THE sugarcane workers of Negros always consider the month of August as “Tiempo Muerto” (Dead Season). The “dumaans” (permanent workers) call it “tigkiriwi” (twisted). There is no regular work in the cane fields and that means no money for the “jornaleros” (laborers).
What does it mean to a miserable family of hacienda workers? Belts have to be tightened even though there is nothing to be tightened. The family may not be able to eat two times a day. The father has to go to the sea to scratch for shells or make charcoal to earn few pesos for the rice.
The mother has no choice but to leave the home to be a laundry woman or do some household chores for somebody who may pay her Ph250 a day. That mother has to leave her young children to the oldest child. Some children have to stop going to school or may attend classes in an empty stomach.
Are the “hacenderos” (land owners) paying attention to the plight of their workers? Some have hearts and souls. They may provide rice and sardines until the opening of the milling season (September or October). Those items could be charged (payroll deduction) to the future salary of the workers.
Some or a few sugarcane planters simply abandon their social responsibility. They simply tell their “encargados” (overseers) to manage (or mismanage) the “hacienda” while they are on vacation ... Baguio, Hongkong, Australia, America. The poor “encargado” has no choice but to allow the ‘hacienda’ workers to play hunger games.
This is the usual scenario every month of August. We are making an appeal to our public officials and the hacenderos to do something to solve the problem in the hacienda system. The hacenderos could possibly allow their workers to have vegetable lots or engage in group farming like the “kibbutz” in Israel.
Tiempo Muerto is an economic malady that could still be cured. LGUs should make their livelihood programs functional. Food for work projects should be further initiated in the month of August. Elected officials should walk their talk ... not just promises during election time.
The priests, the pastors, the evangelists and other church leaders should prove that God is alive. They could spend their big donations to the hungry families. Our sugar industry leaders should not only concentrate for their own profit. The Sugar Law should also benefit the workers.
We are giving this wake-up call because our brother workers in the haciendas need help. They are also Filipinos with images created to the likeness of God. Let us not allow them to become victims of Tiempo Muerto. Your help counts.