Burning down Yulo farmers’ houses to make way for golf courses

Feb. 05, 2021

The first and last time I was able to step inside Ayala-Nuvali residences was during a job application. In 2019, I applied for the position of teacher assistant in one of the colleges inside Nuvali. I remember the shuttle ride clearly. I remember feeling rather proud because I was sitting beside workers inside a Mitsubishi L300 van. I wanted to talk to them but some were taking a nap, others were discussing. I was the only female passenger. The men were obviously construction workers, carrying water jugs and lunch bags and wearing their usual uniform. The ride was very long. I kept asking the passengers beside me if my destination was near.

Parang ang layo na ho,” I said.

Calamba na kasi ang dulo nito,” one of them replied.

I have never been to a first world country before but I imagine it would look something like this. Their highways and main roads are as wide as EDSA’s. The houses are mansions. Save for our shuttle and a private car or two, the roads are empty and asphalt-smooth. The construction workers alighted in what looked like sites for towers, condominiums, and commercial buildings.

“Sprawled over 2,290 hectares south of Manila, NUVALI remains to be the largest of property giant Ayala Land’s large-scale, master-planned, and mixed-use estates. In the short period of nine years, more than half of the estate’s total land area has been developed.” This article was published in Ayala’s website in 2017 and 9 years before that, harassment against Hacienda Yulo farmers began.

My anxiety hindered me from watching the videos of Ayala-Yulo goons harassing the farmers of Hacienda Yulo. The image, however, was already very clear in my head: ginapos ang mga magsasaka habang sinusunog ang kanilang bahay. The farmers were restrained as they watched their houses burned down. The goons did this so that the farmers could not salvage their belongings. One family kept P40,000 inside their home, money that they had been saving to travel and visit their dead father in the province. The Yulo-Ayala goons pointed their guns at the senior citizens and children. The children were shaking in the searing heat, probably having a hard time breathing as fire turned their furniture and toys into ashes.

One simply needs to type “Hacienda Yulo” on Facebook’s search button to see photos of Yulo-Ayala goons demolishing farmers’ houses and old videos of a human barricade in 2010 as police and military harassed farmer families. Last year, according to a timeline by Sama-samang Artista Para sa Kilusang Agraryo (SAKA), “armed agents of the Yulos forced themselves into the peasant community in Matang Tubig and Buntog, areas covered by San Cristobal Realty. Three homes were burned down; guns were pointed at the elderly women who formed a brave barricade.”

Seraph Security Inc., attacked the peasant community and burned their houses in Matang Tubig and Buntog, under orders from San Cristobal Realty and Ayala Land. They want to put an end to the farmers’ centuries-old struggle to till the remaining agricultural land in Canlubang. Ayala plans to turn these lush, agricultural land into a golf course and country club, another addition to the many-amenities for tycoons and landlords.

I was offered the job at the end of my exam and interview. I did not accept it for fear of being lost in this first-world pretend world where there are no public transportation. I remember thinking, what if there is an emergency at home, how will I get to the other side? What if I have to bring my sickly son to the hospital in the middle of my shift? I was still in Laguna, but I felt miles away from home. And I actually was — 2,290 hectares away from home to be exact.

A couple of days after they burned down the houses, they returned to beat up another farmer. They keep returning to destroy the remaining houses, the remaining properties and crush what is left of the farmers’ dignity. The Yulo-Ayalas must be pressed for time, perhaps the lockdown has delayed their construction projects and now, they have to make up for lost earnings. They badly need to construct another golf and country club so that their residents can rest and relax. They have to displace the farmers who are reeling from the super typhoons, pandemic, and lack of production subsidy to make way for luxury amenities.

Bandang 3:20 ng hapon, may limang lalaki na biglang tumutok ng baril sa aking asawa, tiyuhin, at ang kapitbahay namin at pinadapa sa lupa. Habang nakatutok ang baril, may isang lalaking pumasok sa loob ng bahay may bitbit na 2 galon ng gasolina. Binuhusan ang loob ng aming bahay at iba pang mga kagamitan. Kinuha nila ang cellphone na 2 tapos ang 2 pang cellphone ng anak ko ay dinurog po. Pagkatapos nilang magbuhos ng 2 galon na gas, kanila pong sinilaban,” peasant woman Shirley Marasigan said.

Kami po ay nasa loob biglang takbo po namin. Itong dalawang bata kong anak na babae, tinutukan po nila ng baril habang nakadapa sa lupa. At ang akin pong pera, na ang tagal kong inipon–naglako-lako ako ng isda– nasunog po kasama sa aming mga damit. Lahat po wala kaming naisalba. P40,000 na matagal kong pinag-ipunan. Aking inipon dahil gusto ko pong makauwi sa aming probinsya dahil namatay po ang tatay ko. Hindi ako nakauwi sa probinsya namin dahil wala po akong pamasahe. Naglako kami ng isda katulong ko po ang asawa ko. Ala una pa ng madaling araw namimili kami. Puyat, pagod, yun pala masusunog lamang po sa isang iglap. Naubos po lahat-lahat ng kagamitan. Tupok ang aming bahay maliban sa suot namin,” Marasigan lamented.

Now, should we let the Yulo-Ayala burn down farmers’ houses to make way for golf courses and country clubs?

Rae Rival writes and does volunteer work for Gantala Press and Rural Women Advocates. She is a teacher and a mother. Her stories, poems, and essays have appeared in CNN Philippines, Rappler, Voice and Verse Poetry Magazine (Hong Kong), Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, university presses, and do-it-yourself zines.

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