by Walkie Miraña, Concerned Artists of the Philippines
THE mural says it all. The people’s suffering and oppression will give rise to people’s resistance. It will serve as a fertile ground for the people’s struggle for genuine agrarian reform.
“Padayon” is a Visayan word which means to continue, persist or carry on. For this piece, Padayon meant “onwards with the people’s struggle for land.” It was Talusan Fernandez’s contribution to the 32nd commemoration of the September 1985 Escalante Massacre that killed 20 farmers and injured dozens others.
The artwork is most relevant three decades after “Escam”. Farmers and agricultural workers continue to suffer from the exploitations that drove them to march that Friday morning that merited them nothing but tyranny and bullets.
“My memories of the incident and my recognition of the bravery of the survivors fueled me in creating this mural,” Talusan Fernandez said.
“This piece shows wave upon wave of protests from an outline of a shouting sacada’s (sugarcane farm worker) face that symbolizes their decades of struggle against their oppression. The barbed wire, which fuses with the planted and harvested sugarcane symbolizes the repression they struggle against,” he explained of his work.
Talusan Fernandez is a social realist artist since the time of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, producing nationalist propaganda materials since 1975 and paintings since 1976.
In his four decades of activism through art, he became one of the founding members of Kaisahan in 1977, Free the Artists Movement, Concerned Artists of the Philippines in 1983, and the Artista ng Bayan (ABAY).
Talusan Fernandez currently chairs the National Commission on Culture and the Arts Committee on Visual Arts.
To the artist, “Padayon” only arouses more questions rather than answers.
“Did their conditions change 32 years after the massacre? Have they been given justice and have they been given the land that rightfully belongs to them?” Talusan Fernandez asked.
Talusan Fernandez’s “Padayon” gains even more significance today as thousands of peasants are set to stage the biggest nationally-coordinated protest action to demand for genuine agrarian reform and to struggle against Rodrigo Duterte’s tyranny. Today is the last day of their nine-day Pambansang Lakbayan ng mga Magsasaka para sa Lupa at Laban sa Pasismo or #Lakbay Magsasaka as part of their annual commemoration of peasant month (October).
Like the wave of protests in Talusan Fernandez’s masterpiece, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas and Unyon ng mga Mangagawa sa Agrikultura shall hold the culminating protest action in Mendiola, Manila with farmers and peasant leaders from Southern Mindanao, Northern Mindanao, Negros, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Bicol, Central Luzon, Cordillera and Cagayan Valley now getting ready at a protest camp at the Department of Agrarian Reform main office in Quezon City. Simultaneous peasant-led actions will take place in major cities and urban centers: Iloilo, Surigao, Tandag, Butuan, Davao, Bacolod and Cebu. #