Sown In Solidarity

Photo by Jobelle Adan

Text by Agatha Gregorio

You reap what you sow.

The words ring a sense of familiarity in most people’s ears, but it is nothing but cruel humour for the Filipino farmer. 40-year old Adelfa Alvarez toils everyday for her harvest, bending under the scorching heat of the sun as a coconut farmer in Camarines Sur. In exchange, she earns an average of P2,000 every three months.

P14,250 is the current daily minimum wage in the capital, a far cry from Alvarez’s average profit in a month, being P667. With the Philippines being a dominantly agricultural nation, one would think that farmers would be given more priority and financial security, or at the very least, rights.

This is only one of the many pleas she, along with farmers from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao have been forwarding in the “Kampuhang Magsasaka sa Department of Agrarian Reform” that happened on Tuesday.

The event was merged with a Grand Solidarity Night, organized by the Kilusang Mambubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) to showcase their advocacies with performances from musicians and dancers alike.

Alvarez, a member of Gabriela Women’s Party, has been joining the collective protests for five years now. She still fights against the same repressive policies against Filipino farmers.

Some farmers are burdened with having their lands and harvest taken from them. Abellardo Delos Reyes, a 39-year old farmer since he was 12 years old, joined the protests for the first time, having experienced the struggle of having what he had sown and harvested taken away from him. Retaliation, however, came at the expense of people’s lives.

“Maraming namamatay dito sa amin, dahil kinukuha nila ang niyugan. Ninanakaw nila. Ang gustong sabihin namin ay ibalik sa amin. Kawawa naman kaming magsasaka. (Many people die here in our area because they take the land from us. They steal it. What we ask for is that they return it to us. As farmers, we are unfortunate.)” Delos Reyes said.

A sign of refuge came in the form of a man who, like them, also knew what struggles and injustices farming in the country posed. He was appointed for a position that could have changed farmers’ lives, even having engaged in free land distribution with at least 300 titles given to farmers during his term.

Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano, the former Chairman of KMP and former Secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), was recognized for his strong passion towards genuine agrarian reform for farmers. On Sept. 27, he was rejected by the Commission on Appointments, much to the disappointment of most Filipino farmers.

Additionally, there have been talks of junking a number of the administrative orders he had issued during his term, namely those that have been of great assistance to local farmers.

However, Mariano still trusts in the department’s ability to implement policies addressing farmers’ concerns with integrity, saying, “Ipaglalaban nila ang patuloy na pag-iiral at masugid at malaganap na pagpapatupad ng mga sabing mga mahahalagang DAR administrative orders and issuances na aking pinirmahan at inilabas sa panahon ng aking mahigit isang taong panunungkulan bilang secretary ng DAR. (They will fight for the continued existence and strong and pervasive implementation of the important DAR administrative orders and issuances that I have signed and released during my time of over a year being the secretary of DAR.)”  

Until their concerns have been entirely addressed, farmers continue to gather in the name of their rights, in hopes that the higher powers of the nation will hear and attend to their pleas. With colourful banners splayed out in a space of ardent expression for the significance of activism, the Grand Solidarity Night stood for a variety of advocacies, written out in paint, saying, “Stop tyranny!”, “End Martial Law!” and “Stop killing farmers!”

Having seen students and other members of the youth partaking in the activities, current KMP Chairman, Danilo Ramos expressed gratitude in the increasing awareness among Filipinos about the plight of farmers.

“Ang usapin sa lupa at reporma sa lupa at pambansang industriyalisasyon ay isyu ng taong bayan, (The issue of land reform and national industrialization is an issue of the Philippine people.)” he said, regarding the significance of the farmers’ struggles and call for collective action.

The national farmers’ struggle remains prevalent, as they continue to be deprived of land, and their labour consequently fails to translate to earnings, to reaping.

Still, there is a glimmer of hope reminiscent in the collective people’s march towards the equal treatment of national farmers.

“Naniniwala kami na magtatagumpay ang nakikibakang mambubukid. Magtatagumpay ang nakikibakang mamamayan para sa lupa, para sa pambansang kalayaan at demokrasya sa ating bayan. (We believe that the farmers in protest will succeed. The people in protest will succeed for land, for national freedom, and democracy in our country.)” Ramos said.

And oftentimes, it is the sowing of unified ideology that reaps the most bountiful of harvests.

Author: TNP

The Official Student Publication of the UP College of Mass Communication.