Grandchild of the canes-A A +A
Friday, July 13, 2012
THE national conference on the welfare of children in the sugar industry opened yesterday at L ‘Fisher Hotel. It is spearheaded by the Laura Vicuña Foundation in cooperation with DILG and runs until today.
DILG Sec. Jesse Robredo, DAR Sec. Virgilio delos Reyes and SRA chief Gina Martin are expected to address today the approximately 100 participants from all over the country coming from the government sector, non-government organizations and sugar industry stakeholders.
Highlight of yesterday’s event was the sharing of best practices among organizations involved in uplifting the lives of sugarcane farm workers and their dependents. Foremost of these are the Sugar Industry Foundation, Inc. headed by Edith Villanueva and the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters headed by Enrique D. Rojas.
Villanueva presented SIFI’s programs which are focused on education, livelihood and medical services. NFSP’s programs anchored on education and technical/livelihood skills training were presented by NFSP Vice-President for Western Visayas Jaime G. Golez.
NFSP came at full force (almost) during the conference. Leading the NFSP delegation was Rojas, Jose Mari Miranda of Cebu, Atty. Augusto Araneta, Jr. of Iloilo, Romy Garcia of Bukidnon and Atty. Iñaki Larrazabal, Jr. of Ormoc. These guys, including Golez, comprise NFSP’s executive committee.
Allen Ojera, a former child laborer form Victorias who now works at a high-end Manila hotel, was one of the resource speakers as a success story of a child who rose from working in the cane fields to achieving his dreams and helping his family.
Ojera turned the participants’ eyes moist when he asked his mother to stand up and publicly lauded her for her sacrifices in raising her children by herself after having been abandoned by her husband.
It is the family which forms the child, Ojera stressed. The participants were just too willing to agree. If all parents are responsible and are mindful of their children’s welfare, then we will have no problem with child labor.
Many organizations are joining hands to address child labor but there appears to be no concrete program focused on addressing the parental side of the problem.
“Maybe when you organize the sequel to this ‘Children of the Canes III’ conference, you can call it ‘Parents of the Children of the Canes’,” suggested the inimitable Atty. Larrazabal who was supposed to be a resource speaker on policy changes to the sugar industry’s social amelioration program.
(I wondered why he did not push through with his talk. It was only after yesterday’s activity that it dawned on me: He did not push through with his talk because he wanted to be the one asking questions instead of being at the receiving end of the participants’ questions. Got you there, Sir Iñaki!)
But you can’t fault the parents of my Lolo Paeng for his decision to leave their hometown in Patnongon, Antique to work in the cane fields of Negros. My lolo must have been very hard-headed, insisting on going with the sacadas to Negros after the Second World War when he could find an easier, highly respectable job in Antique.
Lolo Paeng was a high school graduate under the American educational system. Back then, high school graduates were already qualified to teach but he went with the sacadas to Negros instead.
He worked in the cane fields of Negros until some planter noticed that this sacada got brains. Thus, Lolo Paeng ended up working and retiring in the late 70s as a department secretary in Victorias Milling Company.
Lolo Paeng and Lola Saling put a premium on education for their children. Thus, my father and his siblings also received proper education. And so did we, the grandchildren of the old man who, once upon a time in his life, used to work in the cane fields of Negros.
Does that make me a grandchild of one of the children of the canes? Sure, babe. Proud to be!
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on July 13, 2012.