Just couldn’t sleep without fulfilling at least one broken promise…
The GMA i-witness documentary: Uuwi na si Udong (Udong is going home) reveals the story of two minors , Udong and Toto, working as Sakadas (plantation worker). This documentary also gives us a glimpse of the harsh working conditions of the Sakadas.
Udong, around 15 years old, and Toto, 16 years old, were both compelled to work as Sakadas to pay off their parents’ debts. Udong’s father is also a Sakada while Toto had been sent alone, his father stayed at home. Everyday, they had to toil under the sun, for 12 hours.
To most of us, our consolations after a long, stressful day at work are good food and a cozy bed. But look at what they go home to: dirty, old container vans used as sleeping quarters which they fondly call as barracks (see picture on the left). Any mats? None. Pillows? A thin layer of folded clothes.
They had to work for 6 months without receiving even a peso. Everything they need, from food to clothing can be obtained from the store run by their employer. Of course, everything else would be deducted from their salary and each item obviously unreasonably-priced. If their family asks for cash advance, that too, would be deducted. Could they still get something at the end of their 6-month contract? Each worker’s 6-month hard labor is worth only Php14,280 (US$317). Please, do the math.
Toto got Php1,065 (US$22) after deducting his father’s debt, his family’s cash advances and his personal consumption. Bye bye to his dream of buying a TV set. But he was still glad. To him, at least he was able to help his family.
The plantation was in a different island so the workers had to take a barge to go home (see picture on the left). The travel might have took hours, the barge so crowded and dirty, but the approaching moment of being with their families again kept the workers in high spirits. What next? This story repeats itself… Udong might not like it… but he had no other choice but to go back to the plantation and work as a Sakada again.
Some of us might blame his parents for making him work. For me… it’s extreme poverty. Hunger does make people act irrationally. Who caused poverty, or who could help or at least initiate means to abolish poverty? We might have a common answer in mind.
But we couldn’t just waste time just blaming others, can we? There should be a little way that we could at least do. Any suggestion? How about something immaterial… a prayer? Yeah, prayer for Udong and his family today… then prayer for other Sakadas tomorrow? Probably a prayer for corrupt government officials?