Sunday, February 15, 2009

Land Struggle Campaign.....the breaktrough

Day before the installation, together with the organizer of NIRD and Philnet, the San Francisco Multipurpose Cooperative SFAWMULCO hold a meeting to finalize the plan for the actual takeover of the Carolina Lacson estate. They call this meeting a tactic sessions – where they plan in details on how they will enter the area, the entry points, the site of makeshift stage, the program of the formal turnover of Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA), and the formation of different committees including the food preparation and the detailed plan of the committee on security.

On the night before the installation, 11:00 in the evening, some 35 members gathered for the final preparation for tomorrow’s activity. The committee on security makes a round of the area to ensure that no unwelcome visitors will sabotage their preparation. Six members were busy, continue and alternately rotating the bamboo pole with 3 pigs above the burning charcoal. The 3 roasted pigs will be served for the activity.

News broke out, reported by the chair of security committee that goons of the former landowner arrived in the area aside from the 20 ronda (security personnel of the landholding). Tension begins to rise. One group of 3 members verified the news while the composite team in charge of defense alerted other members in the community. The in-charge of food continue their task of preparing the roasted pig and puso (cooked rice in coconut leaves). Past midnight, seeing nothing happened, the community organizer of NIRD (Negros Oriental Institute for Rural Development, Inc.) prepared to go back to their office. While walking in the middle of the night, they passed through the roads surrounded by sugarcanes and no lights guiding in their path. They mutter to each other “God help us that nothing will happen to us on our way home”. They arrived safely.

Early morning of July 10, 1999, members of SFAWMULCO (San Francisco Muli-purpose Cooperative) start arriving in group and others came with their children in tow. About 70 ARBs were sitting facing the makeshift stage inside the tolda (tent). Local police was invited and arrived at 10:00 am, immediately talked to the Chairperson and NIRD organizer. They discussed on what to do to maintain peace and order in the area while the activity is going on. Monsignor Modesto, the parish priest of Kanlaon City also came. Thirty minutes later truckloads of ARBs arrived. They came from the nearby town of Guihulngan and from as far as the town of Mabinay arrived to provide support for the activity and to provide warm bodies to counter any attempts of the former landowner to use their goons to stop the installation. Media people coming all the way from Dumaguete City, 120 kilometers away from Kanlaon likewise arrived to cover the activity. No representative coming from the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) as expected.

Monsignor Modesto begins the Mass. During the homily he told the ARBs “ the Lord gave you this land, till these land, love this land, develop this land, because this land will give you food to feed your family, send your children to school and provide you shelter that is comfortable to live in”. He gave blessings for the members. After the mass, the good Monsignor Modesto turned over the CLOA to the ARBs as proof of ownership of the Lacson Estate. The DAR is supposedly the one who will hand over the CLOA but they refuse fearing that they will be sued by the former land owner. The cutting of ribbon (sugarcane leaves and flowers) was done next after turning over of CLOA. The ARBs do the groundbreaking by planting banana and different crops in the boundaries and do the symbolic plowing and harrowing of the land.

The tense feeling subsided seeing nobody from the landowners’ men came. After the groundbreaking, you can see the sweet smile of the chairperson, the cheerful faces of the members, the festive mood of the crowd gathered to watch this historic event in their simple and serene community. This is the beginning of their new life as the new owner of Lacson Estate.

Before feasting on the prepared food, the good monsignor led the prayer to thank God, they can now peacefully partake the food that is not possible if something untoward incident happened.


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