GROWN UP WITH FARM WORKERS (The “Campo” Narrative, 2 of 5 parts)

 

“Roaming around “Campo” during my childhood
days provided me early familiarity to and close association
with farm workers which was, without doubt, the reasons
behind my preferential sidings for the working class”

(Photo credits to the owner – Business World)

PHILIPPINES-INFLATION-POVERTY-FOOD-AGRICULTURE-REFORM

 

Until today, I can still picture out in my mind how they dress up for their respective work assignments, how they talk about work, family and events, how thy tease me of being a fat little boy who will join them during break time making chit-chat of any topic under the sun, how they crack practical and “green” jokes which were repeatedly told a hundred times and those of us who were listening still laughed convincingly, and how they loudly and happily cheered for their teams playing basketball during the year-round tournament of the workers from different departments of company operation.  They even brought their families with them to watch the game.

They were the workers and laborer of Davao Fruits Corporation whom I always refer them as my friends then, now and in the future.  Few of them left the town after the company called their operations quit in 1994 but most have stayed and find another source of living in whatever forms, including working back to banana plantations of another company.

Unlike the status of the present farm workers, then was too far to compare in terms of benefits.  Farm worker at that time were provided with MEDICARE (PHIC today) that included all family members, social insurance through SSS that afforded them with all the privileges any insurance member enjoyed, mandatory membership to the workers cooperative that provided financial assistance anytime during necessity, free labor hauling services before and after going to and from their work places, free medical and dental care at the clinic inside the compound run by full time medical professionals such doctor, dentist, nurse, midwife and medical staff, the chance of enrolling their children for free kindergarten classes at the Child Minding Center, the luxury of enjoying the rest and recreation facilities established within the compound such as basketball/volleyball court, billiard hall, chess tables, fishing and dining at the place we call “island”, canteen and cafeteria, among others.

Moreover, there were programs and services offered by the company to take extra care for families of workers.  Inter alia, these included the giving of alternative livelihood training on various skills and crafts, including funding and marketing schemes, for the wives of working husbands.  There were also scholarships from high school to college of qualified children of the workers handled by the Banana Export Industry Foundation (BEIF) which I was one of the privileged few who had availed.   And when workers or one of their family members were sick and need hospitalization, there was a stand-by company ambulance to ferry patients to hospitals of their choice to as far as Tagum and Davao City.  And believe it or not, admitting to high end medical facilities of Christ the King Hospital or San Pedro Hospital or Davao Doctors Hospital was flawlessly guaranteed by the company making the patients leaving the facilities billing worry-free.

All of these workers’ perks, I believe, were products of industrial peace at its best.  While the company management really has the heart for their workers who labored for them to produce bountiful harvests, there was this unique factor, I had observed, that maintained the balance of the provisions of rights and privileges workers, LABOR UNION.

Still fresh in my thoughts, workers were freely organized themselves, without obstruction and restraint, and cohesively bargain with the management through the labor union of their choice by way of general election.  Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) is not alien to my vocabulary.  As early as kindergarten, I already knew that negotiation table exist for the representative of management and workers to talk about workers’ rights and privileges.  If my memory will appraise me right, DFC workers were organized and represented first by Associated Labor Union (ALU) and later by ULGWP (whatever this was meant, I’m sorry I forgot).

My parents were rank and file workers at Davao Fruits Corporation.  Because they were, our family have had enjoyed all of the state of affairs I shared above.

My mother, Mama Panyang, was the guest house keeper.  She was responsible of taking care of the guest house of the company.  Multi-tasking was her daily routine.  From cleaning and fixing of furniture and fixtures, to doing the laundry and ironing them, to marketing of food and house supplies and materials, to preparing the meals and dish washing, to making sure that power and water supply are functional, to maintenance of the kitchen, living room, bed rooms, rest rooms, balcony, lawn area, among other.  And her ace task was to personally take care of all the food, clothing and shelter needs of the big bosses of the company, from as high as the owner of the company and their family during occasional visits, to the executive vice president, to the members of the CEMACOM (Central Management Committee that includes the heads of finance, marketing, sales, human resource, operation, quality control, research, etc.), to the plantation operation manager, to senior supervisors and administrative officers.

My father, Papa Eppie, was the designated expediter coordinator.  His primary responsibility was to ensure the fruits were handled and transported from packing houses to Hijo port at Madaum, Tagum at the right time without delay.  With the group 12 personnel, Papa and the rest of the gang divided themselves to five packing plants riding REYNA trucks and loaded neatly each and every 13-kg-boxes of Cavendish of Banana at 10 or 12 high file in every “tarima” arranged at the back bed of the truck.  By the way, he started as DAHITRI security guard, the company guard securing all the company premises, including people and properties.

Literally from birth up to our early 20’s, I and my older brother, Manong Ep-ep, were two of the living witnesses of all of these experiences.

Roaming around “Campo” during my childhood days provided me early familiarity to and close association with farm workers which was, without doubt, the reasons behind my preferential sidings for the working class.

This is how I’ve grown up.  This is one of the reasons why I write.

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