Magdalena flowed through the grass as a midnight breeze. “I begin, I end, around the hours…” she would utter throughout the village, that September night. Magdalena, or the Witch of Bato Lake, was sought out by farmers needing help.
It was said that Magdalena, a gray-haired lady cloaked in black, with Narra-like skin and a songbird's voice lived through the 1981 Daet Massacre. Then, three decades later, she braved the winds of Typhoon Pedring to protect the households of Camarines Sur.
With her cryptic warnings, she helped lead generations into safety. This time, however, the villagers couldn’t decipher Magdalena’s message. With the Foreman's stringent planting quota, the farmers had little time to contemplate.
Weeks ago, the village was coaxed into receiving golden rice seeds that promised to vitalize health. Trucks that read “DARE” in bright yellow letters filled roads, and foreign sacks of rice branded as Sinistre were passed out. These, as the farmers knew all too well, were companies that exploited their labor. Despite the farmers' efforts to resist, companies would back them up to a corner and blacklist those who dissent.
The following morning, a village elder along with her ailing daughter came to The Foreman’s office. She had been planting near the pesticide-ridden field the night before. “Look at my daughter,” said the furious elder. “See for yourself what that golden rice of yours has done.” She called for the farmers, her voice piercing through walls. The Foreman, disinterested, signaled for the guards to seize the women.
Magdalena, who heard the farmer’s plea, shook the office with a resounding thunderclap. “By my power divine, grant all who’ve suffered strength,” Magdalena’s voice echoed. As Magdalena’s voice reached the farmers, their sickles transformed into titanium shields, the crops on top recast as golden whips.
The golden fields dried up and ignited within seconds under the scorching sun. The farmers rallied up the Foreman’s goons and bound them with whips. What once was used to mark their backs red and bloody were now theirs to exact redemption. The farmers dragged the Foreman outside the burning crops, commanding his departure before the last flame. To this day, the farmers persist in defending their lands. ●
First published in the October 20, 2023 print edition of the Collegian.
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