Friday, February 5, 2010

OF Januaries : part 3

The Mendiola Massacre

It happened when I was a child just learning the ropes of the world ourside my own home. I was 5 going on 6 years old. Just like the First Quarter Storm, I’ve only heard about the Mendiola Massacre, which has less references than FQS. I read in the newspaper a few days ago that Damasa Perez, or Nanay Masang, 86, was the oldest participant of the “Lakbayan ng Anakpawis para sa Lupa’t Katarungan sa 2010.” Lakbayan was a caravan launched to commemorate the Mendiola Massacre and remind the government of the continuing absence of a genuine land reform program. Nanay Masang is one of the participants of the 1987 march that ended in the gruesome massacre of 13 farmers.

The EDSA 1, not more than a year ago, is still fresh. For a people opperessed and terrorized for over a decade of martial rule, the EDSA 1 promised change and freedom. The Philippines being an agricultural country has a very wide base of peasants. But these peasants cntinue to be deprived or land to own and till.

If we are to look back in history, when the Spaniards came, they came with their swords unsheathed. They claimed ownership over our island nation and disposed of its land as they saw fit. They vast land, obviously grabbed from the “uncivilized indios,” was divided amongst themselves, particularly among the religious congregations. With Spain engaged in commerce abroad, marketing raw materials from our very own backyard, and the commerce increasingly becoming competitive, the Spaniards waied the self-sustaining economy of the the various settlements and instead leaned more and more towards single-crop production per province to boost production. So now we have provinces that specialize in tobacco, in sugarcane, in rice, bananas, etc.

Needless to say, as the Spanish government gained more foothold in the Philippine, the more the peasants lost theirs. And this s just the beginning.

The following years after the Spanish colonization saw how the economy became more and more liberalized and geared not towards self-efficiency, but production for exportation. The years saw how the vast majority continued to be tied to the shackles of pauperism as they continue to be the producers.

And on January 22, 1987, the farmers marched out of their fields and into the streets to remind the new administration that promised deliverance from evil, to take stock of their plight. Some 10,000 farmers made it to Mendiola Bridge. There, a rain of bullets greeted their demands. When the smoke cleared, 13 farmers lay dead.

2010. Twenty-three years hence, justice has not been meted out to the perpetrators of the massacre. Land reform is still the distant dream that farmers continue to run after.


As with every new day, Januaries represent hope against hope. Januaries promise change and progress, with the past sorted out for its lessons for the forward march. This year, our January surely didn’t start out in a christmassy humming. It opened the year with news of updates on the Maguindanao Massacre. It is feverish with election fever. It is a-buzz with NO-EL scenarios. It is politically charged wih insinuations true or otherwise.

But this January is no different from the last. Come to think of it, for the last 10 years or so, my Januaries have never had that languid nature I used to wake up to.

Januaries do represent hope, promise and change. However they may not always be of the explosive sort like the First Quarter Storm, Mendiola Massacre and EDSA 2. The hope, promise and change are strong under currents that vibrate throughout the whole year.

Maybe Januaries have never been as quiet as I would like to believe.

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