Felicity and Luisita: Can the Subaltern Speak?

24 Apr 2010 (Sat) at 12:45 pm 9 comments

Gaudencio Sebastian - Felicity's video on Luisita

A former Luisita farm worker in yellow. Coincidence? Or subliminal gesture?

Ang sinabi ng mga magsasaka sa Hacienda Luisita
(What the farmers told me in Hacienda Luisita)
Director: Felicity Tan
Cast:
Gaudencio Sebastian, Trinidad Galang, Carmen Castro, Clarita Baniqued, Jose Cabilangan, Manuel Bais, Rey Atienza
2010

Res ipsa loquitur. Luisita speaks for itself, journalist and blogger Felicity Tan says. Unfortunately, Hacienda Luisita cannot speak for itself. Acres of farmland (alongside malls and country clubs) cannot talk. This is one of the rare times when you can say: it’s that simple, and at the same time, it’s not simple at all.

In fairness to Tan, her interviewees make a point. Even if the lands were given to them, with the dearth in government livelihood support (farm-to-market roads, seeds, irrigation, fertilizer, industrialization and technologies, etc), it all goes to waste. They are farmers, of course, and they know how to cultivate. As the popular folk song goes, Magtanim ay ‘di biro. You can’t just drop a seed onto the ground, you need to nourish it with persistent care. The same goes for agrarian reform. Wasn’t this shortcoming among the glaring failures of Cory Aquino’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP)? This is precisely why many of the farmers who supposedly benefited from CARP ended up selling their lands anyway. In fact, at the end of Felicity’s video, her interviewees admit to planning the same. “Pag binigay [ni Noynoy] sa’kin yung lupa,” says Clarita Baniqued, “ibebenta ko rin sa kanya. Kasi hindi ako marunong mag-ano ng lupa.”

Agrarian reform is not just the redistribution of lands. It is about supporting farmers, making technology accessible, educating farmers about agriculture, and above all, the national industrialization of the sector. It can only begin when tillers till their own land. Kaya malinaw ang panawagan ng mga magsasaka’t manggagawa—hindi lang lupa, kundi LUPA, SAHOD, TRABAHO at KARAPATAN.

It’s also irritating how Tan uses the term “mga magsasaka” as if these people—who number in the thousands—are not a diverse group. She maligns Luisita union president Rene Galang for speaking on behalf of the farmers (which he can, as an elected official), but commits the same crime herself, when she passes the crown of “truth” to her interviewees. She even shares the crown herself, making it seem like she just waltzed into Luisita with her camcorder, randomly knocking on doors, seeking out the “other voices” on the ground, a Dora the truth-explorer of sorts. Interviews like this do not happen without contacts or networks, shoots like this do not happen spontaneously, and one cannot just saunter into gated, heavily-secured properties like Luisita. To claim that this “truth” sprang without intervention is like saying that sugarcane sprang on its own in the Luisita fields, begging to be harvested by anyone who cares to drop by.

Oh, and a disclosure—Felicity is a Noynoy Aquino supporter. She also “hearts” Risa Hontiveros, who, in the CARP debate, is the polar opposite of  Satur Ocampo (who is maligned with allegations of corruption in Felicity’s video). Her Twitter account makes one say: Res ipsa loquitur. That Felicity did not disclose this in her video is odd. Or scheming.

Felicity on Twitter

What Felicity Tan failed to disclose about her video is that she is a Noynoy Aquino/Risa Hontiveros supporter. Clearly, her perspective manifests in the video. "Neutral" journalism? Is there such a thing?

Title card for Felicity's video on Luisita

The lone title card in Felicity's Luisita video. "Ang nangyari, ayon sa mga magsasaka"—meaning it's the truth, and representative of the sentiments of "the farmers"? Note the typography, both reminiscent of EDSA 1986 and the new iamninoy campaigns. Again, coincidence? Or subliminal?

The truth is, a strike is never fun, and surely workers would not be faulted for thinking that life before the strike (meaning, when they had jobs and a “salary” no matter how measly or unjust) was “better,” because it probably was. A strike is difficult, and entails a massive sacrifice among its participants. In any strike, moreover, there are always workers with weaker resolves, who flake from the strike or even capitulate to the administration. None of this is fun, but strikes happen because workers cannot accept the status quo any longer, and therefore assert their rights.

It is also disheartening to see Felicity’s interviewees fault their Leftist co-workers for bringing in “new faces” to Luisita. A strike, especially one as landmark and high-profile as Luisita, is never a mere internal issue. It is something that involves the whole nation. The Luisita case is representative of how farmers and workers are being treated in the country, and its outcome will surely affect the rest of the country’s haciendas. These “new faces” lent solidarity, raised awareness on the issue, and even made Luisita’s workers an inspiration to other farmers who are under the same dire situation, and made each other feel, to borrow the words of EDSA 1986, na “hindi sila nag-iisa.”

