Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Who owns the farm?

Would you believe that this farm which I've been blogging and developing for several years now is not even ours?

Hacienda ha·ci·en·da (häs-nd, äs-)
1. A large estate or plantation in Spanish-speaking countries.
2. The house of the owner of such an estate.

In the early history of the Philippines, during the long reign of the Spanish conquerors, a few wealthy, well-connected and influential people owned vast tracks of land called "haciendas". Each hacienda is so vast that only a few families owned one (or more) and any non-member of the family living in such places were mere tenants. The tenants and their families toil hard to earn money for their landlord. In return they are permitted to reside in his territory.

One such hacienda still existing today is the infamous Hacienda Luisita owned by the family of the current president of the country, Benigno 'Noynoy' Aquino III.

To improve the plight of the tenants previous governments implemented agrarian reform programs. One by one the haciendas were bought (sometimes forcefully) by the government, subdivided and distributed to the tenants in exchange for a supposedly "fair" price that each recipient are obligated pay to the government's designated bank. Unfortunately these transfers do not usually happen smoothly and usually end up in bloody feuds and/or lengthy court battles.

Satellite view of a portion of the former hacienda where the farm was once a part of. (image source: google maps)

Except for some small areas, our town was once a part of several big haciendas. Eventually, the land was subdivided and distributed to the townsfolk. However, the determination of "fair" compensation dragged on for years and decades until it landed on the lap of the Supreme Court. At long last, just recently the highest court released a final ruling and fixed the price per hectare based on what can grow on it.

Our small farm is situated within this one enormous former hacienda. When we bought it, it's not the actual land that we bought from the previous owners but just the rights to it. Technically the government through its bank still owns the entire farm and much of the other farms in that former hacienda.

We are now in negotiation with the bank to settle our financial obligations. Until we've paid the full amount I'd suppose we're still just tenants.
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