Besides, he states, the government teaches peasants the wrong things. The government wants the farmers to use chemical fertilizer. Then, in 1972, they only needed two sacks of the stuff for a fruitful harvest. Now, they need eight sacks. This is because chemical fertilizer is acidic. The more one uses, the more acidic the soil becomes, the more barren the land becomes, he says.
Also, the government wants them to depend on pesticides. “E pag ginamit namin yon, e di lahat ng insekto namamatay, pati yung nakakatulong sa amin na kumakain ng insektong nakasisira ng pananim namin”(If we use it, all the insects die, even those that help us by eating the pests that eat our crops), he clarifies.
He’d rather rely on their individual and collective efforts. The former consists of planting a variety of crops on whatever space is available, taking care of livestock, and forming fishponds. The latter is about rising as one during attacks by landlords, helping each other during a hard season by volunteering food, assisting each other in working on their fields, as well as the formation of support groups.
It happens that a kasama gets weak-willed. When this occurs, they have to make him strong. “Kailangan siyang palakasin… ‘wag siyang bibitiwan” (We need to make him stronger. Don’t neglect him), he says. Because in the hard, protracted struggle of land ownership, once a kasama gets weak, and is left on his own, he will eventually give up. When this happens, others will follow suit, he says.
They also have what Mang Felix calls a “farmer school.” This is unlike what people’s notion of a school is, he says. They hold classes where the farmers are, usually in their fields. They also have no time designated for this. They hold “classes” whenever any number of farmers is available.
In this school, they teach farmers alternative means of survival, such as finding ways of growing more crops. Other alternative sources of livelihood include breeding ducks and pigs, as well as cultivating fish.
The “school” also instructs its “students” to stay away from the current “pop” culture. This culture, Mang Felix elucidates, “nagpapahirap sa mahihirap” (aggravates the condition of the poor), which is why one must not dive into it. He cites the practice of treating everyone to a “blow-out” during one’s birthday celebration (even if one can hardly afford it), as well as selling the family cow so that a member of the family can have the finances to go abroad, as part of this culture.
This is why being united is important, he says. The school, as well as their support group, is a manifestation of their organizing themselves. “Walang indibidwal na tao na hihingan ng tulong… buong mamamayan… nasa kamay nila na magtulong-tulong para makamit ang tagumpay” (There is no individual to ask for help… the people… they have what it takes to attain victory), he says.
Being together, they no longer feel alone, especially whenever they hear of a news report that another peasant has been killed. “Weather-weather lang yan, Tatang. Kung panahon mo na, panahon mo na talaga” (It’s just like that, Father. If it’s your time to go, it’s your time), his fellow peasants would say.
Still, he does not think that murdering peasants is the solution to the long-standing problem of land ownership. The solution, he says, is giving the people what they want. And that means, genuine agrarian reform. Sticking together, they might just achieve that ultimate victory. (Bulatlat.com)