Of course, there are other “new faces” involved in this issue as well—faces like then Department of Labor and Employment Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas, who legally paved the way for the violent dispersal, as well as the hundreds of “new faces” clad in PNP blue and army green, which were brought in to shoot at these farmers. Going back in history, there were also other “new faces,” some of them mestizo, which gave the Cojuangcos “ownership” of the land.

“Bakit nila kami tutulungan?” asks farmer Rey Atienza, so wary of outside support, as if people in the Philippines are cold, as if our children’s textbooks do not boast of our bayanihan spirit. “Kung suporta yang mga yan,” says the yellow-shirted Gaudencio Sebastian, “dapat ang mga tao, hindi sila naghihirap,” as if the farmers’ supporters were fairy godmothers who can just eradicate poverty in a snap—which, oddly enough, is a Noynoy Aquino promise found on his campaign brochure: “kakain tayo nang sapat dahil sasagana ang ani ng mga magsasaka,” as if food security was that simple.

Even during the age of slavery, plantation owners offered their slaves token kindness in order to maintain the slave-owner relations. The brilliance of capitalism is how it makes oppression so palatable that one barely notices it, even enjoys it. The dynamic of capitalism (which emerged from its predecessor feudalism, still evident in Luisita) is its twin fangs of ruthlessness and philanthropy, corporate greed alongside corporate social responsibility. That does not make it any less of a monster. In the case of Luisita, farmers may have been given benefits—all salary-deductible, leaving one with take home pay amounting to the grand total of P9.50—but that kind of tokenism will never justify the lopsidedness of the hacienda’s feudal relations.

Five minutes and a handful of people cannot do justice to an issue so complex like Luisita, which involves thousands of people and decades of history. Sure, Felicity’s motherhood statement sounds nice—“the human voice is the most powerful testimony to any human experience“—but humanism falls short in the face of systematized inhumanity. Which particular voices and what particular soundbytes are to be included in this testimony? The human voice is a singular instance, but the human experience spans long periods of time, and is a multiverse of voices, actions, blood and sweat. The human voice is raw data, but the human experience is an analysis, a history which is necessarily informed by ideological position.

Res ipsa loquitur. If only these farmlands—a mute witness to decades of sweat, tears, and yes, blood—could talk. They can’t. But farmers can. In Umani, a 2005 anthology of peasants’ literary works, they do so eloquently. “Kung nangungusap ang lupa,” says a Cordillera farmer, “magsasalita siya para sa atin… Tayo at ang lupa ay iisa.”

Res ipsa loquitur. #

– – – – –

APPENDIX

No Makasao Ti Daga

by a farmer from the Cordilleras

Kung nangungusap ang lupa
Magsasalita siya para sa atin
Sasabihin niya ang sinasabi natin
Na panahon ang naghubog sa buhay
Sa pagbubuklod sa atin:
Pagod natin ang nagpayaman sa lupa;
Tayo at ang lupa ay iisa

Pero sino ang nakikinig?
Nakikinig kaya sila,
Sila na hindi mo nakikita,
Sila na nakatira sa malayo,
Pero kinikilala na nagmamay-ari ng lupa
Dahil pangalan ang nakasulat sa papel

Dahil sa likod ng papel na ito,
Nakatayo ang mga tao
Na nagsasabi ng mga nakatatakot na salita;
Mga tao na may kapangyarihan
Na magpaputok at pumatay,
Mga tao na may kapangyarihan
Na dukutin ang mga asawa at anak natin

Kung makapagsasalita ang lupa
Magsasalita siya para sa atin
Dahil ang lupa ay tayo!

from Umani: Mga likhang sining ng buhay at pakikibaka ng mga magsasaka para sa lupa at kalayaan
Edited by National Artist for Literature Dr. Bienvenido Lumbera
2005

*apologies to Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak

Entry filed under: Documentary, Edgar Allan Paule, Filipino films, Short films. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

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9 Comments Add your own

  • 1. angela  |  30 Apr 2010 (Fri) at 1:03 pm

    feel ko ang tula!

  • 2. Hacienda Luisita and subaltern speech « Tanglad  |  04 May 2010 (Tue) at 3:52 pm

    […] Edgar Allan Paule of the blog Viewer Discretion pretty much articulates my thoughts about the short film Ang sinabi ng mga magsasaka sa Hacienda Luisita [What the formers told me in Hacienda Luisita]. […]

  • 3. Edward  |  08 May 2010 (Sat) at 9:45 am

    that’s just how yellow works. subliminal, brainwashing, unidrect (just like their solutions), and even deceptive.

