Another challenge for Sumilao Bukidnon farmers begins

It was a hard-fought battle waged on the 144-hectare land in Sumilao, Bukidnon that culminated in the halls of Malacañang Palace where the final Memorandum of Agreement that settled the 13-year controversy was presented to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The whole nation witnessed the saga of the Sumilao farmers and people held their own views as they perceived the unfolding of events which eventually turned out as a battle where the contending parties both emerged winners.

On March 30, 2008, a concelebrated Mass officiated by Archbishop Antonio Ledesma of Cagayan de Oro and Bishop Honesto Pacana of Malaybalay right on the contested landholding in Sumilao was offered in thanksgiving for the final resolution of the case. The bishops were also the guests of honor in the “cutting of barbed wire” that symbolized the triumphant struggle of the Sumilao farmers in reclaiming the land.

The farmers who staged the Sumilao walk from Bukidnon to Manila arrived and were warmly welcomed by their families and friends minutes before the Mass started. Their various supporters also joined in the hearty exchange of welcome and congratulatory greetings.

That last Sunday of March, 2008 was an auspicious one which also fell on the Feast of the Divine Mercy. For Catholics, it was a special day to remember. For the Sumilao farmers, it was the day when another challenge began.

The challenge came no less from Archbishop Ledesma. In his homily, the Archbishop struck the nail right on the head with his message to the Sumilao farmers. “This is not the end of your cause. This is the start of another struggle – how to make the land productive,” he stressed. “Many farmers are looking up to you…You are the model to other farmers nationwide,” the Archbishop emphasized.

Citing the need to extend the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, Archbishop Ledesma fully grasped the significance of the program and the goal that the CARP aims to achieve.

Physical possession of the land by the farmers is not the end of the CARP. Making the land productive will be the real measure of winning the battle against poverty and inequity.

With their limited resources, the farmers cannot do it alone. The whole machinery of the government tasked to spearhead agricultural development is mandated to provide much-needed support.

The grit and determination the Sumilao farmers showed to the rest of the country will be their strongest arm to hurdle this next challenge. (DAR-10/RAGCOM – Press Release from PIA)

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