The Success of Collective Action and the Future
In 2017, residents of Lupang Ramos reclaimed 51 hectares of land for a bungkalan, a communal farming activity that ensures the land is being used properly and that the residents have enough to eat. One resident recalls that the area back then was practically unused: What wasn’t a garbage dump was dense overgrowth. “Pwede ka magtago at ‘di masisilayan ng araw,” she says.
The bungkalan wasn’t without its problems, though. To get support, KASAMA-LR went through various loopholes with the DA and DAR before they managed to secure recognition, equipment, and funding. The group also engaged the caretaker in a dialogue to ensure that they were willing to allow the land to be used for communal farming. It took months of preparation before things were finally ready.
During the bungkalan, members of BUKLOD, and even some policemen, tried to stop the residents, but to no success. In one episode, 40 men armed with bolos tried to intimidate the farmers. Gunshots were fired during the night.
Today, Lupang Ramos stands as an example of the success of collective farming and self-sufficiency. What was once dense forest is now fields for corn and other vegetables. What was once a garbage site is land where residents built their homes, permanent structures of hollow blocks and concrete.
Ka Miriam goes about her day, though sometimes she complains that all the incidents with the kontras leave her with no time to do the laundry. She has three children, two of whom are taking up master’s degrees. Her youngest is five years old.
“Isang beses,” Ka Miriam told me as we were drinking coffee, “may dati akong kaklase, engineer na siya ngayon, nagtanong sa akin kung paano ba naging tama na ipamahagi yung lupa ng libre. Bakit hindi nalang naming bilhin?”
“Ang sabi ko, kung kwekwentahin mo kung magkano na ang kinita naming sa lupa, lampas lampas milyon na iyon. Kung titingnan mo kung gaano katagal na nagtatrabaho sa lupa yung mga magsasaka, lampas lampas na siya sa kung magkano ito. Hindi kami nangunguha ng lupa. Binabalik lang namin yung lehitimong sa amin.”
“Sabi ko, kasi English siya magsalita, kaya in-English ko rin: It’s not a matter of money. It’s a matter of dignity.”
Streamers adorn the entrance of Lupang Ramos, calling for a solution to the fundamental problem of farmers: agrarian reform.