One of ‘Yolanda’s heroines
TACLOBAN CITY- One of the country’s fearless woman land rights advocate and known for exposing the controversies of the post-typhoon Yolanda reconstruction died on July 3 due to a heart disease.
Rina Reyes was just 54 year old.
“Stunned, shocked and deeply saddened to hear the news that our beloved Rina Reyes passed away leaving behind years of fierce activism, utmost devotion and determination in promoting and fighting for peasant rights,” said Jess Agustin, Development and Peace Philippines program officer.
“It took some time for this heartbreaking news to sink in,” he wrote.
Reyes, who worked as community organizer and project coordinator for Rights Network and Community of Yolanda Survivors and Partners, oversaw the various programs of their partner Canadian-based non-governmental organization Development and Peace for the survivors super typhoon ‘Yolanda’ in 2013, the world’s strongest typhoon to hit inland.
Reyes, who was a resident of Pasig City, traveled to Leyte immediately after Yolanda to work on the shelter and land rights issues of the survivors.
For five years, she led in organizing poor farmers and fisherfolk into different recognized associations for them to know their rights and easily access government assistance.
“Baby, as she was fondly called, was always there, with a contagious smile, an inspiring presence, in almost all my frequent visits to the Philippines. I can still hear echoes of her gentle voice telling us they had successfully acquired more than 500 CLOAs (certificate of land ownership award) covering 1,400 hectares to landless farmers, then 2,000 hectares in my subsequent visits and so on,” recalled Agustin.
“On the 5th Haiyan commemoration event, Baby proudly declared – her eyes beaming with joy – that in her region alone there were more than 3,500 hectares, 301 patents covering 322 hectares distributed benefiting thousands and thousands of farmers. But then she said there was even more urgent work ahead: the National Housing Authority shelter scandal and corruption; the sustainability of recently acquired lands which her Rights Katarungan team showed to the Canadian delegation in February when they visited Carigara and Barugo communities how these integrated organic farming can be replicated and so on,” he added.
Her tireless campaign led into the successful installation of 31 member-farmers of Bugho Farmers Association in their 25-hectare land in Ormoc after their 16 years of struggles.
“We honor Rina Reyes and celebrate her wondrous life and noble contribution to social change movements to transform and improve the lives of the poor in rural communities,” Agustin said.
She will be cremated on July 6.
(RONALD O. REYES)