The Journey of Ka Oyong

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Ka Oyong (second from left) discusses land tenure issues with CARRD Assistant Director Joy Demaluan (left) and farmers from Bgy. Pooc, Balayan, Batangas

Aster De Alban 

CARRD’s AR work in Batangas can be best summed up in Gregorio “Ka Oyong” Ellao’s journey towards land acquisition.

Ka Oyong was born on November 28, 1947 to farmer-parents in Gimalas, Balayan, Batangas. He started assisting his father in farm work at the young age of 13. In 1970, Ka Oyong met and married Tomasa Leonardo Ellao, the woman who would be his partner for life and the mother to his five children – Froilan, Leoncio, Margarita, Ramona and Marivic.

Despite the rigors of farm life and his growing brood, Ka Oyong would find time to participate and assist AR advocates and fellow farmers in pushing for the passage of R.A. 6657 or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL). Like the thousands of farmers in the country, his hopes of a just and better future were bolstered through the enactment of the said law in June 1988. This was also the start of a beautiful relationship between Ka Oyong and CARRD.

CARRD, cognizant of Ka Oyong’s potential invited the latter to be an active participant in its various endeavors particularly in its paralegal efforts in the area. Ka Oyong became a member of the Center’s original group of paralegals trained to assist fellow farmers in the realization of their dreams to own the land they and their ascendants have been tilling for decades. Up to this day, despite having successfully acquired his own parcel of land in 1993, Ka Oyong remains to be one of CARRD’s most trusted and hardworking paralegals.

Ka Oyong likewise became a member of the NAGKASAMA MPC, one of CARRD’s partner cooperatives whose constituency is composed of farmer beneficiaries in Western Batangas. Ka Oyong’s admirable disposition, active participation and almost self-deprecating attitude earned for him the lasting respect of his co-members in the organization.

When asked of what he thinks of the existing land reform program in the country Ka Oyong said “Sa marunong sa batas ay maganda ang repormang agraryo pero sa hindi ito ay palso”, thereby reiterating his belief that every farmer must be given the benefit of fully comprehending the basics of the law and its implementing program, CARP.

Although, grateful that his dream of owning a parcel of land has been realized, Ka Oyong still considers the fact that all his five children are now professionals with Nautical Science, Computer Programming, Computer Science and Customs Administation degrees as his and his wife’s sweetest triumph.

Ka Oyong has this to say to his fellow farmers “Lakasan pa ang loob at wag padala sa panghihina para makamtan ang inaasam na lupa. Kailangan din ay pahalagahan ang lupang nakamit at mas dodoblihen ang sipag para gumanda ang ani.”

 

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Organic Rice Farmer Sees Youngest Son Graduate

Aster De Alban

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Nanay Ofelia dela Cruz chats with former Provincial Agrarian Reform Officer Rodrigo Hoderial

On March 2007, organic rice farmer Ofelia Dela Cruz saw her youngest child graduate from college. This was her sixth trip to the stage as one of the proud parents.

Nay Ofelia recounts how hard it was to support all of her seven children with the family’s meager income. Both she and her husband are rice farmers in Brgy. Salngan, Passi, Iloilo. It was difficult enough to put food on their table, but they were steadfast in their goal to send all of their children to school. Farming is their life and no matter how noble they consider this livelihood, they were determined to give their children a college degree.

“Debts were piling up. Our organic rice produce would only get us at the most 7 pesos per kilo from traders. They would then sell this for about 30 pesos per kilo in the market. It can be very frustrating. But that is how it is. We cannot really ask for a higher price because they might not buy our product in the end, she said in Filipino.

In a study conducted by the Philippine Development Assistance Program (PDAP) it was mentioned that there has been a growing demand for chemical-free products like muscovado and organic rice. Considering this, one would think that organic farmers will reap in bigger benefits. Nay Ofelia said that they do not really see any difference in the farm level. Assistance usually comes from civil society organizations like the Center for Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (CARRD).

CARRD has an ongoing organic rice production project with the Salngan Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Multi-Purpose Cooperative (SARBMPC) of which, Nay Ofelia is a member. This project provided SARBMPC with their own solar dryer. A rice mill exclusively for organic rice is set to be built this month. This will be a big help in getting certification for their organic rice since requirements are very strict.

With all these, Nay Ofelia hopes that they will eventually get a better price. A higher income would mean her fellow rice farmers will afford a better standard of living and more of their children finishing college.