Ode to Farmers, by Leomel Pasquin

Nothing is more relaxing than to sit beneath the shadow a huge tree and enjoying the scenery of a vast rice field before sunset. Men started to emerge from paddies which they tended to the whole day. Along their paths were verdant grasses that shyly sprouted in greetings for the dawn of the rainy season. More than the beauty itself, I started to recall the themes which fascinated Amorsolo most and became subject of his quest for realism. I’m glad that he was solely engrossed with the gaiety of farming and the people involved in it rather than the injustices that these people suffered which did not merely bruised them economically by being perpetually tied to the land but also morally by regarding them lesser than the bourgeois. Whatever his purpose is, the same thing remains abound: that whenever there is a titled land, such can never be free from atrocity or hostility or depicts myriad for of injustices. Land and blood remains as formidable requisites to a legal title.

Having no land to till on my own, I imagine myself transported back to the 60s where an acre of it would cost you about three thousand pesos or less depending on the agreed price between the seller and the buyer. If there is only a way I could go back, I should have been doing the same thing as of those men who walked in pack on their way home. The only difference is that I’ll be doing the land which I personally own and not of somebody else’s. I might have also listed myself as one of the migrants to the south and exploit the land provided by the government to use and farm.

Back in 1960s, it was in these years that people were inclined to have a job in the city, and farming was considered an inferior endeavor which only suit those who hadn’t gone to school. Those who took their chances in the city were relatively better economically compared to those who till the land —well, except for the hacienderos and illustrados who had vast titles over them but which they possessed solely by virtue of their influence and political clouts. They did not even had a hand on the land itself and their attachments were primarily confined in their thirst for profit. This kind of practice was very common during this time and I could only picture out how my grandmother would refer them as “pinanginbulahan” or fortunate. Most of these people were educated in law or engaged in other businesses and see themselves as elite, or someone we used to call “sosyal” before the very term assumes several meaning in subsequent years. And because they know better than anybody else, applied titles to the land they did not even have any roots or history. That’s how things work back then. You get to have a piece of it if you have the edge in knowledge and you have money to exploit in exchange of for intermittent emancipation from poverty of the people.

It was also during these years that my mother was born. Expectedly, she is one who thinks education is the only way out of poverty, thus compelling us to take a long way to school everyday. I am grateful for her nonetheless because I get to explore our little library in our meager elementary school. I came to know things like dinosaurs and why people need to wear undergarments. It was her that showed us the possibility of possessing knowledge and how to use them to advance one’s self above others. While I believed it for the long time, a part of me still desires that success does not only mean getting a good-paying job but also helping other understands the value of uplifting those who are around you. Because most of the time, success is not about an individual quest but of collective teamwork, of getting things done hand-in-hand.

And yet, I am still thankful of education because it is through it that I discovered farming as a noble profession. In fact, it is the noblest profession one could ever think of. In Japan for instance, farmers are regarded with high respect and the government give subsidies to them. They are not only seen as the foundation of a good country but a conduit of the spirit of the earth and of human race. Unlike in our country where a farmer is used as a premise or a benchmark to compare economic status. An ordinary child would often look down on a person with a shabby clothes and stains of mud in his body than a person who wears a plain white clothes and a pricey sneakers on his feet. Or between a doctor and a farmer, people give much regard to the former. That is just how it is, and culturally we are made to look it that way.

But things are changing. With the dawn of social media, people like me and many more came out to share information of the benefit of farming and the importance of farmers. This could not been more true than this moment when we all face the biggest challenge that shakes the foundation of the world – socially, economically, politically, morally and spiritually. This is the time that we need the farmers better and that we need to give them the respect they ought to have long ago. Because no one more deserving of our respect than the one who silently feed us everyday. It’s not the landowners, it’s the farmers. And it is the only way we give them justice for all the tears and blood they shed in tilling the lands just to keep our dreams come true.

Today, I remember my grandmother who used to bring me to the garden where the chili were red and the coffee blossoms smell good; I remember her in the scorching of heat of the sun smiling down on me and telling me, “You have to plant to eat, and you have to eat in order to go to school. And no matter where success may take you, you will always go back to the land you till and that is how you pay respect to those who came before you.” My grandmother was never educated but she has the wisdom rooted in experience, and an essential lesson taught by the very soil she cultivated.

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