A farmers’ rights activist and former political detainee was named among the honorees of this year’s Sampung Ulirang Nakatatanda (SUN) Award in a ceremony held at the Social Security System’s Ramon Magsaysay Hall in Quezon City Sunday.
Angelina Ipong, thrice detained and heavily tortured for her activism, was honored by the Coalition of Services of the Elderly, Inc. for her lifelong work with agricultural workers for just wages and democratic rights.
Ipong was honored along with Eduardo Albonia (79, Bulacan), Bandayan Danwata (79, Davao Occidental), Erlinda Libor (76, Pampanga), Ceilia Ruiz (80, Baguio City), Anita Castor (64, Capiz), Esperanza Escoton (72, Quezon City), Josef Feliciano (71, Navotas City), Salvacion Garcia (64, Negros Occidental), and Leonita Labitag (73, Antipolo City).
In her acceptance speech, Ipong thanked her farmer father and the peasant sector.
“Sila ang nagmulat sa akin, sila ang nagbigay sa akin ng buhay. Kaya gusto kong ilaan ang nalalabi pang panahon ng aking buhay sa kanila,” Ipong said.
The 72 year-old mother of one said she spent majority of her adult life as an activist because of the injustices suffered by poor peasants.
“Ang magsasaka ang lumilikha ng pagkain ng bansa pero sila ay gutom at lugmok sa kahirapan. Sila ang naglilinang ng lupa ngunit sila ang walang lupa,” Ipong said.
“Pito sa sampung magsasaka ang walang lupa. Atrasadong agrikultura, walang pag-unlad sa kanayunan. Hanggang kalian ba magpapatuloy itong ganitong kalagayan?” she asked.
Ipong, who currently works with the Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura, was first detained in 1992 and again in November 1995.
She was abducted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines in 2005 when she was accused to be a top commander of the New People’s Army in Northern Mindanao and slapped with rebellion, double murder, double attempted murder and arson charges.
At the start of her third and longest detention, Ipong was blindfolded for days, tortured and sexually-harassed. She was also kept in isolation for 14 days.
Activist even in jail
In jail, Ipong said she could not stand the filth in their cells and bathrooms. She organized and led the cleaning brigades and soon managed to bring down cases of skin and other diseases among inmates.
“I asked my friends who visited me to bring me soap, brushes, paint and other supplies so we can clean the jail facility,” Ipong told Kodao in an earlier interview.
She soon trained her sights on her fellow inmates’ nutrition who were forced to eat nothing but poor prison food “unfit for humans.”
“I initiated dialogues with the wardens who eventually gave in to my incessant demands to be allowed to start an organic gardening program inside the jail compound,” she said.
In no time, the garden Ipong started supplemented their prison food with fresh and organically-grown vegetables daily.
“Naku, ang mga guwardiya nga, nauuna pang mamitas ng mga gulay namin kasi masarap, fresh, organic at libre,” she said.
Ipong also started a livelihood program to allow fellow inmates to earn and help their families.
When she was arbitrarily transferred in the middle of the night to another jail facility, she started all over and again succeeded until the courts dismissed all charges against her and set free in 2011.
Ipong co-authored the book on human rights A Red Rose for Andrea: Writings from Prison (Quezon City: Southern Voices Printing Press) a year after release.
Secret to a long and productive life
In her speech, Ipong said the secret to her long, productive and eventful life is keeping healthy, staying young at heart and commitment to serving the people.
Ipong said she still asks to this day how she can contribute to improving the lives of poor peasants in the Philippines.
“Paano natin matuturuan ang magsasaka na umasa sa sarili, gampanan ang tungkulin na paunlarin ang atrasadong agrikultura at krudong teknolohiya, maging ng buong kanayunan?” she asked in her speech.
Ipong said the youth should be encouraged to contribute in the development of the countryside.
“Gusto kong patuloy na magturo lalo na sa mga kabataan. Hinihikayat at hinahamon ko kayo—lalo na ang young agriculturists, engineers, technicians, farmers, scientists, teachers, artists—na tumulong tayo,” she said.
“Share your time, talent and especially your commitment. We need you. Let us join our hands with the farmers in their struggle for food, for land, for scientific development and for justice,” she added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)