Friday, April 24, 2009

I'ts Labor Day, So Happy Fiesta!

“Who built seven-gated Thebes?
Book lists the names of kings.
Did kings haul the blocks and the bricks?...


Lot of facts.
Lot of Questions.”

In the light of these challenging questions posed by Bertolt Brecht, a German playwright in a poem entitled "Questions of a Worker Reading History", I wish to tackle on the value of human work. But before anything else, lest we forget that May 1 marks the international celebration of Labor Day and at the same time the whole Catholic world honors the Feast Day of Saint Joseph, the Patron of all Workers; the Patron Saint of our Vicariate, my parish and yes,.. my hometown. Our Town Fiesta is on Friday, 1st of May 2009.

From the earliest periods in history, powerful people,- monarchs, governors, technocrats,liberal capitalists; exploited the labor of other human beings. And this exploitation became intense and systematic during the early years of Industrial Revolution.

This situation,- perhaps, prompted Pope Leo XIII to issue a Circular Letter addressed to the Church hierarchy called “Rerum Novarum” (Of New Things) in 1891. “In it, he dealt with the relations between labor and capital, defending the existence of trade unions and advocating the rights of the state to protect workers and intervene in social affairs..”, wrote a secular writer Michael Curtis in his book, “Great Political Theories, Vol. 2”.

But sad to say, human labor nowadays is still treated by many company owners and big entrepreneurs as a mere merchandize to be vended like any material good in the market. And for the Filipino worker, the quest for secure job and just compensation continues. The dignity of labor is sacrificed in the altar of Global Competitiveness. By the way, instead of “competition”, why not “cooperation”?

Here’s a glance of labor situation in Occidental Mindoro from the National Statistics Coordination Board (NSCB) : “From a total of 236, 000 persons above 15 years of age in October 2002 in the province, labor force participation rate in Occidental Mindoro was recorded at 74.7 percent, 0.8 percentage point lower than in October 2001. Employment rate, likewise, dropped by 3 percentage points from 94.5 percent in October 2001 to 91.5 percent in October 2002…”. They are the so-called blue-collared workers in various commercial establishments in the province like sales clerks, security guards, construction workers, among others. In case you do not know, the daily rate of a contractual worker in the San Jose District Hospital (its construction is on the way) is only One Hundred Fifty Pesos (PhP 150.00) per day which is way below the prescribed minimum wage!

Again according to NSCB : “ Majority of the people employed in Occidental Mindoro worked in the agriculture sector accounting for 61.5 percent of the total persons employed in the province in October 2002. This indicates that majority of the people in the province remains to depend on agriculture for their livelihood. On the contrary, only 5.6 percent of the total employed persons in the province worked in the industry sector, while 33.5 percent were engaged in the service sector.” These are the landless farmers paid on “per- day- basis” receiving only One Hundred Twenty Pesos a day (PhP 120.00) or measly 2.5 USD.

Even Overseas Filipino Workers or OFWs face exploitation, physical danger, mental anguish, and at times even imprisonment and death. Remember Flor Contemplacion and Maricris Sioson? And thousands that are too many to mention but equally too many to ignore!

In Biblical perspective, we Christians are constantly reminded to give just and timely wages to our workers and warned us for exploiting them and accumulating excessive wealth. Indeed, work is the fundamental condition for achieving economic and social progress. It forms the basis of our social life and gives meaning to human dignity.

To emphasize the point, the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines or PCP-II has this to say: “The subjective dimension of human work connotes as necessary and corollary that labor has priority over capital, for labor is the “primary efficient cause of production” while capital is a “mere instrument”. The resources of this world have been placed here to serve the human person through work.” (#318,PCP-II)

Up to this day, the slogan originally coined by Rosa Luxembourg in 1819 still demands urgent action and fulfillment. My people are still looking forward for a genuine celebration of Labor Day and a truly meaningful Fiesta...

Happy Fiesta everyone?

(SSC File Photo Taken by Reynaldo D. San Jose)


  1. In San Jose fiesta celebration, there is a very little hint that it's labor day.

  2. Dear Anonymous:

    You can say that again. Thanks for the visit...