For Filipinos, the month of May is the month of festivals and thanksgiving for bountiful harvests. Every year, in May, farmers, advocates, and Local Government Units from Quezon Province, converged and share anything they can afford in celebration of bountiful harvest called Patikim Festival. The festival showcases locally organic produced cuisine such as rice cakes, local salad, lechon or roasted whole pig; cuisines cooked with coconut milk like sinantolan, fish ginataan and farmer bred rice where everyone can partake.
Patikim Festival started in Quezon province in 2013 through the initiative of the people’s organizations (POs) of MASIPAG in the municipalities of Real, Infanta and Gen. Nakar. Patikim serves as an expression of gratitude of the farmers to the organizations that helped them recover from the onslaught of typhoon Winnie last 2004, which caused an avalanche of boulders, logs and soil that buried their farmlands and caused the death of several of their families and community members.
The celebration enjoins more farmers to engage in organic farming. According to Virginia Nazareno of Kiday Community Farmers Association (KCFA), “Our area is naturally hazard-prone due to its proximity to the Pacific coastline and is frequently being battered by strong typhoons, affecting our crops and livelihood. Organic agriculture has a huge potential to increase resiliency of farmers, thereby increasing their ability to function even when faced with unexpected events such as climate change.”
The festival is also supported by the Catholic Church, through the Social Action Network of Infanta, MASIPAG, local government units and other NGOs. Aside from supporting such activities, several local government units are declaring their municipalities as organic or GMO-free as response to the farmers’ call to strengthen organic agriculture and sustainable food production in their locality. In particular, General Nakar, where the festival was held, passed an ordinance supporting organic agriculture and joined the municipalities under Leauge of Organic Agriculture Municipalities and Cities (LOAMC) against Golden Rice, a genetically modified rice supposedly aimed at children and women suffering from Vitamin A deficiency.
Imbued by the spirit of solidarity, the festival symbolizes the aspiration of farmers to be freed from the clutches of transnational corporations that hold the monopoly of seed and technology in maintaining a highly oppressive agricultural system. Patikim Festival is thus more than just a celebration of the farmers’ will to overcome impoverished conditions. It also gestures towards building a welcoming and unifying community of farmers which advocates for natural and organic farming in the Quezon province.