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Home Philippine News AGRI Federation to launch back-to-back publications in commemoration of Hacienda Luisita massacre

AGRI Federation to launch back-to-back publications in commemoration of Hacienda Luisita massacre

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AGRI Federation to launch back-to-back publications in commemoration of Hacienda Luisita massacre
The launch will take place on November 19, 2022, 3-5pm, at the University Hotel in UP Diliman.

Press statement – UMA

In commemoration of the Hacienda Luisita Massacre that took place 18 years ago today—November 16, 2004—Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA, Federation of Agricultural Workers) will launch two publications about Hacienda Luisita on Saturday, November 19.

“As historical distortion and state-funded misinformation become more and more the norm, propagating the stories of farmers and agricultural workers—their hardship and resistance—has become an ever urgent task,” explained UMA spokesperson John Milton ‘Ka Butch’ Lozande.

POEMS OF STRUGGLE

The first publication is a collection of poetry by the martyred revolutionary Kerima Lorena Tariman. Titled “Luisita,” the book is a gathering of the red fighter’s verses on the struggle for land waged by the hacienda’s farmers and agricultural workers, many of them composed while she was still a civilian activist.

It sports photographs by renowned photo-journalist Jes Aznar between poems; an introduction from Jose Maria Sison, chairperson emeritus of the International League of People’s Struggle (ILPS); and an afterword by fellow poet, novelist, and scholar Ramon Guillermo.

Tariman’s experience of struggle alongside the peasants of Hacienda Luisita had been extensive. She lived among them in the wake of the Noynoy Aquino regime’s anomalous ‘tambiolo’ system of assigning patches of land for distribution among agrarian reform beneficiaries in 2013.

She gave the bungkalan movement a renewed vitality. Bungkalan—the direct action of occupying disputed land so that peasants could grow food staples amid high-value plantation crops like sugarcane—had been a crucial form of resistance that sprouted in the picket-lines of the historic 2004 strike.

Tariman had also helped systematize the burgeoning archive of documents, legal paperwork, and grassroots narratives that came with a land dispute as long and as complicated as that of Hacienda Luisita, and provided guidance to an organization of local artists.

In the words of Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA) in a 2021 statement, Tariman had “contributed to the ongoing social investigation into the material conditions in which Luisita residents live and struggle.”

A MASSACRE IN PANELS

The second publication comes in the form of comics. “Tuloy ang Laban!” is a 16-page graphic retelling of the brutal material circumstances that pushed over 5,000 members of United Luisita Workers Union and Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union into conducting their historic strike in 2004.

Enjoying the support of thousands from all 11 barangays of the 6,453-hectare estate, the strike was met with police and military violence upon the prodding of then-Senator Noynoy Aquino, a member of the landgrabbing Cojuangco clan, and then-labor secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas.

The violence peaked after 10 days, resulting in a state-perpetrated bloodbath that killed seven peasants, among them two children; injured hundreds of farmers and agricultural workers; and disappeared sacadas, some of whom came all the way from Negros.

But the massacre failed to quell the peasantry’s organized dissent. The comics depicted the protestors’ resilience, even growing in number as support gushed forth in the aftermath of the violent attempt at dispersal. Their ranks swelled to as many as 10,000 to 20,000 people.

Printed primarily for free distribution among peasant communities especially in Tarlac, “Tuloy ang Laban!” has been uploaded on UMA’s Facebook page for public viewing. Copies will be sold at minimal cost to help finance its production and free dissemination in the countryside.

Drawn by comics artist Julius Villanueva, a member of Sama-samang Artista para sa Kilusang Agraryo (SAKA) and author of the acclaimed graphic novel series Ella Arcangel, from a script by UMA volunteer and Tinang 83 detainee Angelo Suarez, the comics is the third in the federation’s series of graphic retellings of anti-peasant state violence.

“We need to keep reminding each other of what farmers and agricultural workers have gone through in the past, and what they continue to go through in the present,” urged Ka Butch. “The more forms they take, be they comics or poetry, the more accessible we make them to larger swathes of working people.”

“Various regimes have only instrumentalized the Hacienda Luisita struggle for their personal economic and political gain—and never for the gain of farmers. We must strengthen the call for genuine agrarian reform and revitalize, as Kerima did, our desire to dismantle the hacienda system nationwide.”