KIDAPAWAN CITY – “Can you ask her to wait for me for a few days? I will be coming home soon, maybe Thursday or Friday but it would depend if the problem  here would be solved ,” said Lita Lamada, who was talking to her husband in  Ilonggo  over the phone when this writer approached her on Tuesday noon of April 5.

Lita Lamada (left) along with other farmers inside the Spotswood Methodist Center in Kidapawan City. KEITH BACONGCO ( 5 April 2016 ).

Lita Lamada (left) along with other farmers inside the Spotswood Methodist Center in Kidapawan City. KEITH BACONGCO ( 5 April 2016 ).

Lamada was referring to her daughter who wants to go to work but cannot leave her daughter alone. Lamada and her family, who lives in the remote village of Barangay Cabalantian, is the one watching over her granddaughter when her daughter is at work.

She is among the at least a thousand of men and women who are still sheltered inside the Spotswood Methodist Center  following the violent protest’s dispersal on April 1.

Lamada said that she was made to believe that they would be coming home on the same day of March 28 after getting a sack of rice from the provincial government.

“Hambal sa amon, mag kuha lang kami tag isa ka sako nga bugas nga ipanghatag daw ni Gov. Lala tapos mapauli man kami dayon. Ako, wala ko kabalo nga mag-rally gali (We were told that we would only be getting a sack of rice from Gov. Lala then we would go home. I have no idea that we will be joining a rally),” Lamada pointed out as she was about to scoop a vegetable soup from a caldron along with eight other people, who came from the same village.

But a stocky guy, in his mid-20s, butt in during the interview saying:” Ako nag adto ko dire kay kabalo ko na mag-rally kami kay tungod sa kalisud sa among kinabuhi didto sa Arakan, wala may gitabang ang gobyerno (I went here to join the rally because our life in Arakan is very hard. We didn’t receive any help from the government).”

He refused to give his name though.and scooped vegetable soup into his bowl of rice and continued eating.

Behind them were dozens of people lying on the tarpaulin laid on the ground. Another stretch of tarpaulin is hoisted with sticks and ropes tied on the mango trees.

This has been the temporary shelter of the farmers who joined the protest on March 27 and ended on April 1 following a violent dispersal that left three protesters dead and injured dozens of others.

As this writer was interviewing farmers sheltered in Spotswood, , the loud speakers in the middle of the compound were broadcasting the session of the Sangguniang Panglungsod of Davao City as they were deliberating the approval of the P31.5 million assistance for the farmers here.

The session was covered lived by a radio station in Davao City and relayed through its sister station here.

Near the gate, a small kiosk serves as a medical station  where people could ask for any medical assistance if they needed it.

The farmers, who are backed by militant organizations, demanded  subsidy (mao ba ni ang right terms) of 15,000 sacks of rice from the provincial government as villagers in the rural areas are now suffering from hunger due to  the impact of the worsening El Nino.

Lamada, in her mid 40s, admitted that farming is indeed tough these days as their crops were damaged due to the extreme heat.

She added that her husband was left in their village to care for their children and grandchildren. “Kamoteng  kahoy na lang amon saligan karon kay pigado gid, pati mais nan a tig-angon budlay na kay wala gid harvest. Gikaon pa gid sang ilaga iban nga mais.(We are now eating cassava during meals because even the milled corn is scarce because there’s no harvest. Some were eaten by rats).”

Underneath the fruit trees Jun Lino from Barangay Bagumbayan in Magpet, sits on a slab of wood as he tends on  a big pot of rice, cooked using pieces of wood they gathered inside the compound.

Lino said the big pot of rice could feed at least 30 of his fellow farmers from the same village. The rice was provided by the ‘organizers,’ he added.

Like many of his colleagues, the Manuvu  farmer admitted that he was supposed to harvest his  two-hectare corn farm but was damaged due to extreme heat and rat infestation.

Lino disclosed that most of them in the village are now depending on root crops. He also sells banana for a living.

“Naa ko tanom rubber pero upat pa lang ka tuig, dili pa ko maka tapping. Lisud gyud panginabuhi pero maayo na lang naa koy gamay nga tanum nga saging (I have planted some rubber trees but it’s only four years old. I could not yet harvest the sap. Good thing, I planted some bananas),” he told Mindanews.

