The world has offered a lot of things to explore. Human easily give in with some of those, it may be of the same field but to others, not. But what would set the line among you and the others? The endeavor you choose reflects the values you have. I’ve been eager to know almost about everything I opt to have interest with—life out of school, unfamiliar sports, or simply not just anyone will notice. I want to be unique yet extraordinary and more of a live wire than a sluggish doomsayer. With this, I have exposed myself to reality.
One of this is how I gain concern on a national issue. After watching Sa Ngalan ng Tubo documentary film when I was a freshman, I started dreaming of going to Hacienda Luisita. I want to see the exact location where farmers of that hacienda shed blood and life and to know firsthand what is the current situation there. After two years, I was given the opportunity to do that so, without a second thought I confirmed my attendance. But before I continue, let me give you a brief background of Hacienda Luisita 25 years back.
In 1985, the Manila RTC made a decision to order the the Cojuangcos to transfer control of Hacienda Luisita to the Ministry of Agrarian Reform, which will distribute the land to small farmers after compensating the landowners P3. 988 million. 1988, Court dismissed civil case against the Cojuancos relating to Luisita since President Aquino declared that agrarian reform covers sugar lands. Enactment of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law provides stock transfer scheme as an alternative to actual land distribution. May 1989, the Stock Distribution Option agreement was signed by the TADECO, HLI and the farmers.
Within 1995 and 1996, about 50% of the 6453-hectare hacienda undergone land conversion use, from agricultural to commercial, industrial and residential purposes. In 2003, Supervisors of the Hacienda Luisita filed a petition before DAR to revoke SDO since the farmers were not given their benefits. November 16, 2004, 3 o’clock in the afternoon, when the farmers were rejoicing thinking that they already overcame the military forces in the gate in front of their picket line, bullets downpour the area. The farmers were surprised when the Cojuangcos’ army started shooting everywhere.
Seven were killed and more than 200 were injured and were shot. From then on, Hacienda Luisita gained more attention and public awareness and it did not end there, more assassinations followed. Instead of discouraging them, it even ignited the spirits of not only those who live there but also those who value “human life” and justice. Incessant flame Farmers of the hacienda continue fighting for their right to own the land they, their fathers and grandfathers have tilled, nourished and lived for. It has been more than five years and no concrete actions to implement genuine agrarian reform.
The government is protecting interest of the few, the interest of the lardlords and large business industries. They say this is for the own good of our country but what We came to the hacienda the night before the commemoration of the massacre. I thought our overnight stay there would be like a sleep over a friend’s house—safe and sound, but then, it felt like it could be the last day of my life, threatened by armed people roving around. Nov. 15, about 9 in the evening, a group of students from NCR were harassed by “policemen” who were in full-combat gear. They approached the students and said that they were there to interview some people.
Why should those policemen have to be in a full-combat gear, ride in a vehicle with no plate number and go around the area? I’m not familiar with the place yet but it was absurd. Until now, the military hunts and strives to all the resisting forces against the injustice in HLI. It even comes to the point of not only the farmers but also to simple students. As visitors, we were forbidden to go out of the house and to talk loudly. Over the night, we had conversations with the youth and farmers in the area, face-to-face. The youth there do not focus only on their local issues but lso reach out to help other communities in every ways. Farmers still hope to have possession, in their own hands, the land where their shed blood. The first-hand encounter with them felt different, unbelievable. I already heard many stories about the issue and hearing it from them with my own ears was astounding and an honor. After a quite anxious almost sleepless night, we prepared to leave the house and gather to the actual place of the massacre. A short program was in front of the Gate 1 of Azucarera de Tarlac. There, I noticed a board with words “SAFETY STARTS HERE”. It starts where?
After entering the gate of the sugar factory? Huh? It’s just so ironic that the hacienda administration placed that in the very gate where the military tanks positioned and fired up farmers five years ago. Ablaze November 16, 2009, 1pm, the caravan with 100 vehicles which gathered in NCR arrived in the Hacienda. We met them through a mobilization of more than 2,000 people towards the entrance of the Hacienda Luisita to have a program on the commemoration of the 5th anniversary of the Hacienda Luisita Massacre. Various groups—party lists, workers’ union, activists groups, student councils—composed most of the crowd.
About past 2 in the afternoon, the whole group went to the Gate 1 to attend an ecumenical mass lead by various religious groups like Independencia Filipina, United Church of Christ in the Philippines, etc. Their religious members and leaders who opted to serve and integrate with the masses, the farmers, and those who need them were victims of extrajudicial killings too. Following that, the seven martyrs of the hacienda were honored with freeing white doves. A cultural night followed—improvised hot air balloons touched the sky, people chanted, sang and danced.
Cess Drillon of ABS CBN was at the back airing the anniversary. They lighted a hundred torches while going around the whole hacienda community, which unfortunately we did not witnessed, to end the event. Walking with them for a cause, the farmers rights, for the first time in my life, was something I could be proud of. I admired how dedicated they are in fighting for change—real democracy, equality, justice and human rights, all for the betterment of every Filipino people, especially those who are in poverty, those that ordinary citizens won’t try to reach.
The people there opened their mind to what reality is as well as do concrete actions in response. They vigorously fight for what they know is right and just. My Hacienda Luisita experience had widened my vision of what reality really meant, an experience of a lifetime. I was there with my life threatened but I would not stop there. Justice must be given to them, to everyone. So I challenge all who’ll read this piece of paper, especially those in their youth, to actively take part on the issues that this country faces, be at least acquainted of what is happening outside the four corners of the room.