Ipinaskil ni: S3lv0 | Setyembre 4, 2008

Today, they brace themselves for the long journey ahead

by Karla

To express solidarity with the Calatagan farmers, Most Rev. Broderick Pabillo, Auxillary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Manila and Chair of NASSA, visits Barangays Baha and Talibayog and is now celebrating a Holy Mass. In his homily, he says, “Nais ng Diyos na ang lahat ng kayamanan ng lupa ay pakinabangan ng maraming tao at hindi lang ng iilan. Di nararapat at di makatarungan na ang malalaking lupain ay mapakinabangan ng kakaunti. Hindi rin kalooban ng Diyos na masira ang kanyang nilikha. Nais niya na ang kanyang nilikha ay mapangalagaan.”

He further says, “Ang Diyos ay gumagamit ng maliliit na tao para ibagsak ang malalaki nang sa gayon ay walang makapagmayabang. Dito kayo kumuha ng lakas. Ipaglaban ninyo ang inyong karapatan.”

The Calatagan farmers are asking the Department of Agrarian Reform and the President to uphold their agrarian rights. They also ask DENR Sec. Atienza to cancel the mining contract of Asturias.

— Jane Capacio, Task Force Baha-Talibayog (TFBT), via text message

i’ve been to Talibayog twice now. i’ve talked to NGOs, farmers, OSCI, students, Asturias representatives, and government officials. i’ve heard the story of how the land that had been given to the Calatagan farmers, the land which they had already paid for in full, is now being taken from them. in fact, i’ve heard it something like twenty times from different people, but in every re-telling, i always feel deeply disturbed.

yes, that’s the best word for it. disturbed. i am disturbed by the Calatagan farmers’ plight, by the plight of this country’s poor agrarian reform beneficiaries who could never plant and live peacefully in the small parcels of land that the government had distributed them. i am disturbed because our current system does not seem to have room for substantive justice.

Nanay Virgie, spokesperson of  TFBT, and a young farmer arrived in manila last week to ask for the Ateneo community’s support for their second march on September 15. they went to different class, faculty, and org rooms to personally narrate their story to students and teachers.

they came to our Theo 141 class. i waved to Nay Virgie and she smiled back. she stood in front of our class and told us about the sad history of the Calatagan farmers. her voice wavered more than a few times and she cried. i have seen others shed tears while sharing this tale. yet others are angry, indignant. but surprisingly, no one feels despaired. the battle is long and hard, but they know that they just might win it.

when Nay Virgie and i saw each other again at the OSCI office, she embraced and kissed me. i will never forget that. here is a stranger, a farmer whom i’ve known for less than 5 days, and she already treats me with fondness. the farmers treat all of us who have been to Baha and Talibayog with fondness. over and over they say that it is an honor to have us in their midst, because they know that we can help them.

these farmers trust us. they are confident that we can help them fight their battle. i wonder if we can really live up to their expectations.

we can try, of course. as soon as i heard that Nay Virgie and Uge are doing room-to-room announcements, i asked our former OSCI facilitator if i can join them. unfortunately, i was able to help with only three classes, but it felt good to be with them, to talk about their dilemma, to urge others to help in their own ways.

the plight of the Calatagan farmers will be Matanglawin’s cover story for its 3rd regular issue. i will also be writing another story on it as final requirement for my online journalism class. i feel a little guilty at being ever the journalist, but i think that talking and writing about them would help make more people understand their situation better. storytelling is a powerful motivator, but i hope it doesn’t end with just stories.

today, the Calatagan farmers have been visited by Most. Rev. Pabillo. they will start their second Calatagan March next next Monday, September 15. the marchers will be composed of the original land title holders aged 40-75 years old.

if the first Calatagan March last April 21-29 was difficult, they expect that this one will be more so because of the age of the marchers. the farmers are fully aware of this, yet they’re willing to risk their health and possibly their lives for their cause. they will walk 300 kilometers to get what is their due. if the Sumilao farmers were able to do this, they can too.

i think this is exactly what Theology 141 is about. it’s reaching out to people, knowing their problems, and helping to solve them. this is the face of human solidarity that we’ve been blathering about in class. it is both a duty and an opportunity for us to discover what else we can do to truly be in communion with other people.


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