However, like Lamada, he too, didn’t know that they would be joining a protest.

Lino disclosed that it was his neighbors who invited him to come to this city to get a sack of rice from the provincial government.

“Gusto na ko mouli kay ang akong mga anak didto ga hulat. Pero di man kami pagawason, naay gabantay sa gate gaingon nga  hulaton na lang kadali kay ipanghatag naman daw ng bugas (I already want to go home because my children are waiting for me but we are not allowed to go out. The people manning the gate tell us to wait for a while because rice will be distributed soon),”said the father of four in an interview on Tuesday noon.

Farmers take rest under a makeshift tent. KEITH BACONGCO (5 April 2016)

Farmers take rest under a makeshift tent. KEITH BACONGCO (5 April 2016)

Govt resources not enough

In Arakan, where most of the protesting farmers came from, Mayor Rubino admitted to Mindanews that the local government unit’s resources is not enough to address the impact of the dry spell.

Rubino disclosed  P2.5 million has been allotted as a quick respond fund in the municipality to address the impact of the drought.  (Pampalit ba ni uf rice sa NFA??)

The amount, he said will be divided to at least 15,000 families in Arakan.

Rubino said the LGU has already paid an initial amount of P2.5 million to the National Food Authority (NFA) in this city for the purchase of rice for the first two quarters this year.

The rice subsidy was supposed to be delivered to the municipality before the month of March ends, he added.

However, the delivery was delayed due to the protests in the city, Rubino claimed.

Since November last year, Rubino said they have been distributing three kilos of rice to ‘walk-in’ residents.
The mayor admitted that this year’s dry spell is the worst to have hit not just the town but the whole province as well.
Rubino disclosed that he has been coordinating with barangay captains to facilitate the return of farmers to their respective villages.

He added that the provincial government has been providing dump trucks to transport those who want to go home.

Some of those who returned in Arakan on Tuesday, Rubino said, were served with free meals by the LGU  before sending them back to their respective villages.

Furthermore, the local government handed three kilos of rice and canned goods to the villagers before sending them home.

Once the rice subsidy from the NFA will be delivered, Rubino said they will distribute the rice to the villagers including  those protesters  who have already received some after coming home from Kidapawan.

The rolling terrain of Arakan. KEITH BACONGCO (5 April 2016)

The rolling terrain of Arakan. KEITH BACONGCO (5 April 2016)

A woman farmer, who only identified herself as Magdalena from Barangay Dalag of Arakan, told Mindanews that they have not yet received any rice subsidy from the local government.

Since they were in a dire need of rice, Magdalena and her neighbors boarded a truck to this city on March 28 in the hope of getting a sack of rice from the provincial government, and not knowing that they would end up in the picket line.

“Abi namo, magkuha lang kami bugas na ipanghatag daw ni Gov. Lala. Tag isa daw kami sako bugas unya mag-uli daw dayon (We thought we would only be getting a sack of rice  to be given by Gov. Lala then we would go home),” she said in an interview.

In her mid 50s, Magdalena was with her brother and  her two-year old grandson when they came to this city.

“Ang problema ani karon kung kana ba gyud na mga bugas para ba na sa amoa kay hantud karon di pa man ginapang hatag. Kay kung para gyud na sa amoa, gihatag na unta na sa amoa pag-abot sa mga sako para kauli na kami (Are the rice here really for us? Because if it is really for us, it should have been distributed by now),” she said in an interview on Tuesday noon.

Magdalena said she is looking after her grandson since her nephew is working as a house help in Calinan, Davao City. “Wala man gud may mabinlan didto sa amoa.”

Like many other farmers, she said they were not able to harvest from their farm because it was damaged by extreme heat.

Even their bananas could not be eaten because of some diseases due to the dry spell, she added.

“Kenanglan gyud sa mga katawhan karon pagkaon. Lisud gyud amo panginabuhi, unta matabangan kami (What people need now is food. We barely have any source of income. I hope we get help) ,” Magdalena appeals as she feeds her grandson with a spoon of rice and ginamos. #