Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Labora et Labora

I am supposed to post a discussion on the Fourth Principle: Respect for Laws and Rules. Yet, the homily of our parish priest during our monthly mass in the Municipal Center is the one playing in my mind. He was elaborating on the two virtues of San Isidro Labrador, which is the motto of the Benedictines, "Ora et Labora".

Father Dan mentioned a very important point that I want to pick up for our reflection. He observed that many farm laborers do not anymore go to Sunday Masses to worship because they are not allowed by the corporation that hires them to be absent even for an hour from work. While others are in the churches praying, many are on the field working on a holiday. This practice reflects the kind of philosophy that this corporation has, which is in contrast to the employer of San Isidro who allowed him to pass by the church to pray before going to work.

I don't know if the reason behind is merely because of the exigency of scientific farming. But, knowing that the management are coming from an atheistic culture, I suspect there is a carry over of that atheistic culture and worse since it is being imposed on the laborers in a systemic and discreet manner. What if the people would defy the management? What if they would dialogue with the management on this matter? What if the priest himself would dare the management? Will the situation change? Will the management compromise? Will the laborers be liberated and grateful by showing themselves in the church?

The Municipality of Banaybanay, where I reside and work as government employee, is known as the Rice Granary of Davao Oriental. Being abundant in rice, we expect that people would not suffer the rice crisis experienced by other non-rice growing municipalities. However, that is not always the case here. A number of families are still without rice on their table. More than six hundred hectares out of the two thousand hectares, more or less, of ricefields are being grown with hybrid rice for seed production, not for food. Many people are mere laborers. Even landowners turn into laborers and their lands are rented out to corporations. As a consequence, these landowners do not own their produce anymore; and so they buy high priced rice from the market with the very low daily wage earned at PhP 80.00.

This alarming situation, though unfortunate, people would say: "It's better than nothing." With the soaring prices of farm inputs and without government's subsidy, people would just be contented with the very minimal income they have since, in fact, it is better than what the government is offering. What if the local government would subsidize the farmers' farm inputs? What if the provincial government would produce organic fertilizers to lessen the burden of high priced synthetic fertilizers? What if the government will buy farm equipments to be rented out by farmers at lower fee? Initiatives like these must be given serious consideration and immediate implementation or else the government loses its very essence as an agency that serves the common good.

When people are forced to work in order just to survive, they would surely work and work and work. Instead of Ora et Labora, it will turn into Labora et Labora. The Egypt experience of the Israelites is a classical example of this. Shall we wait for ten plagues to occur before we act? Shall we wait for God to appear to us on a Burning Bush before we realize our mission to liberate the people from this situation? I hope we give heed to the challenge of our Parish priest. Something must be done and it must be done NOW before it is too late!

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