  • 4. ian de vera  |  20 May 2010 (Thu) at 4:52 pm

    Kelangan pa ba magdagdagan ang paghihirap at mga nasayang na panahon at buhay?

  • 5. Felicity  |  30 Jul 2010 (Fri) at 6:21 pm

    Hey just saw this. Just wanted to clarify that this was the second of two parts, and the first part clarified it, and in the blog entry where I posted it there was a link to the original, so I don’t think I was being deceptive. Cheers!

  • 6. Felicity  |  30 Jul 2010 (Fri) at 6:28 pm

    oh and by the way, i have no stand on agrarian reform. i really don’t. inlike risa hontiveros because she has guts and she’s a woman’s woman. i like her stand to repro health. i have no opinion on agricultural reform, just the way media treats issues of agricultural reform (there is a tendency to be populist, which is imbalanced reporting). the video was put together and shown on my blog after some prodding from people who read my blog. notice the first entry in my blog (where i say i am a noynoy aquino supporter) did not mention the video until the comments section.

    also, just to play devil’s advocate: here’s a little logic i like to call “just because post hoc doesn’t necessarily ergo propter hoc.”

    you assume that i take the “risa side” on the HL issue because I like risa. that’s a logical fallacy, because the other possibility is I like risa because of her take on the HL issue.

    So, how can one close the jump on either assumption? Based on my TWO (not one) blog entries on the issue, you can’t. because I do not give my opinion on agrarian reform, just a) in the first entry, the treatment of the media on the issue and b) what i heard from the farmers I interviewed. Neither shows my opinion on agrarian reform, and with your assumptions as they stand, you’d be very surprised what I think.

    Cheers mate.

  • 7. Felicity  |  30 Jul 2010 (Fri) at 6:31 pm

    on the farmer in yellow: coincidence. also, the uniforms in HL are yellow. you should go and see for yourself that yellow is quite unavoidable there. your highlighting of the farmer’s shirt color is your own highlighting facts beyond what is necessary.

    sprry for the multiple posts. lunch break.

  • 8. Edgar Allan Paule  |  01 Aug 2010 (Sun) at 11:19 am

    @felicity: thank you for replying.

    1. if you have no stand on agrarian reform, then you have no business writing or making videos about it. any journalist should know what they’re writing about. if you can’t even stand by your opinions, if you can’t own up to your work, then what kind of journalist does that make you?

    2. you say you don’t give an opinion on agrarian reform anywhere in your blog and video, that you are just ranting about how media treats it. again, stand by your work. your video is an obvious manifestation of an opinion on the issue. otherwise, you’re just shooting the messenger–which is unfortunate, since you flaunt your journalist hat so often. if you don’t have an opinion on the issue, how can you claim that media treatment has been imbalanced or populist? c’mon.

    3. i never said that your opinion was based merely on your fondness for risa hontiveros. however, if you praise her for being “endorsed by 47 farmer groups” and you support noynoy aquino, surely it’s not unthinkable that you share their opinions on agrarian reform. and as for the other possibility–that you like risa because of her stand on luisita–that entails having an opinion on the issue. which you claim to not have. thus, there are two possibilities: either we’re stupid enough to believe you, or you’re as stupid as you make yourself seem to be.

    4. on yellow: ever heard of semiotics? it’s not uncommon to use it in analysing documents and audiovisual material. and if yellow is unavoidable in luisita, if the uniforms are colored yellow, these are not innocent facts. these speak of power and hegemony. it is only valid to highlight such instances.

    5. as to what you think, please, do share it with us. you’d be surprised at my interest.

    cheers, and it’s good to hear from you.

    PS
    interesting that in your blog’s comments, you enumerate three “general versions” of the luisita events:

    1. The Cojuangcos’
    2. The “makakaliwa”
    3. The residents of Luisita

    Are there really no left-leaning residents of Luisita? Are the residents so far removed from the “kaliwa”? Are the opinions of the “residents” so bereft of “politics”?

    Also, you dismiss bulatlat.com as a “left-leaning publication”–does that make them liars? Are they incapable of being factual? In the end, is the Luisita issue all just mere speculation and interpretation?

  • 9. mapulang rosas  |  08 Aug 2012 (Wed) at 10:31 pm

    Edgar Allan Paule, binalingoyngoy ata si Felicity sayo kaya di na nakareply! Na-jaundice na siguro sa kadilawan nya! Hay naku! Ano kaya ang masasabi nya ngayon na dahil sa sama-samang pagkilos ng mga “makakaliwang pwersa” ay naipanalo nito ang laban sa Luisita legally? Hay naku teh felicity, aral-aral din!

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