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OFW cooperative opens in Ifugao

16 May 2017

Managers, staff and suppliers attend the opening ceremonies to launch The House of Ekolife Ifugao.

By Cristina B. Cayat

A cooperative fully owned by overseas Filipino workers officially opened for business on Apr 28 in Banaue.

The House of Ekolife Ifugao, owned by the Overseas Filipinos Worldwide Marketing Cooperative, is the first of five outlets being lined up to open across in the country in the next few months.

The project was initiated by the Atikha Overseas Workers and Communities Initiative, Inc., a non government organization based in Laguna, as part of its Coming Home Pinoy WISE project funded by UN Women.

Atikha’s executive director Estrella Dizon-Anonuevo said in her speech at the launch that it was while working closely with local communities that she saw the opportunity to bridge the missing link between overseas Filipino workers and their families.

She said that a research conducted by her institution showed that 80% of businesses put up by OFWs fail due to several issues. In line with the study, they were able to identify potential industries that could supplement or support the OFWs even while they are still working abroad so that by the time they decide to leave their host country they are better prepared to take the journey back home.
OFWs who went through the financial education course provided by Pinoy WISE, Atikha’s overseas group of speakers, are given priority to invest in the cooperative. Providing both the knowledge and the skills needed in running a business through seminars is the best way to equip would-be entrepreneurs among them, Anonuevo said.

Atikha deputy executive director Aileen Penas-Constantino said the project gives work not only to former OFWs but also to local people.

Some of the products on display.
House of Ekolife operates as the buyer and retailer of products produced by families of OFWs.

The social enterprise in Banaue is manned by former HK OFW Grace Ananayo. It  involves managing the coffee shop directly across the world-famous Banaue Rice Terraces, a bakery that serves western bread ‘using flour produced by local people, a mini restaurant that serves both local and western delicacies, an arts and crafts shop that sell ornaments made by former OFW in Hong Kong Marilyn Nanglihan, and a “pasalubong corner” where products from a Iloilo, Quezon, Laguna and Baguio City are sold.

During the opening, officials of Ifugao province showed up to show support and give their blessings to the project. Among them were Banaue municipal administrator James N. Damoyan and Hingyon mayor Jerry Luglug who came with his wife Lily.

Also among the guests were engineer Carmel Buyuccan, who worked closely with Atikha in planning the enterprise, as well as Joyce Niwane of the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office who is involved in helping OFW families that are in need.

An OFW from Singapore, Joyce Dinulug, and this writer from Hong Kong also attended the ribbon-cutting, which was preceded by a blessing by Pastor Herman Dinumla.

The House of Ekolife is poised to open other outlets in Surigao del Sur, Agusan del Sur and Iloilo.

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