Who were the cane children?-A A +A
As I See It
Sunday, July 22, 2012
THOSE who survived the hacienda system have completely abandoned the “campo.” They may have their houses in the hacienda village as squatters or the hacenderos just tolerate their presence because they have hooked their souls in the land of their birth. Those who work and live in the haciendas are branded as “dumaan” (resident laborers) and “sacada” (transient workers).
The dumaans now were the sacadas of yesteryears. Most of them came from Antique, Aklan, Capiz, Negros Oriental or Bohol. They worked in the haciendas of Negros Occidental in 1950, 1960 and 1970 because there was money in the cane fields. The cost of sugar was high in those days. There were no stable jobs to be had in their home provinces. At the end of the milling season some went back; some decided to stay in the haciendas because the hacenderos provided them two-storey houses made of hollow blocks and wood with galvanized iron roofs. For the sacadas, that was a part of good life.
Those who stayed in the haciendas, gave their canine devotion to the hacenderos. Other than houses, the hacenderos provided the workers with rice rations, pots for cooking, kitchen utensils and made them recipients of swine fattening programs and backyard gardening. The workers enjoying single status courted the available ladies who were working as cane point cutters, cane point planters and those who applied fertilizer to the growing canes.
Weddings were facilitated at the chapel with little financial assistance from the planters. Baptismal rites were officiated there also during patronal fiesta, usually the feast of San Roque or the end of Flores de Mayo to honor Sta. Maria. Those who died of old age or stabbing incidents caused by drinking spree rumbles were also provided a wake by the community at the bodega or “sacada kwartel.”
The children who were born in the hacienda had their consciousness of the hand-to-mouth-existence as the cost of sugar dwindled in the local and international markets. Families in the farm multiplied to a certain extent and the hacendero could no longer support the extra needs of the workers. The children grow up with the “espading,” “guna,” “pala,” and “sadol.” For them, carabaos were neighbors and the “caros” were the best vehicle for loading in the cane fields.
Schools seemed far. Their orientation was work and chances of getting formal schooling were remote. There was no white collar job worker in the village. All they saw were more of their kind, the sweat-smelling and dirty-looking laborers who worked from sun up ‘til sundown. One need not finish elementary or secondary grade to learn how to cut and haul sugarcane. There was no need to brush your teeth and put on the best clothes to fill up the van with canes. You could still have your salary without your signature. A thumb mark lets you claim your salary at the end of 15 days.
Life in the cane fields is a vicious cycle. Marry a fellow worker, have children, grow old in the farm, let children inherit your implements and allow them to live a life of sacrifice and frustration. The first day is the same as the second day. A worker works hard, the body is over-burdened. He may have tuberculosis or gradually become malnourished. The common food of workers are third-class rice mixed with NFA flavor coupled with third class dried fish and the best potable water could be from the nearest artesian or open well.
The children work at the field because they need to work to augment the family income. If they are enrolled in school, they have to be absent most often during the milling season or they have to stop school. This is very evident if we have to check the schools register of teachers. The hacienda system is the survival of the fittest. The only way out is education. Be educated and go out of the hacienda. Find work outside and struggle hard also to educate your children properly so that the history of the next generation will make a difference.
We cross our fingers that the children in the sugar industry in our era will be the improved species not mutations of the nightmare from the past era. If there are organizations and groups of concerned Christians providing socio-economic programs for the good of the souls of our cane field children, then that is a big bonus. Blessed are those who help the forsaken souls. Thank you God!
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on July 23, 2012.