(Agrarian and land issues and disputes continue to be faced by peasants and land rights activists in agricultural countries. In the Philippines, in line with the government’s anti-insurgency efforts, thousands of innocent lives have been lost. 22 January is also the 30th year of the Mendiola massacre, when state security forces rained down bullets on farmers demanding agrarian reform in front of the presidential palace, killing 13 and injuring dozens. Their only sin: fighting for their right to land.

This is a translation of a poem I wrote in Filipino. All mistakes in translation are mine)

 

Sweat was first used to water this land
the lowly man would awake at the break of dawn
to face a whole day
of being under the sun
and the burning of the skin
felt is the trembling of muscles
and the pain of joints
to enable life to flourish
so that there is food on the table
so there is something to bring to school
so there is something to carry to the fields
to again water
this land with sweat.

But it was tears that was used next to water this land
the lowly man cries
while the face is forced to the ground
by those who are like lords
who demand to possess what is not theirs
who want to own what is owned by others
heard are the guffaws of the haughty man while dancing with joy
while giggles the vulture
and pounding away happily is the gavel
while the tears of the howling lowly man
are used to water this land.

And thereupon blood was used to water this land
with bullets, shrieking,
that shatter the quiet
and fell those that stand
and cut each breath
the eyes of the lowly man are lifeless
and his heart no longer beats
while those who rule applaud
and the pulpit smiles while making the sign of the cross
and the crocodiles nod
while in the fields
reigns a deafening silence
and the blood continues to flow
and is used to water this land.

Yet the day will come
rumble shall the depths
of this abused land
and life will grow again
and the oppressed will be born again
gripping their burning rage
and the sickle of courage
and the hammer of righteousness
they will hunt down the oppressors
in their gigantic mansions
and, at the edge of the fields,
in graves which they themselves will dig,
shall be buried the oppressors.

And the oppressed shall no longer
bow to the despots
and smiles and laughter
will then be used to water this land.

(Filipino)

Ang pagdidilig ng lupa ng aba

Pawis ang unang idinilig sa lupang ito
gigising ang aba sa bukang-liwayway
upang humarap sa buong araw
ng pagbibilad ng likod
at pagsusunog ng balat
dama ang nangangatal na kalamnan
at sakit ng kasu-kasuhan
upang pagyabungin ang buhay
at nang may maipatong sa hapag-kainan
at nang may maibaon sa paaralan
at nang may madala sa kaparangan
upang muling diligin
ng pawis ang lupang ito.

Ngunit luha ang sumunod na idinilig sa lupang ito
humahagulgol ang abang nakahandusay
habang ang mukha’y pilit iminumudmod
ng mga nagpapakapanginoon
na umaangkin ng hindi kanila
na umaari sa pag-aari ng iba
dinig ang halakhak ng palalong sumasayaw sa ligaya
habang bumubungisngis ang buwitre
at masayang ipinupukpok ang malyete
habang ang luha ng abang tumatangis
ay idinidilig sa lupang ito.

At pagdaka’y dugo na ang idinilig sa lupang ito
sumasagitsit ang mga punglo
na pumupunit sa kawalang-ingay
at bumubuwal sa nakatindig
at pumuputol ng hininga
ang mata ng aba ay nakatirik
at ang puso ay hindi na pumipintig
habang pumapalakpak ang naghahari
at nakangiting nagku-krus ang pulpito
at ang mga buwaya’y tumatango
habang sa kaparangan
namamayani ang nakabibinging katahimikan
at patuloy na dumadanak ang dugo
na siyang idinidilig sa lupang ito.

Subalit ang araw ay darating
na uugong ang pinakailaliman
ng lupang nilapastangan
at muling yayabong ang buhay
at muling iluluwal ng lupa ang mga aba
na tangan ang nagpupuyos na galit
at ang karit ng katapangan
at ang maso ng katarungan
hahabulin ang mga palalo
sa naglalakihang mga palasyo
At, sa dulo ng malawak na kaparangan,
Sa hukay na sila rin ang gagawa,
Doon ililibing ang mga palalo.

At ang aba ay hindi na
muling yuyuko sa mga lapastangan
at mga ngiti at halakhak
ang siya nang ididilig sa lupang ito.

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