By Linus Plata
(Delivered in the Testimonial & Recognition Program 2012 for Graduating and Honor Students of the College of Development Communication held April 27, 2012)
Something remarkable happened three days ago. In a unanimous vote, the Supreme Court ordered the distribution of almost 5,000 hectare sugar plantation to 6,200 farmer-beneficiaries. The Court also made them pay Hacienda Luisita, Inc. just the 1989 value of the land, which is 200 million pesos, instead of the 2006 value which is five billion. An outburst of joy and relief surged among thousands of farmers who have long struggled to possess the land that is rightfully theirs. Old Mang Felix of the hacienda said it was the end of three generations of slavery.
Then I remembered Nanay Doring. As part of the seventh anniversary of the socio-civic organization I headed this academic year, the UP Community Broadcasters’ Society or UP ComBroadSoc, our group immersed with the farmers of San Benito, Victoria, Laguna last January. There, Old Nanay Doring and her fellow farmers accommodated us in their humble homes and taught us to plant rice and weed. Our group had barely covered half the rice field with palay seedlings when the farmers had already sailed through an entire field and were on to the next. We felt so embarrassed, but Nanay Doring and her fellow workers pushed us to carry on. The sight of these hardworking people actually belies the lyrics of a popular Tagalog folk song on farming.
True enough, there is no biro in bending the entire day like an ox under the scorching heat. But on the field, we see them laugh most of the time, and we laugh with them. We see them sing most of the time, and we sing with them. We see them chat most of the time, and we chat with them. Outside the field, we see them hit the sack, start the day, cook, eat, tell their stories, disclose their struggles, share their aspirations, teach us life lessons. And we hit the sack with them, cook with them, eat with them, listen to their stories, empathize in their struggles, hope in their aspirations, and heed their life lessons. There they were, and we were there. And we were with them. And we were one with them, though briefly.
That is the essence of a field that, despite its pretty fast evolution in terms of theory and practice, has always been people-centered. That is the heart and soul of a field that, despite the varying constructs of the field itself, has remained an advocate of positive social change. That is the fundamental of the field that is development communication: being with the people.
This college has granted us, CDC Class of 2012, several opportunities to be with the people. I can only hope I have seen more, but that’s another story. From my very first DevCom subject – DevCom 10, Section Y of Prof. Chek Tatlonghari – which had us hike the muddy terrain barefoot to get to Brgy. Bagong Silang, a village tucked in Mt. Makiling, all the way four years after to my thesis subject, which had me conduct in-depth interviews inside the jail to determine how the poor and marginalized communicate resistance against oppression, a project which challenged me in a lot of ways.
The principle of being with the people has given a whole new dimension to the famed DevCom rule, “Know your audience.” Knowing them is more than identifying their specific information needs on which our projects, which are not usually sustainable, are based. In fact, the word “know” in biblical language reflects a Hebrew idiom that connotes intimate relationship rather than intellectual agreement to facts. As with my experience with the farmers in Victoria like Nanay Doring, knowing the so-called audience involves empathizing them, hearing their struggles and aspirations, realizing that they themselves carry the solutions to their problems, recognizing that we are the ones to learn, accepting that in fact we are the ones that need help, that we are the ones that need to be cured of ignorance, arrogance, and jadedness. People like Nanay Doring need not be subject to the feudal state of farming in this country, the feudal state itself need not exist in the first place. I can only hope that Nanay Doring, one of my host mothers in Victoria, enjoy the same decent life as my Eiko Okaasan, my host mother in Japan in 2005 who is also a farmer.
As we take the road to the future ready to fulfil our aspirations, may we go beyond ourselves to at least think about the aspirations of the Nanay Dorings of this land. Or better, do something simple for them. Or better, take risks for them. Or in the parlance of my professor in SOC 160, which is entitled Social Change, tumaya. Nagawa na nating tumaya dito sa kolehiyo bilang mga mag-aaral ng komunikasyong pangkaunlaran. Hindi imposible na maipagpatuloy ito.
Thank you CDC faculty and staff. My deepest gratitude to the Office of the Dean and the Office of the College Secretary. Two people in the College I would like to thank in particular. One, to my spiritual mentor in the academe without which I would have stumbled all the more in my walk with Him. Forgive me for my countless visits to your room because I had a revelation from the Lord I was dying to share, or there was a matter which I needed a godly counsel on, or I just needed encouragement or a crying shoulder when things seemed to go wrong. I’ll miss the fellowship. Thank you, Dr. Serlie Jamias.
And to my professional and personal mentor in the academe, let me just re-echo my message to you in the acknowledgment piece of my thesis. I couldn’t have found a more compassionate mentor than you. Forgive me for my inadequacies, and thank you for your adequacies. Upon entering the college, you took me under your wings and taught me through your lifestyle the principles of vision, excellence, creativity, professionalism, and greatness. At the same time, you have been an impeccable UP ComBroadSoc adviser, a fellow brother in the organization and in the Lord, a karaoke buddy, a fashion adviser, a critic, a confidant, a friend, and a Kuya – a great one at that. A toast to one great man who graced my life. Thank you, Mr. Mark Lester Chico.
To my Lord, how could I ever finish the race without Your steadfast love and mercy? Indeed apart from You, I can do nothing; the branch cannot bear fruit without the Vine. Forgive me for among my countless iniquities and transgressions against You, the busyness of college life has a lot of times distracted me from seeking Your face and serving Your kingdom. Still, Thou changest not. Your grace sustained and upheld me to this very day. May Your glory manifest through my life, as it already does now. Soli Deo Gloria.
Finally, thank you CDC Class of 2012. Time to take off. Time to take off worthily. And maybe, just maybe, that journey ends on a day that is still worthy in the eyes of this institution, in the eyes of these professors, in the eyes of the oppressed, in the eyes of God. Maybe that journey ends on a day that is still, well, remarkable.
Just like what happened three days ago