Wednesday, April 1, 2015

bitter sweet land of sugar

A land divided (literally and figuratively), Negros Island stands separate and at odds with the rest of the country and maybe even the world. 

Local 'panganod' clouds are just like sails full of wind.

In geography and linguistics, history and politics - there is much more than the mountain range at its center that divides the island and cuts itself off from the rest of today.

This is the land of our birth - where wonder | wander | women were raised and lived most of our lives. 

Negros soil is volcanic, making it ideal for agriculture. Eighty percent of all arable land is cultivated. 

Araal Mountain Range

Known as the Sugar Bowl of the Philippines - Negros Island is the country’s prime sugar producer.

According to locals, “When the sugar industry sneezes, the whole island gets a cold.”

Everything does tend to revolve around all things sugar. In this little isolated spot on earth, sugar is still the significant game changer. 

Rice fields in Hinoba-an

The spread, cultivation, industrialization and diversification of sugar is magnified into a ginormous roller coaster ride for all of us over here - where sugarcane remains an important part of the economy.

In a land that has yet to diversify and divest itself of its sugarcane plantations and the way of life perpetuated among all its inhabitants - significant change is elusive. 

Manual labor still prevails in most cane fields.

As sugar developed from a luxury item affordable only to a few, into a food commodity available to all of humanity - back home we were all subject to the rise and fall of global sugar demands and pricing. 

Watch the Pureza documentary to learn more about the local sugar industry. 

The deep divide between the field worker toiling under often oppressive and inhuman conditions and the farm owner unfairly accused of growing a 'lazy' crop - is an ever growing split that defies resolution. 

Negros is a verdant volcanic island. 

These feudalistic conditions are a glaring affront to our ever evolving sensibilities and awareness.

Yet the monetary steps and economic realities involved in returning balance and fairness seem to constantly elude even the most committed problem solvers and decision makers.

Poignant portraits taken by PCIJ multimedia producer Julius Mariveles 

Yesterday a new sugarcane act was signed into law.

May it uphold our aspirations and lead us all into a better future. 

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