A half-blind day care teacher turned daring farmer-leader, Josefina Panginen—Ka Josie to her comrades in the peasant movement—serves as the Chairperson of the Panlalawigang Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Aurora or PAMANA. She also sits as a member of the Anti-Logging and Mining Committee of the Multi-Sectoral Action Group (MSAG) in the province.
The relatively untouched tropical forests of the Sierra Madre mountain range cuts across the length of Aurora, a fitting backdrop to Ka Josie’s peasant organization, which translates to ‘Heritage.’ Ka Josie, PAMANA, and the MSAG are instrumental to defending this portion of the country’s longest mountain range, which serves as the Luzon island region’s natural defense from the constant harangue of typhoons generated by the great Pacific that batter our country.
Through Ka Josie’s leadership, the frontline communities of Aurora have successfully stopped the destructive logging operations of Integrated Development Corporation, Pacific Timber Export Corporation, and other logging companies. Their long-standing struggles against mining operations have also successfully resulted in the disapproval of 30 mining applications encroaching Aurora’s forests and agricultural lands.
Threats to land and life never seem to cease, as Ka Josie and her farmer compatriots are currently pitted against the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport (APECO) and the PTC Energy Inc.’s Hydro Power Dam, among others. The latter threatens to submerge entire villages of the indigenous Alta upon its commencement.
But even with her old age and physical limitations, Ka Josie is steadfast in asserting that the land belongs to the tillers, not the plunderers. She serves as a shining example to many peasant women in continuing the fight to protect and defend our lands and environment.