Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Struggle to own the land they till

Sunday, August 31, 2008

So many stories have to be told.
But it can be accommodated not in this space but somewhere, and maybe, it is still written in the memories of those who have been involved in the campaign. It is there stored and waiting to be retrieved and shared.

The drama is still unfolding and like the way I wrote this piece, it is very hard to imagine when it would come to an end. But sure thing is that, somewhere in our history, the history of the people, the sugar workers and farmers in the sugar land of Visayas struggled so hard, faced the mighty and able to gain some victories.

They are sweet, you can rest assured.

The land takeover

On the 14th of June, 1999, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) ordered the installation of the Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries (ARB) in the land owned by Carlolina Lacson in Canlaon City, Negros Oriental Philippines by the 24th of June 1999. The order afforded the ARBs great source of joy, albeit temporarily. Observers claimed, the DAR was “somersaulting” on the issue come implementation time.
Three days before, the DAR event sent communication canceling the ordered installation because there was a pending inclusion/exclusion case filed by a group of farmers instigated by the Lacsons. Unperturbed, the Lacson estate ARBs proceeded with their planned takeover even without the DAR. They realized that if they will depend solely on DAR, nothing will happen. They have to assert their rights. They have to struggle and fight for their claim in taking over the land they already owned.
Day before the installation, together with the organizer of NIRD and Philnet-RDI, 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 the next day’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 roasting above the burning charcoal that will be served for the activity.
News broke out, reported by the chair of committee on security 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 team who is 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 Canlaon City also came. Thirty minutes later, truckloads of ARBs from other areas arrived. They came from the nearby town of Guihulngan and from as far as the town of Mabinay 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 takeover. 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.
The land installation in Lacson Estate is only one of the many installations conducted by the BAGASSE ( Bisaya Alliance for Growth and Sustainability of Sugar Estates). It gave lessons on how to organize a solid organization capable of facing sacrifices to be able to claim their rights to the land already awarded them. This serves as an inspiration to other member organization of BAGASSE.


  © Blogger template Spain by 2008

Back to TOP