I have been absent for a while in the blogosphere and this is because for the last 10 days I have been walking, eating, talking and simply being with the Sumilao farmers. Much has already been said about their cause and I have been fortunate enough to be with them and know them beyond their quest for land. I have come to know them as the persons they are and share their hopes, their pains, worries, frustrations and heartaches.
While their 1,700 kilometer walk from Sumilao, Bukidnon to Manila is an extraordinary feat for the most of us, they are infact, just ordinary people, ordinary farmers. They limp at the gruesome walk that they undertook, from time to time they ask for a time out on the roadside to take jingle breaks, they go hungry, they get tired (although I got hungry and tired faster and more often than them).
Most of them have seen Manila for the first time. Nagkakantyawan nga sila kasi may mga sumakit ang leeg kakatingala sa mga nagtataasang buildings sa Makati at Ortigas, at mga natitigil sa pag chant everytime dumadaan ang ‘tren” (MRT). Marami ang nagkakaubo dahil di sanay sa alikabok at smog ng Manila.
Nung isang gabi nga nagkaroon ng mini-concert hatid ng Rock Ed kasama ang ilang mga artists. Naloka sila kay Rico Blanco na kumanta at nagpahayag ng suporta para sa kanila. Kumanta din ang ilang mga batang magsasaka at napamangha nila ang mga professional singers sa boses at galing nila. Memoryado na nila ang mga kantang araw-araw na tinutugtog sa trompa habang sila ay naglalakad.
Ordinaryo silang tao. Natatakot sila makakita ng napakadaming pulis. Marami sa kanila first time ding nakakita ng sandamakmak na pulis na humarang sa kanila papuntang Malakanyang last week. Di nila lubos maisip bakit kailangan silang harangin. Sabi noong isa, bakit tayo hinarang ng napakadaming pulis? Wala naman tayong nilabag na batas, sa 2 buwan nating paglakakad kahit minsan hindi tayo nanggulo. Para sa akin napaka ordnaryo ng ganung sitwadyon. Magtataka pa ako kung walang sasalubong na sangkaterbang pulis kung may pagkilos. Di nila naiintindihan yun, wala sa karanasan nila yun.At nasasaktan sila sa ganoon. They are not naive, they have faced armed goons before, they have been shot at before, but they are just ordinary farmers coming face to face with a government that is insecure, a government that is guilty, a government that has so much to explain to these farmers. Faced with the force of the farmers non-violent action, the State showed its coercive force. Perhaps its the government who does not understand these farmers. Perhaps they do but can’t care less.
On Monday they will walk again. This time their former shepherd for 11 years, Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales, will walk with them to Malakanyang. I doubt if the Palace and the residents of the Palace will have an ear and a heart for these farmers, but who know knows. Miracles do happen. I am not very religious myself but this is a miracle that I will pray will happen. Padayon Sumilao farmers!