To the country’s ‘middle class’ (A letter from the hinterlands)

You might be having fun with your family and relatives who just got home from the city or abroad. You might be enjoying the midnight sales on those malls we have never gone to. And you might be savoring the taste of lechon and hamon and all the food we cannot offer our children this holiday season. This year and in the next coming years, the gap between our sector and yours might get wider and the tendencies and crisis of being blinded with the country and it’s people’s situation might be intensified. And so today, we write to you.

We wish to offer you more rice produced and processed in the country through our very hands next year but we lack fields to plant palay. Our president seems to have no plan to fix the agrarian reform system in the country by pushing and implementing a genuine agrarian reform law. This is despite the fact that we comprise the majority of the country’s population, 75% to be exact. And our landlords have instructed us to plant pineapple instead of rice, and fruit trees instead of sugar, thus converting our vast fields to corporate-owned plantations. Also, conversion of agricultural land to commercial use for the benefit of the country’s elite and the imperialists might get faster under the current administration.

We wish to offer you high-value crops in large harvests but we lack tools and scientific and more advanced knowledge. Apparently, the government is not investing much, not even enough, for the agricultural advancement of this agricultural, although backward, country. The Department of Agriculture could not even arrest the massive crop infestation problem in Northern Samar, in the whole Samar island, and in many other parts of the country. Instead, they are introducing varieties that must have affected the nutrition of our soil.

We wish to send our children in schools, especially at the tertiary level, but we have nothing to pay for the now even higher school fees. Our little Juan’s and Maria’s are so enthusiastic to finish their studies, they are willing to walk two or more hours a day just to reach their school. But today, we are not certain if they could even finish high school after it was added with two more years. And in the practical side where we strive for survival, they’d employ themselves as cheap farm workers earning way-way below the poverty threshold.

We wish to greet the first day of the year 2018 with a complete family but I lost a family member after he was shot dead while he was working in the field and my neighbor’s husband was illegally arrested, both of them are tagged as members of the New People’s Army by no less than the government troops. We must admit that we have joined several mass demonstrations but it wasn’t because we are NPAs but because we want to voice out our sorrows and griefs of which we mentioned above. We have also seen members from your ranks during those mobilizations.

And just like you, we wish to have peace in this country but President Duterte terminated the peace negotiations between his government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). His government did not even honor the signed agreements between the two parties, this includes the respect for human rights and international humanitarian law. They were so close to agreeing on free land distribution in the country but Duterte listened more to his army than to the people they should be serving.

We are tired of being called ‘lazy’ when we, in fact, spend most of our time under the scorching heat of the sun or ignorant when education is actually inaccessible to us. We are tired of this political, economic and cultural barrier that exists between our sector to the other sectors of this society.

We have heard over the radio that a new tax reform package has been approved by the president. We don’t know much about it, but it sure will increase prices of commodities and services which you also consume. Sooner or later, our economy will drop while the country’s few elites gain much more than we lose.

The next time that we meet in the streets, in the marketplace or in a public hospital, I hope you see us in a different perspective now after reading this note. But the people in the hinterlands need not your sympathy but for you to join us in our struggle towards national democracy. We have long extended our arms for your embrace.

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