Friday, January 11, 2008

Visiting the Sumilao Camp

Visiting the Sumilao Camp
By Mark C. Brazil

Yesterday afternoon, I happened to meet a friend who is closely working with the Sumilao Campaign. After short exchanges, I decided to join them and visit the Sumilao Farmer's Camp just outside the DAR Region X Office here in CDO. They have camped in the vicinity for almost two weeks now, still hoping that the Malcanang promise will be implemented real soon.

It was my first time to meet the young marchers after they came back here in Mindanao. I have known some of their elder leaders during previous gatherings and mobilizations in Bukidnon but meeting the young people, mostly children of the Sumilao farmer-leaders, moved me with a sense of curiosity and awed me with the same conviction that is in their eyes. Indeed, the conviction of freeing their people from the battle that lingered them for years is now strengthened and purified after they joined the 1,700-km walk for justice.

Hearing their stories during the walk has in a way conscientized me as they shared their struggles along the way and how much they bear the pains and sores of everyday walking for 60 days. Many times they said that they thought of quitting and surrender to the mental and physical challenge, yet the vision of reclaiming their land and the commitment to the community that they left behind in San Vicente, Sumilao motivated them to be strong and continue marching. I can feel the weariness that they shared as they took Day 1 with at least 5O kilometers stretch from their hometown to Puerto in Cagayan de Oro and the challenge they faced trekking the muddy and unpaved road of Samar which they referred as the hardest part during the walk.

As they shared, one thing struck me when one of them said:

"Abi namo kami na ang pinakalisod nga tawo pero mas nakita namo nga naay uban nga mas naglisod didto dapit sa Visayas. Mga balay nga hinimo gikan sa lukay ang atop ug bong-bong ug ang ilawon pita. Abi namo pobre na gyud kaayo mi pero naa pa diay lain. Nalipay mi nga bisan sa ilang kalisod, sila nakahatag gihapon ug usa ka baso nga bugas alang namo. Sa among pagpadayon sa martsa, amo silang giaapil sa among tinguha. Nga ang among martsa dili lang alang kanamo sa Sumilao kundi sa tanang kabos nga mag-uuma sa tibouk nasud".

Having heard that, I am proud to have met them and listened to their stories. I can see in them the wisdom of their elders strongly inculcated in their youth. The walk have transformed them and earned them the learning that no Masters or PhD Degree can surpass. Such was a feat that bonded them stronger and united them in their call: Reclaim the 144 hectares, nothing much, nothing less.

As we circle around inside the makeshift tent, seated in matted plywood flooring just above the drainage canal, the rain that pours heavily outside worried them. The heavy rain in the past days had caused the drainage to overflow, submerging the tent's floor with floodwater leaving them standing in a corner and sleepless overnight. Such was a mess and a hassle but it has not tried them much. They have been through much more than that during the march. Thanks to Mother Nature for cooperating with us this time.

The noise caused by the raindrops that hits the tarpaulin roof was drowned as the guitar strums with a very familiar tune and my friends readily chorused,

"Lalaya din ang lupa, mga magsasaka. Tutulungan sila ng mga manggagawa. Babawiin ang lupang ninakaw ng iilan. At ang bunga ng lupa'y, bayan na ang aani"

As I sang with them, I felt the unity, faith and passion that gives them the reason and the hope to stand firmly to what their elders and the present generation of Higao-on farmers have been fighting for.

While we enjoyed sharing stories with the company of new found friendship, we were disturbed by the clashing noise of the pan, signaling that dinner is served in few moments.

The banquet is prepared and we heartily shared the ginisang corn beef and fried dried tilapia matched with a pot-full of white rice. The sharing of stories continued while we dined together until the heavy rain left only drizzles which reminded me that its time for me to go.

I bid them goodbye but with an assurance of visiting them again soon. As I walked out from the tent, I am a newer me, now fuelled with extra load of passion inspired by nine of my newfound young friends.

Now with a louder voice, I call:

President Arroyo, Issue the Cease and Desist Order!

DAR, Issue the Notice of Coverage for the 144 hectares in Sumilao!

Mabuhay ang Sumilao Farmers!

Padayon sa pakigbisog!

Note: Pictures inset were from previous mobilization in San Vicente, Sumilao,Bukidnon.