At the ongoing strike of
Lepanto mineworkers in Mankayan, Benguet, women and youths take turns to
extend support. One of them, a young female pharmacology student in Baguio,
shares a story.
By Abi T.Bengwayan
Posted by Bulatlat
MANKAYAN, Benguet —
Salem Dilem sits outside the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU – May 1st Movement)
office in Mankayan this province on June 14. The weather is generally fair
but breezy, with cool, blue skies. Beside her lie her books, piled neatly
inside a polyester bag. Two more bags contain her clothes and other
personals. She is all set to travel to
City for her final year at the Pines City Colleges as a pharmacology
“I still have to wait
for a package from Bauko,” she says while adjusting her cap. She plans to
take the 11 a.m. bus trip.
The Dilem family
migrated from Bauko in Mt. Province in 1989. Her father, Vicente Dilem,
has worked Lepanto’s underground mines for 16 years. He is also an officer
of the Lepanto Employees Union (LEU).
Salem, 20, is the
second of four children. The eldest is now working. Her two younger
siblings are in college and high school, respectively. All four children
grew up in the village of Pallatong.
But with the ongoing
labor dispute between management and the employees of the Lepanto
Consolidated Mining Company (LCMCo) here, she is not quite prepared to
leave home. She wants to stay and support the workers’ struggle until all
demands are won. The strike has also become her struggle.
“No mabalin koma
ket ditoyak pay tapno tumulong. Kayat ko pay koma nga agbati ditoy inggana
agballigj daytoy” (I still would like to stay here and help. If I had
to choose, I would want to stay here and support die workers’
struggle…until they claim victory).
She admits she has
not set her mind for schooling because of the dispute and the possible
picketline dispersal since the return to work order was issued on June 9
by Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) Undersecretary Manuel Imson.
On June 13, Salem
represented the youth of Lepanto in a press conference, where she called
on company management to grant the workers’ demands. This seemingly quiet
youth spoke firmly.
“Iteddan koma ta
bassit laeng daytoy a dawdawaten mi. Saan mi met a dawdawten a maramanan
mi ti biag ti annak da, dawaten mi laeng nga maited daytoy nayon a sweldo
ti am-ama mi” (I only ask the company to give what is due to our
fathers. We are not asking to have the same lives as those lived by
families of high-paying company officials, but do give the workers what is
due them), she said.
She also called on
her fellow youth to understand the situation their families are in and be
more patient about it.
“Let us try to be
more understanding with the situation our families are in at this time. If
we need to stop our schooling for this semester, let us not take it
against our families,” she said.
Salem relates that
her family is going through hard times with the ongoing labor dispute, But
we are not giving up,” she affirms. The Dilem family showed the same
determination during the workers’ 2003 strike.
Back then, Salem
narrates, she, together with other miners’ children studying in Baguio,
would pool in their resources to save on food expenses.
“Nu awan talaga
idi ti kuwarta, mapan kami kadagidyay am-ammnu mi idiay Trading Post
tapno makipangan” (When we would run out of money, we would go to our
friends living near the La Trinidad Trading post to share their meals),
she recalls smiling. She adds that true enough, allowances did not come in
full, but she made do with what was sent and was thankful for it.
Resiliency has taught her to survive.
Prescilla, continues to support the workers’ struggle for just wages and
benefits. She has joined the women and children of Mankayan on that
historic May 31 march-rally in support of the workers’ demands, even
before the strike took off on June 2.
While she will attend
to her studies in Baguio, Salem
only hopes that the miners’ children will continue to support the strike.
“I also hope that support from communities outside Mankayan will pour in,”
Salem is a new member
of the Anakbayan (nation’s youth) chapter here. She shares that through
Anakbayan, she has discovered more means to help other people and
understand the issues behind the strike more comprehensively.
She wishes to be able
to come home here immediately. “But that all depends of course,” she
quips, with the family’s economic constraint.
“After this, I plan
to look for a job... hopefully,” she adds.
With the recent
rains, the road from Mankayan to
Baguio City is a bit tedious.
Landslides have narrowed the main highway. But Salem will get there once
she boards that city-bound bus. Nordis / Posted by Bulatlat
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© 2004 Bulatlat
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