Today, Sunday, marks the beginning of Advent—a point in time when Christians will honor the coming of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to the earth. Advent marks the start of the liturgical year and includes the four Sundays leading up to the celebration of Christmas. It ends on Christmas Eve.
Just like other Christians, on Christmas eve or Christmas Day, farmers of the Buffalo-Tamaraw-Limus (BTL) will also lit candles to remind themselves that “Jesus is the light of the world.”
The farmers of BTL, amidst poverty, want to remember what Christ brings: joy, peace, love and hope. That despite uncertainties, they emphasize expectation, and in their case, to eventually own the lands that are rightfully theirs. In the face of the historical violence perpetrated against their communities, they recently harvested their rice produce that were nurtured with the courage to live.
The BTL is composed of roughly 800 farming families that have been asserting their occupation of some 400 hectares in Musuan, Maramag, Bukidnon. The area had previously been part of the land granted by then-president Carlos Garcia to the Central Mindanao University (CMU). This was later on subjected to the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program and was distributed among farmers who had developed the land under a failed rice program of the university. CMU challenged this decision and until now has kept on trying to install university guards in the area to stop the residents from farming. CMU insisted the land would be used for research and educational purposes. However, the university has leased a large part of its areas to agricultural plantations such as Davao Agricultural Ventures, and the Bukidnon Resources Company, Inc.
In their struggle, a number of their leaders have been killed over the years. However, the organizations stood firm and continued to launch several actions to assert their rights over the land. They also set up a system of collective tilling that allowed them to work on the land amidst the attacks of the university guards.
Bukidnon is host to several plantations including the multi-national Del Monte and Dole companies. While land reform program is being subverted nationally, the province has become a locus of agrarian unrests, the small farmers trying wresting the land from the control of these companies and the few big landowners still wielding influence.
Advent means the coming of Jesus the Christ. In a broken world where poverty and landlessness permeates the poor, the farmers of BTL never wandered away from the hope that, someday, the Kingdom of Christ will finally reign on earth—where they can live with dignity, and where they continue to enjoy the fruits of their labor free from uncertainties.
MAKE your advent season more meaningful, support the farmers of BTL by buying their rice produce! Interested? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
[PHOTO: BTL farmers processing their newly-harvested rice. Photo by WInbel Mordino Visitacion]