“We have been banking with UCPB for around 20 years,” states Nonito “Nonie” Collingwood, CEO of Gubat St. Anthony Cooperative (GSAC) of Gubat, Sorsogon. “Through the years, we have come to think of UCPB as GSAC’s financial partner for yesterday, today and tomorrow. It is a relationship founded on mutual trust and shared objectives.” GSAC began as an agricultural credit union in 1964 with 30 members and a starting capital of just P222. It is now a multi-purpose cooperative offering credit, savings, agricultural, hostel and diagnostic services with around 44,000 members.
“Then Bishop of Sorsogon, Most Rev. Arnulfo S. Arcilla, felt that a credit cooperative will help make a difference in the lives of the constituents of all parishes in his diocese,” narrates Nonie. “He sought the help of Bro. Augusto C. Mier, an extension worker from the Knights of Columbus Community Services.
Bro. Mier took on the challenge of Bishop Arcilla and worked with Rev. Fr. Magencio Rey and a group of parishioners from the town of Gubat who shared the same vision of a “sustainable cooperative with members who are socially, spiritually and economically empowered”. Thus GSAC was formed—the first credit union in the province of Sorsogon, on April 8, 1964.
Fr. Rey focused on recruiting more members with the tagline “Entra na sa Kooperatiba. Deposito Mo, Doble Mauutang Mo”. The scheme worked and by the end of 1964, membership grew to 152, capital was raised to P9,476 and a net surplus of P743 was realized.
“Today we have assets amounting to P2.7 billion,” Nonie proudly declares. “Our current membership is around 44,000 and growing. We concentrated in Gubat during the first 25 years and pursued the single-line service of providing credit to prove that we can survive by relying on our own institutional capital. We then turned multi-purpose and extended services to other municipalities to reach more people.” Apart from the main office in Gubat, GSAC has now branches in fourteen (14)towns in BIM Region and one in Samar Province, as well as three satellite offices.
Nonie considers this continuous growth as GSAC’s greatest achievement over the years. “In 2019 we were able to put up a pharmacy in partnership with a cooperative in Mindanao which has the management capability to run it,” says Nonie. “Our growth is also largely due to establishing synergies with other cooperatives. This is the same model we use for our convenience store and potential partnerships with optical shops, health care services and even car dealerships.”
“I joined GSAC as an accounting clerk in the early 80s, alalay of the treasurer,” muses Nonie. “Most of the time, I tagged along when transacting with UCPB. Early on, I realized that GSAC and UCPB share the same mandate of developing and delivering products and services that effectively respond to the needs of our customers.” He fondly notes that no service is too small or too big for UCPB. “The service is consistently excellent, and the Bank gives special services that others don’t. For example, small bills and big withdrawals are unique requirements of a Coop. UCPB always has them ready for us.” The CEO also mentions the close relationship that GSAC has with Sorsogon Branch Manager Rudy de la Cruz. “Rudy is very hardworking. He visits us monthly without fail. More importantly, he listens to us and knows instinctively what to do to help address our needs. And this attitude cascades down to the members of his team. All of them are always friendly and accommodating.” Nonie sees the relationship between GSAC and UCPB getting even stronger because of the cooperative’s expansion plans. “Expansion entails challenges along with opportunities. We are confident that UCPB will remain aligned with GSAC’s objectives so that we can achieve our business and social objectives.”