In a couple of hours I will be going to Calatagan again (for the nth time). This time archbishop Pabillo will be visiting the Calatagan farmers in their homes and in their farms. Aside from the archbishop’s visit, my mission there is to look into the preparations of the Caltagan Farmers’ walk to Manila. Yes, the farmers will walk from Baha and Talibayog in Calatagan to Manila again.
This is the third time that farmers from Calatagan will walk to Manila. The first time they walked was last December when they joined the Sumilao farmers who all all the 1,700 kilometers from Bukidnon to Manila. The Calatagan farmers walked side by side with the Sumilao farmers from Laguna to Manila just to show their solidarity. The second time they walked was last April. This time it was to campaign for their own land problem in Calatagan. Their sacrifices between April and June this year seem not sufficient enough for the calloused hearts of those in government.so they will walk again but thiis time it will be the original Emancipation Patent holders who will do the walking.
When they first suggested that they will walk again, I was a bit skeptical. Why walk again when they have already done it before? What’s new? the old farmers will do the walking they replied. when they asked for one week to consult the other farmers I did not expect more than 10 takers. The walk to Manila which is around 300 kilometers, though very short compared to the 1,700 kms of the Sumilao farmers, will be very difficult and risky for the old farmers. The next time we met they told us 42 farmers between the ages 50-70 years old agreed to participate in the walk. They said they will walk in a pace that the slowest of them can go and as far as the weakest of them can take each day. They wont mind if it will take them a month to reach Manila. What is importan to them is that they will show how much the oldest among them can endure and sacrifice for the piece of land that is theirs and to fight the greedy who are intent on turning their farmlands into a mining area.
i do not know where they get their courage and strength to even think of walking that far. Maybe it is the threat of losing the farms which they have developed with their own hands. Maybe it is the desperation and frustration with the DENR and the DAR who seem to be blinded at their woes and their rights as agrarian reform beneficiaries. Maybe it is the seeming hopelessness in the fight against the destruction of their community and the environment around them.
I feel so small in the face these farmers who desperately seek to find hope through their own sacrifices. I feel so small in the face of these farmers who are willing to squeeze every ounce of strength from their bodies to fight for their rights, defend their farms and their community. Maybe they are right, maybe the best way to fight corporate greed is through their selfless sacrifice.
They will walk again. May they find the hope that they seek and the victory that they deserve.