11 Jun 2012

A 15-Year Old Calatagan Farmer Grows to become a Leader

Not your typical teenager from the MTV generation, Augusto "Uge" Roxas at 15 carries the brunt of struggling for his grandparents' tenure in a piece of land in Calatagan, Batangas. He joined the campaign to represent his family in the daunting 300-km walk from his hometown to Manila in the fight to protect and uphold ownership of their lands under threat from the encroachment of Asturias Chemical Industries, a mining company.

However, during the walk, he is the cause of several disagreements arising from petty quarrels with fellow marchers. He is often the subject of many jokes or pranks. The fact that he can barely read and went to school only until second grade was a disadvantage. Thus, he is known as someone difficult to get along with and is probably the most misunderstood among the farmers.

Despite how others look at him and his lack of formal schooling, he took interest on the facts of the case and often asked the support groups to read the campaign materials to him. Keen on learning, he likewise participated eagerly in education sessions. With a strong determination to overcome his limitations coupled with a sense of purpose to fight for his family's land, he consequently earned the respect of his fellow farmers.

After two months of walking and camping in Metro Manila between April and June this year (2008), the farmers went home to engage in another level of a campaign called Buklod Bakod and later on Buklod Bukid. Uge remained active and participated in all the community activities the farmers conducted.

Today, Uge is one of the two spokespersons of the Calatagan farmers making the rounds of classrooms in one of the most prestigious universities in the country, the Ateneo de Manila University. He tells the students their story and asks them to support their cause.

Like Uge, the level of maturity of the PO and the individual members has increased dramatically. Where you find them hesitant in taking steps to face up to the Asturias Chemical Industries Incorporated (ACII), now you marvel at how bold they have become. Where you find them giving up when they find the task overwhelming, now you see them more than willing to take on the challenge.


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