From Negros to the Academe and back

When the Spaniards came to Buglas in April 1565, they saw dark-skinned natives and ironically cut them off from the act of naming one’s land after one’s labor. Buglas in Hiligaynon is precisely the act of cutting off.

The Spanish conquerors, needy and exploitative as they were, re-named the land Negros to naturalize a violent set-up. From then on, that place is to be marked by the skin of farmers. They were to be dispossessed of their land as they continue to cut off sugarcane.

Their descendants were to become Sakadas or landless peasants engage in slave labor offered to the altar of Spanish colonizers and their local collaborators. The Spaniards and loyal collaborators would intermarry, consequently forming the mestizos y mestizas of the principalia. They accummulated land and power by forcing the Negros to toil the land stolen away from them.


My great grandparents, Joaquin and Lucia Jopson descended from this violent history. Joaquin was not the most reliable and exploitable sakada as he had weak lungs. So then Lucia had to hold the line for their six children, one of whom was Remedios who made a wonderful childhood possible for me and my father. By doing so, my grandmother made up for Lucia’s absence in the lives of her children.

Lucia left her family and travelled to the city to become a seamstress. She came home twice a year to see the first half of her children taking up maternal roles and the second half growing up as strangers.

Lucia was probably so stressed and overworked that her sickly husband would even outlive her by many years. One day after a morning stroll in the streets of Manila and bottled sodas shared with his two grandchildren, Joaquin would pass out irretrievably.

I looked at the list of the nine massacred farmers in Sagay, Negros last year.I looked at the list of the fourteen massacred farmers in several areas in Negros on March 30 this year. I heard myself humming a popular tune in the 80s when TV stations featured the unfed and dying children of Negros, they all looked the same in their enlarged heads and emaciated bodies: “Sagipin natin mga bata sa Negros…” I come from here.

I come from Lucia, I come from Joaquin, sakadas of Negros in the Visayas. I come from Pepe, I come from Juana, farmers of Sta. Rita Pampanga in Central Luzon.

I wake up at 4AM no matter where I am, no matter what I did the night before. Sometimes I go back to sleep or daydream away. Sometimes I go out for a run or beat a deadline. The point is I embody my ancenstors’ toiling ways.

I am marked by the labors of landless peasants murdered on March 30, 2019 not only because I read Marx. I come from:
Edgardo Avelino (Chairman of HUKOM – Hugpong Kusog sang Mag-uuma sa Canlaon-KMP), 59
Ismael Avelino (habal-habal driver), 53,
Melchor Panares (farmer), 67,
Mario Panares (farmer), 46,
Rogelio Ricomuno (farmer), 52,
Ricky Ricomuno (farmer), 28,
Genes Palmares (farmer), 54.
Franklin Lariosa (habal-habal driver)
Anoj Enojo Rapada (farmer)
Valentin Acabal of Brgy. Kandabong, Punong Barangay
Sonny Palagtiw
Steve Arapoc
Manolo Martin,
we are all of peasant origins.

Hegemomic Political Labor and Red Tagging

The division of hegemonic political labor is established between technocrats, the military, politicians and academics (they work as consultants or as mere state appendages). In this case, the neoliberal technocrats provide false figures of and for economic development supposedly sabotaged by critics of the State.

The military claims that the massacre was a shoot out that took place during a legitimate Armed Forces of the Philippines counter-insurgency operation (Operation Sauron).

The military and politicians are puppets who impose death when they are bothered by political dissent. They are painfully identitarian and can only pledge loyalty to the interest of their kind, so they can only homogenize and crush difference and resistance whenever and wherever it appears.

In this shores, difference and resistance come in the form of the demand for wage hikes for farmworkers and land redistribution. These rights-based initiatives, rights-based are paralyzed and crushed when their advocates are labeled as “communist fronts.”

Academics like historian Lisandro Claudio, PhD* and cohorts render hegemonic political labor by affirming that certain legal mass organizations, as the AFP and President Duterte claim, are “communist fronts.” For him, the practice of democracy involves this sort of truth-telling in the academe.

Yet something else underwrites academic labor. If Dr. Claudio and friends find academic freedom in communist tagging, the interest behind this academic disposition must be understood and laid bare.

For someone who descends from landless farmers, the only criterion for the promotion of democracy in the academe during this violent moment in the history of Philippine governance is the prevention of massacres like Operation Sauron from happening. This means solidarity with farmers who till the land and bring food to our tables. This means recognizing the validity and participation in mass campaings that promote farmworkers rights and the struggle for land redistribution. This will leave no room for the combined hegemonic political labor of the Duterte regime, the AFP and academics like Dr. Lisandro Claudio, the kind that casts doubt on the noble aspirations of farm workers and justify their killings. (

*Professor at the Department of Literature, De La Salle University-Taft

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