The Filipino Farmer Essay Sample
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The Filipino Farmer Essay Sample
We applaud the efforts of the minister of colonies to foster agriculture in the Philippines. Proofs of these are the boards, commissions, and committees and numerous projects. We suggest, however, that the farmer be consulted also, the one in direct contact with the land, who makes the land productive with his capital and labor and puts into practice the measures that science and experience suggest. And not only must he not forgotten but neither must his hands are tied, disabling them for work, as it happens, unfortunately. It is not enough to issue royal decrees and timely measures; they must be enforced and enforced expediently. The Filipino farmer has to struggle not only with plagues and public calamities but also with petty tyrants and robbers. Against the first, defense indeed is permitted; against the latter, not always. We shall explain.
After the floods, locusts, fires, bad harvests, and the like, the farmer capitalist has to deal with the constable who takes away from him his laborers for personal service, some public works, repair of roads, bridges, and others; with the civil guard who arrests them for various reasons, sometimes for not carrying with them their personal cedulas (certificates), for not saluting properly, for being suspicious persons or for no reason whatsoever, and they menacle them to clean the barracks and thus compel the capitalist to live on better terms with the chief and, if not, they take away his carabaos, oxen, in spite of many protests, returning them later however, as these acts of violence are almost always unjustified and not within the competence of the civil guard.
The work is usually delayed three or four days only but at times it is delayed weeks, the animal is lost or dies; and this happens when the civil guard, going beyond its jurisdiction or province, commits these plunders in another province and then returns to its own; hence the question of competency; the coming and going, etc., etc., etc. At times, it is not the constable or the civil guard who opposes so indirectly the minister of colonies. An official of the court or of the provincial government, dissatisfied with the farmer, urgently summons this or that laborer, if not two or three. The unfortunate man undertakes a trip of two or three days, uneasy and distrustful, spends his savings, arrives, presents himself, waits, returns, returns the next day and waits, finally to be asked with a frown and the look of a judge, abstruse and unknown things. He is lucky if he comes out free from this questioning, for not infrequently after it, he is sent to jail from which he comes out later as stupid as before and all are as Christian as ever. Sometimes, rare fortunately, a compania volante (flying squad) sweeps the province.
Woe to those who have enemies! It is enough to be in the list of suspects for the head of the squad to pick him up and take him to another place without trial or filing of a complaint. Goodbye farm and goodbye everything! See if after this he will be encouraged to plant in other islands. But if the capitalist knows how to grease and through offerings to appease the gods and render them favorable, he has already accomplished much. But still there remain other deities, the tulisanes or bandits. The tulisan is a terrible enemy of those whose farms are far from the towns. One cannot win his favor by giving him gifts or bribing him, as some do secretly, because he would fall into the opposite abyss and would be accused of being an accomplice of malefactors, which is equivalent to being tortured and later exiled. The best remedy against this plague that the government cannot destroy is to arm oneself and expose oneself to a daily and dangerous combat. Well now; for the peaceful tax-payer to use firearms and to be able to defend himself, he needs the good report of the people, the civil guard, and the parish priest, to petition the government in Manila, to have patience, to wait because the petition is not always acted upon except after the end of several months if someone follows it up or if he has a friend of the employee in charge of issuing licenses. All this is very good.
What is not so good is that despite the good reports, despite the peace in the province, the abundance of bandits, the good conduct of the farmer tax-payer, and the danger to which he and his farms are exposed, they deny him not only the use of the firearm, or the renewal of the license but also they confiscate the firearm, which he bought at a fabulous price sometimes, only to be left to rot, to become oxidized, in a corner of the barracks or the townhall, useless to all, except to the bandits, who in this way are the most favored. This is the case of a citizen of the province of La Laguna; owner of extensive lands planted to sugar cane, coffee, and abaca located far from the town. That province has been for almost three centuries not only to loyal Spain but “superloyal”, one Indio in that province, Captain Francisco de San Juan, having declared war in the name of Spain against the English in 1762 when even the government was submitting to the invader, succeeding with his energy to save the money that the authorities wanted to deliver to the enemy within bounds. This made me say to a Spanish writer that that Indio was half a century ahead of the Mayor of Mostoles.
However, La Laguna is one of the most agricultural provinces, most liable to natural and human calamities, this citizen is denied the renewal of his license, and in spite of all the good reports, they confiscated his firearm. For this reason he had to abandon his farms, losing his abaca crops, for he could not venture out unarmed and he was sure that the authorities who left him thus could neither defend him nor ransom him from the bandits. We are convinced that the minister of colonies and the good Spaniards who love the prestige of Spain and have affection for those Islands do not know these details. We, who can cite names, towns, dates, witnesses, and attest other incidents through our own experience or as eye-witnesses, are content to cite this case and we say: Je passe et des meilleurs. It would be desirable to correct this, Mr. Minister of Colonies, lest some mischievous men say that the government there being impotent might come to an understanding with the bandits and deliver to them the unarmed inhabitant, that it wants the lands to be cultivated with speeches, projects, and boards and for this reason it binds the hands of the farmer and puts a thousand obstacles on his path, so that he may plant according to the new system. Agriculture is not improved only in that way.
It is necessary to aid those who practice it. Those who from their comfortable chairs think otherwise and see the inefficacy of the royal decrees throw the blame for this backwardness to the indolence of the Indio. They do not know with what obstacles he has to contend and they ignore that for a machine to run well, it is enough that it be built according to principles but also that it be perfect in its details, that everything be leveled, and that no part get out of its proper place. These abuses, that for being unutterably bad become ridiculous, ruin the country and impair the prestige of the government. This system of prevention, of unfounded fears, of unjust suspicions, not only irritates and awakens men but exposes the weakness of the government: Much fear reveals much weakness. This, added to the inability to stop banditry, makes an evil-minded person say that the government is only hard on peaceful and respectable citizens while it fondles or lets alone the rebellious and criminal. This is the usual reproach of independent Indios on Christianized Indios.
This behavior of the government there hurts the real interests of Spain and through this way of making discontented men; the government appears as the foremost filibustero. And as we believe that one cannot serve a country better than to tell her the truth, we say this to the Mother Country so that she can apply timely remedy. Hence, we ask for representation in the Cortes and freedom of the press in Manila in order to expose abuses to public opinion. Injustices there do not always find a writer who may relate them, nor every article a generous newspaper that will accept it for its columns; and even if it were not so, through the present road, the remedy always arrives late, if the abuse is remedied at all. We shall conclude by proposing to the minister a reform concerning the granting of licenses for the use of firearms.
Inasmuch as they are not granted without the report of the people, of the chief of the civil guard (European), and of the parish priest (almost always European), instead of being issued in Manila, they should issued by the court of every town, after previous consultation or secret voting of the judge, of the officer of the civil guard (European), and of the parish priest (almost always European). It should not be granted without unanimity. In this way, it is simplified and the business is shortened, and the time is better employed. There are no other inconveniences but these two: There would be some more unemployed men and hidden enmities could not be satisfied with revenge and secret reports, but on the other hand, the treasury and mankind would be the gainer – the treasury with less employees and mankind with more loyal men and less traitors.