Sunday, February 15, 2009


The period 1999 – 2001 was filled with bittersweet memories. On the lighter side, this was the period when most of the ARBs’ land battles were won. ARBs’ physical installation ensued one after the other in over 10 sugar estates. This can be attributed to the continuous consciousness building and up-skilling efforts that strengthened partners’ capabilities to undertake planned activities. This euphoric experience was momentary. Almost all the re-distributed landholdings were forcibly re-possessed by the landowners who hired armed groups (also farmworkers) to fight against their families, friends and neighbors. Basically, these were second-generation problems that cropped up during the post-installation period.

Topping the problems then were continued violence and harassment; lack of capital and other inputs to make the newly acquired lands productive; reduced and unstable income because the ARBs, as new landowner-cultivators, are no longer receiving weekly wages they were used to when they were yet farmworkers. The ARBs became easy prey to unscrupulous local businesspersons and traders, subjecting subsistent farmers to varying degrees of exploitation in the form of super-profits extracted in production and marketing operations, which buried the ARBs in deep indebtedness. Cooperative members were demoralized because their leaders were harassed one by one, civil and agrarian court battles began. The most disastrous blow on the leadership bodies was the murder of Neonito S. Ordaniel, former chairperson of SFAWMULCO (San Francisco Agricultural Workers’ Multi-Purpose Cooperative) on November 26, 1999.

A particular case in point is the life story of Jocelyn dela Cruz-Ordaniel, the 43-year old widow of Neonito Ordaniel. Jocelyn met Neonito 19 years ago. Nonoy, as Neonito was fondly called by friends and relatives belonged to a middle class family of professionals in FB Magalona, Negros Occidental. In college, he studied in the Franciscan Seminary for two years but dropped out of the seminary in favor of farming, gaining the ire of his family. Consequently, Nonoy was disowned and stripped of his birthright, which prompted him to stow away and settled in Canlaon.

Jocelyn bore Nonoy four children, two boys and two girls. Jocelyn revealed that their life together was without discomfort. Theirs was a hand-to-mouth existence. Nonoy would work away each early morning hours in a ricefarm leased to him by a friend, reports to work as an overseer of the Lacson Sugarcane Plantation for the whole day, then back to his ricefarm late in the afternoon.

Jocelyn gave Nonoy her all-out support. When the ARBs were organized in 1997, Nonoy emerged as the leader and was trained in leadership and organizational management. Nonoy was one of the first leaders who benefited from NIRD’s capability-building program, who in turn produced other leaders. During his term, Nonoy campaigned for the immediate installation of 86 ARBs who were then ready for the long-awaited installation into the 208-hectare Lacson landholdings, earlier awarded to them. Nonoy successfully led the land struggle of SFAWMULCO to its initial physical takeover in September 1998, lost his job and earned the fury of the Lacson family.
Photograph taken during the vigil held in the SFAWMULCO Training Center as Nonoy’s children Jeneva then aged 3, Neonito III aged 10, Nellyn aged 8, and Jan Rey aged 6 stood beside his body in state.

The CO’s jubilation over the successful physical takeover of the Lacson landholdings was short-lived. Lacson took back the land by force. Bladed-welding cane guards harassed the ARBs day and night. Not contented with the land they took, the cane guards took Nonoy’s life as well.

On November 26, 1999, Nonoy was treacherously hacked to death a hundred meters away from his hut allegedly by Lacson’s cane guards. He sustained 18 stab wounds from a long double-edged bladed weapon locally called “samurai” (adapted from the weapons used by the hereditary warriors in feudal Japan), which left Nonoy’s dead body nearly decapitated, his arms and legs almost dismembered.
Jocelyn and two of her children, Jeneva and Nellyn pose in front of their house.
For security reasons, a few days after Nonoy’s burial, Jocelyn and the children abandoned their dilapidated hut to live in their new home, which SFAWMULCO helped them build.

Through the support of Catalino “Tay Idol” Vigafria, Jr., President of the CLOA (Certificate of Land Ownership Award), Samuel “Samie” Castillon took over the leadership from where Nonoy had left. On December 14, 2001, the DAR formally installed the 86 ARB members of SFAWMULCO into the Lacson landholdings. During the thanksgiving mass and belated commemoration of Nonoy’s second death anniversary, Jocelyn was teary-eyed when the leaders paid tribute to Nonoy, the leader who gave up his life in the service of his fellow-farmworkers.


  © Blogger template Spain by 2008

Back to TOP