Sumilao Walk

November 16, 2007

This morning my wife, Leni and I, together with hundreds of other sympathizers joined the Sumilao Marchers from the Naga City boundary to Plaza Quince Martires. The segment covered around 6 kilometers — a very short distance compared to the 1100 kilometers or so covered by the group, which started from Sumilao, Bukidnon. (It did not seem short to me. I was too tired to stay on for the rest of the short program.)

Looking back, I must say that the Naga City segment of the march was probably short in distance but long on the lessons and insights that we took away from the experience. I was pleasantly surprised with how the people of the city responded. There is really something different in the Nagueno! He can be counted upon to make a stand and choose what is just and what is right. He will walk the extra mile, literally and figuratively, if called upon.

The marchers included old women, young men and simple folks who are victims of the inequities in our society. While many of us would have given up the fight if we were in the same situation, they have hang on to that slim hope that their grievances would be addressed if they try “hard enough”. We hope and pray that their pleas will be heeded. But even if they won’t be, I believe they still have succeeded. Many times in the past, we have closed our eyes on the injustices and inequities in our midst. The marchers have reminded us, that the least we could do is to stand up and be counted. Oftentimes, we hesitate because we are afraid to displease people who we might need to count on, at a future time. (This is especially true with politicians!). But if only we can right the wrong now, probably we might not have the need for them in the future as they no longer have the influence over us. The Sumilao March mirrors the general picture of our society today. Poor people continue to suffer. Influential people, fearful of the loss of their pelf and influence, idly sit back and watch where the wind will blow before they cast their lots. Meanwhile, the decision makers wait for these influential people to make their move so they can fittingly respond. This is how I look at the Sumilao problem. This is how problems of inequities come to be.

The Sumilao march is scheduled to end in Malacanang before the second week of December, after covering 1500+ kilometers. I do not know what awaits them. But I am certain of one thing. They have restored my faith in the Filipino human spirit. They may not be as many as I would have wished them to be. But they have sown the seeds — if not in the many places they have marched through, at least they have done so in Naga City.

10 Responses to Sumilao Walk

  1. ice says:

    thank you Mayor Jesse for seeing the point of the march which the national government is blind, your insights inspire me.

  2. gari says:

    Thank you Mayor Jesse for the support and showing us that there is still something to look forward to in the government service amidst this frustrating times.

  3. Raul Socrates C. Banzuela says:

    Dear Jesse,

    May pag-asa sa bayang ito! your joining the sumilao march and walking that 6-km segment was quite inspiring and quite significant. I have not heard of any local government official who has done that since the march started in Oct 10. Just when Ruben Torres was distorting in the Correspondent the concept of local autonomy as basis for the farmers’ predicament, you sent a strong message to the contrary. Local autonomy should serve rather than undermine Social Justice for it is a higher value. Precisely the LGC itself safeguards this principle by saying that land reclassification should never undermine CARP. As further safeguard, while land reclassification power was give to the LGU, conversion was given to DAR. Your joining the march illumined this much abused local government’s power of land reclassification and put it in the proper perspective. You were also sending a strong message to the national government to once and for all do what the 1987 Constitution says and implement the social justice laws that were enacted since. That Constitution and CARL outlined to us a development strategy that has never been seriously implemented from Cory’s to the present administration: the importance agrarian reform as foundation for the country’s industrialization and development. I hope leaders like you would eventually get to redeem this country and put it on track.

  4. Schumey says:

    Thank you for being sensitive to the plight of these farmers. I hope more LGOs see the meaning of this march.

  5. jesserobredo says:

    Raul: Difficult as it may seem, I guess we need to convince more people to join us. Otherwise, this will be a lonely fight.

  6. jesserobredo says:

    gari: many are watching in the sidelines. do not lose hope. we were bystanders once. Here we are now, “walking” with you.

  7. some sacrifices are worth doing. i believe the sumilao march is more than a symbolic protest. it is a quest for justice. perhaps, filipinos are still not trully free from the bondage of the soil. perhaps quasi-feudalism still exists in this country. i hope the sumilao walk is the start of the journey towards true land reform.

  8. The Sumilao farmers are not asking for charity but are asking to be given back their land that’s been ceritified as theirs by the previous Philippine government and is therefore morally theirs by right. The Filipino nation must help them achieve their quest — the nation must not allow their government to betray the Sumilao farmers again!

    Give back the Sumilao farmers their land!

  9. edna says:

    reading your reflection, i feel proud to be a resident of naga – with you as our leader. i know how you tried to make local governance as pro-people as possible. and now, with your stand on the sumilao farmers, i feel prouder of you even more. yes, this may be a lonely fight, but it is better than not fighting at all. it is better than just to let injustice prevail without any whimper at all. at least, they (the unjust ones) know that there are still people whose principles cannot be bought and local officials who have not been swallowed by the system. God bless you, Mayor, and may the light never die in you.

  10. […] November 18, 2007 in Village Tickler 2007 The Sumilao March mirrors the general picture of our society today. Poor people continue to suffer. Influential people, fearful of the loss of their pelf and influence, idly sit back and watch where the wind will blow before they cast their lots. Meanwhile, the decision makers wait for these influential people to make their move so they can fittingly respond. This is how I look at the Sumilao problem. This is how problems of inequities come to be. – Naga City Mayor Jesse Robredo on Sumilao Walk […]

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