I never had the privilege of meeting Ka Rene, but this tribute, written by the inexhaustibly gifted Leah Navarro and circulated last Saturday, brought him to life before my eyes. Of the thousands of news releases I’ve read over the years, this is the most eloquent, and the most moving.
Renato Penas, Sumilao famer and a leading member of PAKISAMA, is dead. He, a relative and a friend were ambushed last night on the way to the piece of land he tilled all his life in Sumilao, Bukidnon. His companions are wounded, but Ka Rene will never see another harvest again. He was only 51.
The last time I saw Ka Rene was on May 24th. It was Juana Change’s birthday, we participated in her celebratory walk for change along the Manila Bay boardwalk. We hung back and talked instead, Ka Rene had done enough walking in his short life. He walked all the way from Sumilao in all kinds of weather, in tsinelas, to Manila along with hundreds of other farmers that loved the land that gave them a reason for living. He literally walked the talk. Despite his struggle, Ka Rene was a happy man with an easy smile, and that day we laughed a lot. The only time his smile would fade was when he spoke of agrarian reform.
Listening to him was a humbling experience, I felt small and my dreams seemed insignificant. We talked about CARPer, agrarian reform in general, his sadness about Filipino farmers that were being hired to till land that wasn’t theirs in Korea and other places (he said it was shameful), the hope that one day land owners and farmers could settle their differences. He had high hopes for CARPer, and I was told that he was elated when the bill was passed the other night. Our friend, Soc Banzuela, said his last text about CARPer was “panalo na tayo”. Ka Rene must have been beaming when he sent that sms.
As he traveled to his farm, Ka Rene must have been filled with the enthusiasm of a new day. He was probably bursting at the seams to give his wife Evangeline, and his kids Noland, Wopsyjenn, Jerald, and Realynme, the great news. His killers made sure that wasn’t going to happen. His family deserves justice and I pray they get it.
I am very angry, can’t believe he’s gone. Filipinos like Ka Rene are inspiring, their passion contagious. Go with God, Ka Rene.