Writing prompt: We often capture strangers in photos we take in public. Open your photo library, and stop at the first picture that features a person you don’t know. Now tell the story of that person.
It was one of the more emotional events I covered as an intern at a local newspaper in Baguio City.
Some one hundred twenty people of the Agta tribe from Aurora Province walked 255 kilometers just to air their opposition to a law, which they see as a threat to their lives. The law they were protesting against aims to develop a free trade zone spanning over 12,000 hectares in forest, coastal and agricultural areas. Thousands of families were to be displaced and of course, the people were not happy about it.
In a live press conference, several people shared the harassment they are experiencing because of the law’s enactment. They were obviously hurt and afraid and it’s hard not to sympathize for them. But what I find most memorable was the speech of an elder Agta. He told everyone that people like them don’t see development in the rise of skycrapers and other modern creations. Development for them meant development of their natural habitat.
Their story affected me in a lot of ways, and it definitely stuck with me. Every time I see wide expanse of farms being turned into residential or industrial lots, I can almost hear the elder Agta saying, “The progress you’re imposing on us is not the progress we want. We want to nurture the earth so it bears us more fruit, we want to nurture the sea so it gives us more fish. We want to hone our ancestral land and seas because this is were we were planted and this is were we will go back.”
I see his point very clearly now. I am glad I still have photos of their march. I’ll keep those framed moments of the people who fought to remind myself that there is more to embracing the earth than jumping in the trends of high technology.