IN PHOTOS: Central Luzon farmers' exodus
MANILA, Philippines – Grey-haired with sun-tanned skin, 75-year-old Aeta farmer Tatay Cardo coughed hard as he was treading EDSA on Saturday, June 28. He has been walking for 4 days now all the way from Tarlac. But he did not walk alone.
Tatay Cardo was joined by over 500 other farmers from Central Luzon in this year’s Lakbayan, a march of farmers from Central Luzon.
The farmers are against the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) and the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (CARPER). They want the Aquino administration to pass a genuine land reform law.
According to Anakpawis party-list representative Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano. “Gusto natin irehistro na kailngan natin magpatupad ng isang tunay na reporma sa lupa na sentral na layunin ay libreng pamamahagi ng lupa." (We demand the passing of a genuine land reform law with the chief goal of free land distribution.)
Mariano also claimed that only 9.7% or approximately 1 out of every 10 farmers among agrarian reform beneficiaries are able to pay amortization.
“Hindi na kailngan I-extend yung huwad at kontra-magsasakang CARP, na pinalawig pa ng 5 taon ng CARPER law (There is no need to extend the falsified and anti-farmer CARP, that was only further extended by CARPER for 5 more years),” he added.
Farmers meanwhile claim, “Hindi mo pa hinihiwa ang sibuyas, naluluha na kami sa kalagayan ng mga magsasaka." (We farmers are already crying) They blame high production costs and poor living conditions for their plight.
Unity in diversity
Farmers joining the 4-day caravan hail from various areas in Central Luzon such as Tarlac, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, and Aurora. The group encamped in front of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).
Farmers from Ilocos, Cordillera, Southern Tagalog and Cagayan Valley are also expected to join the caravan.
Whereas farmers were united by the pressing issue of landlessness, groups attending the protest also raised their respective local issues.
The long march
Back in the province, Tatay Cardo plants all sorts of edible plants in Tarlac, including cassava, corn, and rice. While walking along Edsa during the march, Tatay Cardo could not help but criticize the plants adorning EDSA’s middle lane. “Puro hindi makakakain,” he claims. (They can't be eaten.)
Tatay Cardo joined the march to support the plight of his fellow farmers. “Ayaw naming na may naaping iba." (We do not want our fellow men to be oppressed.)
Despite the toil of walking for days, Tatay Cardo does not mind getting soaked by the afternoon heat, nor the torrential rain. He even dances along the concrete roads of EDSA to show that he remains fine. But he has to take some medicine for the pain in his joints and feet.
The group arrived in DAR at around 5 p.m. on Saturday June 28.
Upon arriving in DAR, Central Luzon farmers conducted the traditional “Salubungan” shaking hands with farmers from other regions as a sign of unity in the struggle.
Fight not over
Later in the evening, cultural performances were presented by the Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP). Farmers from various region also gave solidarity messages and discussed their situation.
On Monday, June 30, the group marched to Mendiola to continue their protest.
But one farmer claims, “Hindi na tayo aalis dito," (We are not leaving this place) alluding to the endless struggle of farmers until land is rightfully distributed to them. - Rappler.com
Anjon Galauran is a freelance photojournalist.