Two farmers, different stories.

Arthritis-ridden Florencio Urquia wept for his country, a land of almost a hundred million people who seem to forget how to and who tills the soil to produce the food they eat. Last Wednesday, in an act of desperation, he filed his certificate of candidacy to run for President in the Commission on Elections. He wept for the poor farmers of this land. He is planning to run so he can give what farmers are due them–decent income, benefits, respect and their rightful place in the society that they feed.

In the recent Regional Young People’s Forum on Food and Agriculture in Baguio, I met Rohit Marsan, a graduate of Farming Technology major in Organic Agriculture. At 22, he manages his family’s Cosmic Farm, an organic farm in La Trinidad, Benguet. Young and dynamic, Rohit is so sure of himself and his future, that farming will take him to a life that is secured and a life that can provide him with what he and his family needs.

Rohit Marsan, a young farmer

I have been deeply touched and disturbed by these two contrasting stories–one, speaks of desperation, while the other speaks of abundance of hope. How can the Philippines–considered an agricultural land – let its farmers suffer from poverty and neglect? Consider the word hampaslupa–the derogatory term that describes a hapless man. How we use this word is telling of how we see the man who tills the soil – ang naghahampas ng lupa – who produces our food and is the reason why you and I are alive and well today.

The people who grow our food need food security.

We need them for our own food security.

Should we wait until our farmers – ang naghahampas ng lupa – become a dying breed before we act?

The #IAmHampasLupa campaign is the first major campaign I joined since I got into Greenpeace, and this is an eye-opener for me. We tend to forget the basics. While we enjoy the blessings of development, we forget who puts food on our table. Through this campaign, I learned and remembered that the agriculture sector is one of the electoral issues that need to be discussed in the upcoming presidential elections.

Like most people, I forget that I am a stakeholder who can and must exact accountability from my leaders, and in 2016, from the leader I choose. I – and I invite the rest of the voting public to join me – dare our presidentiables, Ikaw ba ay HampasLupa? Do you sympathize with those who hit the land for your food and for this country’s future? What’s your platform to push for ecological agriculture in this country? Is food security included in your program of governance?

I enjoin the youth to help elect a president who respects the hampaslupa, and let us use our ballots as a tool to push for issues that matter. Let’s make a pledge for this country’s future; let’s create a clamor to push for food security and ecological agriculture. It is a national issue, it is a survival issue.

Today, on World Food Day, let me express my utmost respect to the farmers – the very reason why we celebrate today’s occasion. I am proud and I will say it out loud – #IAmHampasLupa.

Angelica Carballo-Pago is a media campaigner at Greenpeace Southeast Asia based in the Philippines. You can follow her updates on Twitter via @gelcarballo.