I didn't really trust KAISAHAN at first. I even talked back at Inday and Nang Belen when they first talked to me about helping us getting our land. I believed that they will just use us (farmers) again for their own good, because that is what happened to us before when a group offered to help us, but they just used our names to get support. In the end, we did not receive any help from them. We were left alone. So, when KAISAHAN offered us help, I am really hesitant and mad. I did not really want to get involved. Inday and Nang Belen asked me to think about my decision.
But my wife talked to me and said, "wala naman mawawala kung sumama ka." ("You have nothing to lose if you joined them.") So the next time KAISAHAN called for a meeting, I showed up. Then we were organized into an association and I got elected as a chairperson for Sumangga Farmers Association. But even around this time, I still don't trust KAISAHAN. Even after I met the lawyers and other staff from Manila office, I was still hesitant but, at least, they are slowly gaining my trust.
KAISAHAN gained my full trust after several meetings with DAR in Tacloban. It came to me the night we were checked in at a hotel. I was in my hotel room thinking about it. I asked myself, "Bakit naman nila ako iimbitahan makipag-dialogue sa DAR? Mahal dito sa hotel sigurado, bakit naman nila ako pagkakagastusan? Siguro nga totoo ito na gusto nila ako tulungan."
("Why would they invite me to have a dialogue with DAR? This hotel is expensive for sure, why would they spend so much on me? Maybe they really wanted to help me.")
That's the time I said to myself to fully coordinate with KAISAHAN and allow them to assist us. I am really happy about the things that happened after that.
I felt that I was not treated as a dignified person before KAISAHAN's intervention. The previous officers of DAR treated me as a "maliit na tao" or "magsasaka lang" (small person / just a farmer). They won't even listen to me.
But through the dialogues that we made, I started to feel like I am their equal. I don't feel anymore that they are looking down at me because they are listening to me now, and considers my suggestions in their decisions. I am also more confident to have dialogues with them because I understand our issues on land now, because I learned a lot during paralegal trainings and even during "kwentuhan" (informal conversations) with KAISAHAN staff when they visit Sumangga, or when I visit their office.
I am the happiest during the installation, even though I am afraid. I really felt that we are important because of the support that we got from DAR, PNP, and others. Who are we to be given that much importance? I will never forget that experience.
I am also less afraid of the land lords now because I know that I am doing the right thing. But I also feel that they treat us differently now. They almost didn't see us as human beings before. They see us as mere "workers." But now, they talk to us personally. Atty. Rolly said that the landlords now acknowledge that we are the land owners even though they are still doing some things to get the land back. That is okay for me compared to what it was before when they are really resisting against our installation.
I really can't believe that I own a land now. "Parang panaginip lang talaga." (It's like just a dream.) Before installation, I promised my wife to buy her a wheel chair once we started earning from the land, so we could go anywhere together just like the old days before her leg was cut off. If we earn better, I would get her a wooden leg. That is really my plan, and that is my priority once I get my income from our first harvest.
Right now, Jean, my youngest is my only child whom I can send to school. If I started earning from the farm, I will send my adopted daughter (my grandchild) to school. Then I will send Reggie (second youngest) back to school so he could finish high school. Then Jean and Reggie could both go to college, unlike their other siblings.
I am excited to develop our area. I have seen something on TV where a group of farmers charge visitors of their farm some entrance fee, and they would allow the visitors to buy and personally pick fresh vegetables from the farm. I think we could do that here.
"Sana matapos na mga kaso. Pero kahit ba may kaso, mas gusto ko na yun kesa walang lupa."
Sumangga Farmers Association (SUFA)
+632 433 0760
+632 921 5436