. Agriculture and fishing are the main source of income. The economic situation continues to deteriorate; worsening unemployment and the rising cost of living resulting in the majority poor getting poorer.

Josefino leaves me and pedals off into the rain, I have promised to visit him and his family, “I want you to visit and say a prayer for the success of my shop” he says with excitement in his voice !. Yes ! it could be a happy new year!
Oliver McCrossan :  16 Feb 2009