Farmer in the government: Ka-Paeng’s humble beginnings
When Mariano was appointed, a lot of people celebrated the assignment of the first true farmer who will lead DAR.
In an interview with Philippine Star, Agrarian Reform secretary Rafael ‘Ka Paeng’ Mariano shared his humble beginnings that led him to a promise that he will ensure better lives for farmers and their families.
Ka-Paeng shared his experiences and early exposure to the hardships of farmers.
He was taking up Bachelor of Science in Agriculture and Agri-Cooperatives at the Wesleyan and Liwag Colleges in Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija, when he was forced to take a break from schooling after his father got sick. This led to growing debts for the family. As the eldest child, he took over the role of head of the family and came to be a full-time farmer to support their needs.
Mariano narrated that in the mid-70s, the Department of Public Works and Highways created a flood control dike in Nueva Ecija which had an effect to their community. The National Irrigation Administration also put up irrigation canals that forced residents of their barrio situated at the Talavera riverside to leave their homes.
“We were forced to leave our homes… we transferred to another barrio where we had difficulty continuing what we had somehow built for our respective families. We didn’t benefit from the project. In fact, it just destroyed our crops, that is why we decided to fight against this anti-people project of the government,” Mariano told Philippine Star.
Mariano decided to join a youth activist organization when he was 20. The organization helped in promoting welfare of farmers. Because of his innate leadership potentials, he was voted chairman of the organization. Mariano also ran and earned position as number one councilor in their town in 1981.
“I saw how the farmers were abused by the landed class. We are working very hard and yet we remain poor. I started analyzing our society and was able to pinpoint the root cause of inequality and poverty,” Mariano told Philippine Star in Filipino.