Today, I am grateful for the Philippine Supreme Court’s verdict: that 4,915.7466 hectares of Hacienda Luisita will be rightfully distributed . After 7 years of mourning, the local community in Tarlac can take another step forward in this extended struggle. (I’m really gonna be thinking all of this as I bite into my turkey bits.)
I have three distinct memories relating to Hacienda Luisita. Two, I collected this past summer while in the Philippines. One, I carried with me from my east coast home. Here:
1) So many people I know found their place in the movement by campaigning around the Hacienda Luisita issue. For many of us, it was a screening of Sa Ngalan Ng Tubo which served as a wake-up call (particularly to those of us who never understood what it was to have a “peasant” class still existing in the Philippines.) It’s a workshop you’re bound to take…
2) At the Polytechnic University of the Philippines this summer, after the youth from the National Network of Agrarian Reform Advocates (NNARA) gave us a quick workshop about Hacienda Luisita, DJ stands up. She wipes off the white board to the best of her ability in the humidity, and begins to draw squares. We later discover that these represent buildings. DJ is explaining the debris and blood left behind, when she walked through the grounds where the strikers were violently dispersed. She talks about bodies and missing shoes. I look across at Krystle and Candice, because I do not know what to say. HLI is the main thrust until Christmas. NNARA wants to put pressure on the campaign in its 7th year.
3) In a random resort with a water slide in the middle of Rizal, Nanay Rowena tells me that the military has approached her several times. She is a native of one of the barangays (neighborhoods) in Tarlac surrounding Hacienda Luisita, Inc. Since the land’s ownership has been in question, and its reputation marred by the 2004 massacre, HLI has since shut its doors. ‘They sit on the land, and nothing grows…” Nanay Rowena says with some disgust. She tells me about how her husband is harassed, too, since he is a leading union organizer in the area. There are no jobs. The land is what they know, and they are being denied the right to till. She writes her address in my notebook, in the hopes we don’t lose touch.
Until we slay the root causes of oppression, we will always face injustice. While only about 2/3 of the entire hacienda’s 6,435 hectares were returned to the farmers, a victory is a victory is a victory. And also, a lesson. There are triumphs we must celebrate, especially when the morale of this movement is frequently attacked with reports of human rights violations and state repression. We must be reminded to honor the times the people win…
HLI will continue to be an exhausting and dangerous journey. Organizers, workers, and farmers educated their communities, advocated for their rights, and fought for their survival. This is no small feat when the powers that be want you to remain a silent majority.
Despite those odds, here we are. At a Supreme Court ruling saying that the silenced majority is actually on the correct side of history.
The verdict on Hacienda Luisita reminds me that while the change I think I am contributing toward may not happen in my lifetime, there is an incredible amount of principle and faith involved. I have to place my ego aside, and remember that this work is for the majority. There are people working HARDER for the same outcomes. All this work, it’s for all of us.
This past summer, I wasn’t able to visit Hacienda Luisita, due to my trip’s focus in the Cordillera Region and in the Metro Manila areas. I was quite upset and jealous that I didn’t have a chance to see HLI for myself this past summer. However, there’s something truly poetic about never having been there, and ultimately, my first trip will be to a Hacienda Luisita owned by the masses.
Mabuhay ang manggagawa, magsasaka, at magbubukid ng Hacienda Luisita!