COMMENTARY: Sumilao farmers “restored my faith in the Filipino human spirit” by Mayor Jesse Robredo

Looking back, I must say that the Naga City segment of the march was probably short in distance but long on the lessons and insights that we took away from the experience. I was pleasantly surprised with how the people of the city responded. There is really something different in the Nagueno! He can be counted upon to make a stand and choose what is just and what is right. He will walk the extra mile, literally and figuratively, if called upon.

The marchers included old women, young men and simple folks who are victims of the inequities in our society. While many of us would have given up the fight if we were in the same situation, they have hang on to that slim hope that their grievances would be addressed if they try "hard enough". We hope and pray that their pleas will be heeded. But even if they won't be, I believe they still have succeeded.

Many times in the past, we have closed our eyes on the injustices and inequities in our midst. The marchers have reminded us, that the least we could do is to stand up and be counted. Oftentimes, we hesitate because we are afraid to displease people who we might need to count on, at a future time. (This is especially true with politicians!). But if only we can right the wrong now, probably we might not have the need for them in the future as they no longer have the influence over us.

The Sumilao March mirrors the general picture of our society today. Poor people continue to suffer. Influential people, fearful of the loss of their pelf and influence, idly sit back and watch where the wind will blow before they cast their lots. Meanwhile, the decision makers wait for these influential people to make their move so they can fittingly respond. This is how I look at the Sumilao problem. This is how problems of inequities come to be.

The Sumilao march is scheduled to end in Malacanang before the second week of December, after covering 1500+ kilometers. I do not know what awaits them. But I am certain of one thing. They have restored my faith in the Filipino human spirit. They may not be as many as I would have wished them to be. But they have sown the seeds — if not in the many places they have marched through, at least they have done so in Naga City.

(Naga City Mayor Jesse Robredo, Hall of Famer in the Galing Pook Awards and a Ramon Magsaysay Awardee, wrote this tribute to the Sumilao farmers in his blog,