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in remembrance of hacienda luisita


what happened at hacienda luisita in 2004 is not something that i will ever forget.

HL ribbon

i was a sophomore in college and was active in a traditional campus based filipino organization. i had heard through our networks that a human rights activist from the philippines was in town, being hosted by the league of filipino students. at the time, i really didn’t know much about the human rights situation in the philippines. i had general knowledge that the president was whackity-whack, but no real understanding of what human rights violations are, or the depth of the philippine government’s involvement in the worsening crisis.

marie hilaothe speaker was marie hilao, secretary general of KARAPATAN (tagalog for rights), a human rights organization in the philippines that has received international recognition for setting standards in HR documentation and advocacy. that day, in a very small classroom with a handful of college students, marie showed us rough footage from a massacre that occurred just days earlier during a strike at a sugar plantation in tarlac, pampanga. (my family is from that province). the footage was taken by activists who were conducting a documentary on the struggle and demands of the farmers of hacienda luisita.

what i saw was one of the most horrific scenes i had ever seen. it was almost straight out of a horror film. unarmed civilians with only rocks to protect themselves were bombarded with gunshots by the philippine military. farmers wearing shorts and tshirts rushed towards tear gas cans being chucked by the military onto the picket line. young men running towards the gas cans with water and shovels to bury them. screams, cries of pain, and flashes of wounded men falling to the ground, being carried to safety. i couldn’t believe it. i cried.

marie later explained that the reason the farmers were protesting was because despite the fact that their families have been living and tilling the land of hacienda luisita, all the profits go to the cojuangco family (that’s president corazon aquino’s family) and there is never enough to feed their families. i learned that the land wasn’t rightfully cojuangco property anyways…that it should have been redistributed to the farmers and their families, but president aquino had managed to create loopholes so that her family could maintain ownership. and i learned that president GMA was the one who ordered the military troops to the gates of hacienda luisita to quell the demands of the hundreds of farmers and their families.

seven people were murdered that day, and countless others were wounded. today, five years later, no one has been brought to justice for any of the murders. today, i will remember the strength and courage of the HL farmers, and the inspiration that their struggle has provided me. i will offer a moment of silence for the martyrs who lost their lives, and hope to carry on the legacy of their fight.

the struggle of the HL farmers is universal. the rights that are denied from them are basic, and the government conspires with the rich to keep them poor, landless, and desperate. this story is not isolated. corporations, landlords, and government officials all spew the same excuses to workers, students, women, the indigenous, to filipinos everywhere for the conditions that our people must suffer through. filipino hotel workers in san francisco today are fighting for basic health care. 300+ immigrant filipino teachers in louisiana were held in slave-like conditions and made to pay high fees by a company who promised them teaching careers in the US. overseas filipino workers endure abuses and fall victim to human trafficking due to a lack of government advocacy…

it’s all connected.

hacienda luisita will continue to happen if we do not organize our communities. it will continue to happen if we do not learn our rights as human beings, and fight for them. it will continue to happen if we do not support the basic struggles of the the average citizen, if we do not cry, if we do not get agitated, if we do not empathize, if we do not love.

below are some really powerful documentaries and videos about the hacienda luisita struggle that have really impacted me. i hope it does the same for you. (warning: the images in these videos are graphic and violent)

hacienda luisita, i will never forget you.

link to AKLASAN! (Uprising!):

sa ngalan ng tubo part 1 of 4 (the rest is on youtube)

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