This was back in November 2007 when the Sumilao farmers were on their way to Manila from San Vicente, Sumilao, Bukidnon. Then Naga City Mayor Jesse Robredo (in orange polo shirt) would meet them as they were passing through the city. Robredo would walk with the Sumilao farmers – the only public official in the whole stretch of the march from Mindanao to Malacanang who ever did (trust me, I was there).
In his words later that day posted on his blog, Robredo said…
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.
Robredo would end his post with these lines…
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.
As the Sumilao farmers, to borrow the his words, have sown seeds of empowerment in his city, the Robredo has also sown seeds in our public institutions.
I hope the seeds of participative local governance, people empowerment, transparency and accountability that Sec. Robredo has sown would also bear fruit someday. Still, it’s sad that the country had to lose such as public servant.
(video by yours truly and Peterson Bergado posted on pubergado)