I am not talking about miracles nor am I talking in parables.
A few months ago, when the Sumilao farmers made their historical 1,700-kilometer march from Bukidnon to Manila, some declared their act of sacrifice as a mere ‘gimik’ to get media mileage. That is always said of the poor, like the farmers, when they make dramatic statements and actions that catch the attention of the public – cheap gimmickry in an attempt to grab media attention. If only these people will try the so-called ‘gimiks’ that the poor had to resort to, maybe they will be a little bit wiser. Walking 10 kilometers is not an easy thing to do, let alone walking 1,700 kilometers. Skipping a couple of meals discomforts many, try starving yourself for a month like the hunger-striking farmers. In a country where the media is fond of the sensational, you cannot blame the poor for amplifying their plight through dramatic actions.
The question I think is not whether these actions are cheap ‘gimiks’ or not but why do they have to make unthinkable sacrifices to get the attention of the powers that be. In a society where silence is imposed on the poor (in many cases violently) and the ears of those in power are plugged, these protest actions are inevitable.
LISTENING TO THE POOR is the theme of the 2nd National Rural Congress (NRC II)which is being held by the Catholic Church for the next couple of days moment. It has been 41 years since the 1st National Rural Congress was held in 1967. Such was also the theme of the Supreme Court’s Forum on Increasing Access to Justice – a teleconference held last Monday.
While these are positive breakthroughs in two of the country’s powerful institutions, the results remain to be seen. How will listening to the voice of the poor affect the country’s judiciary’s decisions on cases involving social justice and the rights of the poor? How will listening to the voice of the poor influence the Catholic Church’s quest for a faith that does justice?
The Church does not have to wait for 41 years to listen to the poor. The church need not call a national congress to listen to them. Parish churches stand amidst rural and urban poor communities. Priests celebrate masses with the poor every day. It does not take much to listen to them. But it takes so much to BE with them. They need not look far for an example, at the center of each church is an image of a man who took the side of the poor two thousand years ago.
The Supreme Court need not call a nationwide forum to listen to the poor. They only need to delve into their dockets and sift through the thousands of cases involving the poor rotting in their midst.
Last Saturday, volunteers from De La Salle University and students and seminarians from Ateneo joined the Calatagan farmers in building a fence around the disputed lands in Barangay talibayog. It was a rare opportunity for students not only to LISTEN but TO BE with the farmers in struggle. It was because of my experience with the farmers in Bukidnon who fought the expansion of Del Monte 21 years ago that has politicized and educated me and led me to choose the path through life I am living right now. I can only hope that last Saturday’s experience will touch the lives of the students profoundly and influence the choices of their hearts for life.
In the meantime, the farmers and other poor sectors will still need to make dramatic actions to be heard and listened to. We can only hope that each step we take in our a million-and-one-kilometer journey will take us nearer to our dream – a society where the poor are not mute (better yet, where no one is poor) and a society where the State is not caught in the claws of the deaf and the rich.
Filed under: My Space