I joined Katipunan ng Samahang Magsasaka (KASAMA). I worked with Ka Roger Magyaya, then President of KASAMA. We affiliated with Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka (PAKISAMA). As a founding associate, I became President of Gimalas, Balayan Chapter, and later, I was nominated Vice President for four terms. At that time, KASAMA had members in eight municipalities in the first district of Batangas.
But more than making noise, I knew there was something that needs to be done. Together with other KASAMA members, I went on a training to become a paralegal. Our training was provided by the Structural Alternative Legal Assistance for Grassroots (SALAG). Through this, we were able to assist fellow-farmers, who had no resources for legal advice, to stand against their landlords and be covered by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). Soon enough, we begin to win cases. We were then recognized by the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board (DARAB) and the Provincial Agrarian Reform Adjudicator (PARAD). CARRD, which was then a fledgling non-government organization, helped us by providing us and other farmers with continuous legal education.
As we win more cases, I began to see the old fears resurface. What happens to a farmworker, who, in all his life depended to his landlord for even the most mundane as the amount of fertilizer to be put in the farm, manage his own land? CARRD helped us a lot to conquer this fear when it organized Nagkakaisang Mamamayan ng Kanlurang Batangas Multi-Purpose Cooperative (NAGKASAMA-MPC). NAGKASAMA separated our political and economic concerns, and through it, we were able to get the services that we need – production credit, access to farm facilities, training, and even funds in times of emergencies.
I am now 70 years old. With my wife, Tomasa, we were able to send all our five children to school. They're all college graduates and have decent jobs. The need to financially support my family is no longer as strong now. I can retire. But I don't want to. Being a paralegal is fulfilling, even if it wasn't always easy. I had my fair share of landowner intimidation, but I will never get tired of helping farmers as long as I am still able. Right now, I also find it fulfilling to share what I learned to our new batch of paralegals. I hope I'm not too modest in saying that I consider this my small legacy to agrarian reform and to all farmers like me who dreamt of holding a title of their land.
I will also never get tired of farming. My land allows me to reap vegetables, sugarcane and rice. For me, the pull of the land is so strong, I know I can never quit it until my last breath. I'm so glad I didn't stop believing, in spite of the odds. After all, this made me who I am.
The article was written for Ka Oyong by CARRD's Research Officer Leigh de Guzman. The article was edited by Joe-Anna Marie Abelinde and Marie Joy Demaluan.