Filipino Sugarcane Workers Are Nearly the Walking Dead

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1a Photo by Ralph Eya

Thousands of sugarcane workers in the Philippines province of Negros Occidental are facing hunger, catastrophic weather changes, and an economy in collapse.

They call it tiempo muerto or ‘dead season’, the time between planting and harvesting when there’s no work in the cane fields.For as long as they can remember, this yearly occurrence has stretched from April to September. This year, the season may never end.

To both dumaan, the resident farm workers and the sacada, the seasonal ones, this means lean times for their families—a situation they have endured for generations. The locals refer to this as tingkiriwi, or pain, and tinggulutom, a time of hunger.

There are around 300,000 sugar workers on the island of Negros, providing for almost two million dependents. On average, a sugarcane worker earns a little over $3 US a day, less than half of the government mandated minimum wage. A seasonal worker earns…

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