Partnership in Sugar Industry-A A +A
As I See It
Monday, November 22, 2010
I AM happy to look back and think that for almost 20 years I was a volunteer social worker in some of the haciendas of Negros Occidental which participated in the Christian-oriented reform program initiated by BINHI-Chito Foundation, Inc. By that time, I was a young secondary school teacher teaching at St. Joseph Academy. Baby Unson Lacson encouraged me to help her put up the Hacienda Adela Community Organization. Being the first teacher from the working class, it was easy for me to get some friends in the farm to organize a core group responsible for handling our three zones.
Sr. Michelle Gamboa and Baby convinced us to attend an awareness and leadership seminar-workshop (1976) in Hacienda Tagbanon, Cadiz City owned by Ed Locsin and wife Janet. That was not just a workshop but an immersion program because our one week exposure allowed us to live with the hacienda workers of Tagbanon. Their level of community awareness was high and Ed Locsin, the owner, was the volunteer social worker for his farm laborers. We called our training center as “Talamnan” and the graduates were “Binhi” members.
In the workshop, worker leaders and hacienda owners were attending the same session. Sister Michelle said, “What we want to do for human growth and development in the haciendas should be the concern not just of the workers only. Hacienda owners should wholeheartedly know and participate in the community undertaking.” For a hacienda boy like me, it was something worth doing. I volunteered to join more trainings and personally requested Sr. Michelle if I could be one of her apostles. After the “yes” answer, social evangelization started.
My comrades were Ed Cero (administrator of Tagbanon), RomingArcenas (“El Cabo”of Hacienda Catalina, Talisay), Baby Lacson (owner of Hacienda Adela), NacingJavellana and wife Nena (owners of Hacienda Catalina), FerminAlegro (free-lance bookkeeper), MauriciaLayson (full time housewife), MellieKilayco (journalist), MindaSeverino (payroll keeper), and few others.
The work was easier said than done. During our free time, we would visit remote haciendas to preach the gospel of BINHI-Chito Foundation, Inc. We always emphasized that planters and workers are partners. Planters who adhered to our advocacy agreed to organize group farms and backyard gardens in the haciendas following the “kibbutz” of Israel. Kibbutz is a collective farm or settlement in Israel characterized by cooperative ownership and communal organization.
Our service vehicle was a Second World War vintage jeep we called “tora-tora”. Ed, Roming, and Fermin took turn in driving. Our session was always starting with prayer and reflection from the passages in the Bible. Roming would always jokingly introduce me as “Fr. Alibasbas”. And many started to call me “Fr. Alibasbas”. Our battle cry in our social agenda is “to achieve human growth and development”. Chito Foundation, Inc. offered low-interest business loan, educational loan, carabao loan; and incentives on the development of community-based projects. Some sugarcane planters even considered profit-sharing. Minimum wage was implemented.
Our efforts bore fruits. Our outputs included the Inter-Hacienda Bazaar, Inter-Hacienda Cultural Presentation, Community Celebration, Sports Festival, Christmas Agape and Sugar Milling Season Thanksgiving. We pushed hard that the children of the workers should finish their elementary and secondary education, go to college or take a vocational education. Skills training were done in hacienda member communities to upgrade the capacity of workers. Adult education program was launched through non-formal curricula. In Hacienda Adela, some of my students were the entire members of the family – grandparents, parents and children.
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on November 22, 2010.