A Marxist Critique of H. Ocampo’s We or They

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Hernando Ruiz Ocampo was a leading radical modernist artist in the Philippines and his works reflected the harsh realities of his country after the Second World War. The war has just ended but the aftermath was still as fresh as day. The Post-Hostilities were still on hike for a decade right after the end of the war and the Philippine Constabulary patrols along with American men quenched the rebels, like the bands of guerillas, quasi-religious armed groups and other resistance groups, with hostilities and such acts that can be similar to what happened on Ocampo’s work We or They. It is a story of hardship and hunger for freedom that is supported by its essential aspects which are the characters portrayed, the symbols given and the scenes depicted.

We or They portrayed people of the proletariat going against the martial force. It was a sign of change, a sign that caused the oppressed group of workers to be awakened from their slumber of ignorance. It all started off as a simple crowd gathering at the town’s plaza, which was initiated by an educated worker. Mister Remulla is proved to be educated by his experience in America. It is evident in the dialogue below:

“How could there be? Mister Remulla knows what he is doing. He said that is what they do in America. He ought to know.”

Tura’s line explained that even though Mister Remulla did not elaborate on his plans, the people trusted him because he is more knowledgeable of what he is doing. It could all be a ruse for all the uneducated to help him in his motives. But either way, Mister Remulla wanted to lead the change given that people could not do it by themselves.

Rice can be a symbolism of freedom from hunger because it is the staple food of the country and it is the most important food of the poor. It sustains about more than half of the people’s population and it is hard to be acquired in the time of the short story. The three big stones on the other hand, represent the three biggest islands of the country. The stones—the people—are the way to get hold of freedom, according to Tura’s lines. In the lines below, it was implied that Mister Remulla also informed him of their rights:

“Mister Remulla said with these stones we’ll soon have something to eat, and that is all I care about. He told us we ought not to be hungry. We have as much right to eat and live as the propietarios have.”

In contrast, sugar represents luxury, money and everything that the bourgeoisie have that the proletariat will have a hard time in acquiring. According to Tura, stones and pebbles could not be used to gain sugar. It meant that the most of the people, especially the poor, could not experience the sumptuousness of life that the rich have. It is mentioned on the line below:

But sugar. You cannot get sugar with pebbles or rocks.

Moreover, the three children, Ine, Clara and Totoy, embodied the people of the three big islands of the country. They were described to be malnourished and dressed with deprived clothing. They were also in grave need of nourishment and rice—freedom—to be healthy once again. The testament to this is the following lines below:

And slinging the juke sack with the three big stones across his shoulder, Tura left his wife, Marta, at the threshold, while his three ill-clad and ill-nourished, looked sheepishly on.

In the text, the people were compared to the ants and the bees and as we all know the ants and bees have their own social caste system. The types were classified as the queen, the warriors and the workers. It is manifested in the line below: The sun had already risen...Tura and his companions reached the place...sacks across their shoulders... the town’s band-stand, like swarms of ants gathered around a lump of sugar.

The mentioned sociology is often compared to that of humans and for it to be present in the text is not at all surprising. In human social class system, there are three fundamental layers: the upper class, middle class and...
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