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Reading List: Sama-samang Artista Para sa Kilusang Agraryo (SAKA)

Digna was created by SAKA to march during former president Rodrigo Duterte's final State of the Nation Address. She is inspired by the Higantes festival, an annual local celebration that has historical roots to peasant protests. Photo courtesy of Reymark Umpacan/Umani Productions.

Our first in Afterall’s series of reading lists is a collaboration with Sama-samang Artista Para sa Kilusang Agraryo (SAKA), an activist organisation based in the Philippines. SAKA is a progressive alliance of artists, writers, designers, and cultural workers striving towards genuine agrarian reform and food security. They organise cultural events, collective cooking, and educational programs.

A sea of people in red marches in protest. At the centre is SAKA’s 14-foot sculpture named Digna, representing the women peasants who unflinchingly fight against a tyrannical rule. Several banners read “End Duterte’s administration,” “Raise salaries, lower prices,” “Regularise contractual workers,” and “Junk Terror Law.” Photo courtesy of Reymark Umpacan/Umani Productions.

SAKA has selected 20 pieces to be included in their reading list. In this varied range of articles, films, music, artworks, and books, SAKA invites our readers to consider the embeddedness of peasant struggles in governance, national liberation, culture, and the arts.

Sama-samang Artista Para sa Kilusang Agraryo (SAKA) is an anti-feudal alliance of art and cultural workers that support and advance the peasant agenda of genuine agrarian reform, rural development, and food security. By establishing study groups, integrating with peasant communities, and building a network of peasant advocates, the group learns the fundamentals of the peasant struggle for land justice and helps develop creative communication materials for its advancement as part of a broader mass movement for national democracy. To learn more about SAKA and their programmes, click through to read through their Facebook or Instagram.

1. Surviving Tiempo Muerto, Amy Lien and Enzo Camacho
On Bungkalan and Peasant Resistance in the Philippines

2. Garden Behind Bars: The Diary and Letters of Angie B. Ipong, Angie B. Ipong
What does a rural missionary do when thrown behind bars? Continue to be the essence of life. Grow. Bloom. Create a landscape of freedom for the spirit. On earth.

3. Pagkatapos ng Tigkiriwi (After the Dead Season), Danielle Madrid
The film unpacks issues and struggles faced by the sugarcane farmers — from the lack of yearlong sustainable source of income, meager pay for farmworkers, unjust farmland conversion, and the continuous tension between the farmers and hacienderos.

4. Mga Dukhang Anghel ng Ginhawa at Liwanag (Destitute Angels of Comfort and Light), Alyana Cabral
A musical interpretation of an excerpt from a “pasyon,” a Filipino religious text, written by Lino Gopez Dizon, entitled Pasyon ng mga Manggagawa (Passion of the Workers).

5. Imperialist Plunder of Philippine Agriculture: A research on the expansion of plantations through agribusiness venture agreements in Mindanao, Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura
A book on “understand[ing] how the neo-liberal policies of Imperialism, particularly the US, have perpetrated semi-feudalism in the Philippine countryside.”

6. The Other Face of Plunder in Mindanao: A briefer on Mindanao Plantations, REAP Network Resisting Expansion of Agricultural Plantations in Mindanao
A primer on agri-corporate plantation expansion in Mindanao.

7. Bungkalan: Manwal sa Organikong Pagsasaka (Bungkalan: Manual on Organic Farming), Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura
A manual on agro-ecological farming based on Bungkalan (peasant-led agri-land occupation) experiences from the agri-workers in Hacienda Luisita, a sugarcane plantation in Central Luzon.

8. Why can’t food sufficiency be our new normal?, Rosario de Guzman
An analysis on the chronic agricultural crisis and its effects on the food sufficiency and sovereignity situation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

9. The Modern Principalia: The Historical Evolution of the Philippine Ruling Oligarchy, Dante Simbulan
This book is a socio-historical examination of the Filipino ruling class, tracing back to the colonial and feudal roots

10. The Hungry World: America’s Cold War Battle against Poverty in Asia, Nick Cullather
This book is an account on the Green Revolution — America’s Cold War campaign on food security — and its aftermath on the struggles for resources and identity in Asia today. Chapter 5: A Parable of Seeds discusses the Marcosian Masagana 99 project.

11. Large landholdings amidst peasant landlessness, IBON Foundation
Includes and infographic the largest haciendas and plantations in the Philippines.

12. SAKA’s Guide to Agricultural Justice, SAKA
This diagram situates SAKA’s creative practice within the wider realm of political expression for land rights and justice. It discusses the orientation of the alliance’s collective practice as a site for political organising; educational discussions as foundations of its capacity and agency building; community immersions as collaborative artistic research between members and grassroots peasant organisations.

13. Rice Food Web, Mark Sanchez
This project is part of the An Ecological, The Obligatory artistic research initiative within the 2017 exhibition Place of Region in the Contemporary by the Philippine Contemporary Art Network (PCAN), Vargas Museum, University of the Philippines Diliman. The project delineates rice, the country’s staple food, to the politics of food sovereignity and the its underlying socio-historical dynamics.

14. From Where Labor Blooms, Mark Sanchez (Link 1Link 2)
This project is part of the Mamitua Saber Project by Renan Laru-an which was included in the Singapore Biennale 2019: Every Step in the Right Direction. The work is a reading space installation revolving around the idea of a peasant movement leader as a response to Mamitua Saber’s notion of a marginal leader. The first link leads to a poster tracing the installation’s layout as well as an annotated diagram of Mamitua Saber’s study on the marginal leader.

15. Mintras Buhi
Mintras Buhi (2015) is a short documentary on the land cultivation areas in former sugarcane haciendas in Murcia and Don Salvador Benedicto towns initiated by farmworkers under the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW). This film was produced by University of the Philippines Manila Development Studies #TeamNegros students Praxis 2015 in cooperation with NNARA-Youth and the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA)

16. Stories of Struggle, Ma. Diosa Labiste
Stories of Struggle narrates the roots of feudal exploitation in Negros since Spanish colonisation and how it has been carried over decades later by government policies such as Ferdinand Marcos’ Presidential Decree 27 and Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (or CARP, which is still implemented today with extension and reforms).

17. The Only Good Fascist is a Very Dead Fascist
This selection of music in different languages come from the north to the south islands of the country, and are written by political prisoners, Red fighters, artists, women, and indigenous people.

18. Talks at the Yenan forum on literature and art, Mao Tse-tung
Chairman Mao’s great work Talks at the Yenan Forum on Literature and Art was published in May 1942. This was a time when the world’s anti-fascist war was in its most difficult phase.

19. Philippine Society and Revolution, Amado Guerrero
Integrating Marxist-Leninist theory with Philippine practice is a two-way process. We do not merely take advantage of the victories achieved abroad so that we may succeed in our own revolution. But we also hope to add our own victory to those of others and make some worthwhile contribution to the advancement of Marxism-Leninism and the world proletarian revolution so that in the end mankind will be freed from the scourge of imperialism and enter the era of communism.

20. El Barro de la Revolución, Paloma Polo

To learn more about SAKA and their programmes, click through to read through their Facebook or Instagram.