THE frontliners in this fight versus Covid19 outbreak highlighted their sacrifices. Doctors, nurses, policemen, soldiers and all health workers. Please don’t forget the farmers. Let me look back. I was about ten years old and was still in the primary grade in Porac, I always looked forward during school breaks. There were not much houses then in our barrio Cangatba. All families were known to each other. Our house was located on the second row street from what we called cabalenan and poblacion.
A few meters away from our house was the beautiful deep river. That portion of the Porac- Gumain river continues to flow passing through Florida Blanca town till today, but not how I described earlier. During those years it was by my estimate to be 15 feet deep and all the kids in town learned to swim there. My bragging right. No kid of my age then can beat me in staying longer underwater. Well it was also the bragging right of the young mascular Manuel ‘Lito’ Lapid in diving coming and swishing from a hanging tree branch which was few meters from the river bank making not much noise on the streaming jade colored water of the river.
Porac residents depended largely on vast agricultural lands which was mostly planted to sugar cane. Hectares after hectares dotted the roads going to Florida Blanca. Second largest was its rice fields. Farmers in those years were simply happy and contented in whatever decent incomes they get from the soil. I remember farmers who sold their palay to the only rice mill in our town owned by my cousin Servillana Lumanlan David. After getting paid for their produce, some proceeded to my mother’s carinderia which was just across the street and got their fill there. I heard many of their stories. They talked mostly of their tenancy problems but nonetheless happy with the support from agencies of government.
If today you hear rice farmers complaining the farm gate price per kilo of palay, it is because of the enactment of the rice tarrification law which allowed the unlimited importation of rice by both government and the private sectors. It’s so ridiculous. Apparently the move wasn’t carefully studied. It adversely affected this particular agri sector.
Let’s look back in the early years when government provided support and services to Filipino farmers. My friend Lito Polintan of Macabebe will remember this. In the early years, there was the ACCFA (I just can’t recall what the acronym means, but it has something to do with agriculture credit). Then there was Facoma, meaning Farmers Cooperative Marketing Association. It was an agency designed to sell in the market the farmers’ produce to the market to eliminate middlemen. The third agency was the Namarco, and it means National Marketing Corporation. It is tasked by government to sell grocery products and other household items to farmers in a much much reduced prices. Farmers were happy.
Today we are happy and sad. Happy because President Duterte speaks the language of the poor, even the gutter and venomous street language, thus identifying himself to common folks. Ironically that kind of language makes him popular, thus he gets 80% approval rating from Pulse Asia. But the truth is the farmers are sad because seemingly he really doesn’t care about their welfare. He wouldn’t know how a simple farmer has been wanting to be given farm equipment, subsidies like seeds, fertilizer and technical support. Look around when you travel through the SCTEX and be curious and try looking if you can find any farm equipment on the fields.
The next question, who in the very near future will till the land? Farmers are also heroes, whatever period.