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THE BEAST OF BURDEN

Updated: May 3, 2022

By: Bishop Renato Abibico

With May 1, 2022, earmarked as LABOR DAY, just around the corner, let me dedicate this humble reflection to the labor sector which I believe to be the beast of burden yet the living engine of our economy.


The mere fact that May 1 is a special holiday to celebrate Labor Day in this country suggests that indeed this nation is very much concerned about the significance of the labor sector in the life of this nation. Hence, year in and out, we are spectators to various forms of appetizers on how this nation celebrates Labor Day. Yet sometimes, we cannot betray ourselves to believe that these celebrations end up being mere theatrics and rhetorics because at the end of the day the plights of the labor sector remain pathetically unaddressed.

The Labor sector is very encompassing. It includes all hired employees, maybe professionals or non-professionals, skilled or non-skilled in the private and public offices, institutions, firms, industries, agriculture, transportation, domestics, and others. It also includes jeepney drivers, vendors, carpenters, sari-sari store owners, and others who are referred to as producers of the underground economy.

Stress is made that in nation building the role of the labor sector cannot and shall never be undermined. While capital is very important in the process of production, it is nothing actually without the labor sector that keeps the wheel of production going.


This is the reason why the labor sector is referred to as the living engine of the economy that cannot be disputed. The public and private sectors cannot function to meet their identified or desired goals and objectives without the labor sector as their backbones. Therefore, since the labor sector is crucial in wealth creation, development and productivity, society must take serious efforts to develop the labor’s creativity, efficiency, and effectivity towards qualitative production. And the only way to do this is to seriously address the plights, needs, and aspirations of the labor sector which all redound to the protection of the workers’ rights to just compensation, full security of employment, equality in employment opportunities (regardless of sex, status, race, creed, etc.), safe and healthy working conditions, sufficient fringes benefits, rights to form unions, open and cordial bargaining table, right to seek redress for their grievances and others.

Within this context, there is so much physical, emotional, and psychological burden that hound the labor sector.


Compared to this generation, it may seem that the educational system during my high school days was less nationalistic, as we were introduced more to the literary works of American writers or poets than that of our nation’s best like Francisco Balagtas and others. Hence, we were enamored by Edgar Allan Poe’s, THE RAVEN, Kilmer Joyce’s TREES, Roabert Frost’s THE BIRCH TREE, and Edwin Markham’s THE MAN WITH A HOE, which had been popularly used during intramural declamation contests during our high school days.

The poem THE MAN WITH A HOE begins with these few lines: “Bowed by the weight of centuries he leans upon his hoe and gazes on the ground. The emptiness of ages in his face. And on his back the burden of the world.” What lesson do we get from this?


Certainly, the laborers that till the soil so that food be on the nation’s table, the laborers that keep the industry productive, the office workers that keep the companies meet their goals and objectives, the various sectors that keep the underground economy afloat, all are the beasts of burdens who are without status and fame, who have born the weight of centuries, made to yield by an oppressive system and yet are unyielding in their fight for their rights, dignity, and integrity. With a sense of consolation in this forthcoming election, Ka Leody De Guzman, a Presidential aspirant, is very clear with his platform that is geared towards addressing the plights of the labor sector which to him is long delayed.

History is a witness to the fact that in this nation the relationship between capital and labor is tainted with justice issues. Law wages, underemployment such as contractualization, unhealthy working conditions, lack of insurance, and others are but some of the forms of oppression wherein the labor sector is consigned into. In the words of Bishop Rex Reyes of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Philippines, “we are living through times when the wealth of our nation is being increasingly accumulated by the already wealthy, while those on basic wages and those who are unemployed and underemployed are struggling to meet even their basic needs.” He says this if only to emphasize the current issues of injustice that is at the bottom of capital and labor relation.

In the eyes of God, this is a sinful situation that needed to be addressed seriously because it is inimical to the vision of God for a just, humane, and compassionate society.

In James chapter 5, we read that God himself is very angry that He passed judgment on those who exploit their laborers saying, “you have piled riches in those days. You have not paid any wages to the men who work in your field. Listen to their complaints. The cries of those who gather your crops have reached the ears of God almighty.” There is no ambiguity as to where God pitches His tent with when it comes to issues of justice, exploitation and oppression, just as there is no ambiguity that it is a Christian responsibility to defend the dignity of labor.

Labor is a sacred human activity that must be respected and compensated justly. The Book of Genesis does not only tell in an elaborate fashion how God created the world and all that is in it in six days but also tells categorically how God sanctified labor as a sacred human activity. God as He is, He could have just created everything with a snap of His fingers, but He did not. Instead, He labored hard for six days to complete His creation. But He did not only labor hard, He made sure that everything he created was GOOD, meaning with QUALITY, if only to show that with God there is no place for mediocrity in the performance of our labor. It is a fact that everything we do reflects on us, hence, the results of our labor should reflect the best of ourselves.

As we celebrate yearly Labor Day in this nation, we should always be reminded that labor is the centerpiece of nation-building, a dignified human activity that should merit respect and honor by being properly and justly compensated. And so as much as those who are in the labor sector have the right to demand a just share in the fruits of their toil and work, it is also their sacred duty to be creative, responsible, and productive with quality. Hence, at the end of the day, each labourer should ask himself or herself, am I worthy of my compensation?

On the other hand, no employer should ever take for granted the sanctity of labour and its significance in the whole gamut of nation-building so as to cheat, exploit and oppress their labourers. If there is such a thing as a ” win-win solution” then it should be at the bottom line between capital and labour relations. Happy Labor Day.

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