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Volume IV, Number 12 April 25 - May 1, 2004 Quezon City, Philippines
Years of Cordillera Day
history of Cordillera Day is the history of a vibrant peoples’ struggle for a
just society. It is an annual observance of achievements, where weaknesses are
recognized and lessons are learned. It
is also an annual event for renewing the commitment and ideals pursued by
Cordillera’s heroes and martyrs.
24 is a very significant date for the peoples of the Cordillera.
the evening of April 24,1980, soldiers belonging to the Philippine Army’s 4th
Infantry Division under Lt. Leodegario Adalem fired at two houses in the village
of Bugnay, Tinglayan, Kalinga. The
attack meant to kill two prominent leaders of the Kalinga and Bontok peoples
opposed to the World Bank-funded Chico River Basin Hydroelectric Dam Project of
the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. These were Ama Macliing Dulag and Pedro
Dungoc. Macliing Dulag, a respected
pangat (tribal chieftain) of the Butbut tribe, died from multiple
gunshots while Pedro Dungoc survived.
Dungoc later joined the New Peoples Army (NPA) and died as a Red fighter.
military terrorism and cowardly act - the Macliing assassination - served to
strengthen the determination of the Kalinga and Bontok tribal people. It further
strengthened their unity against a common enemy – the Marcos dictatorship and
the WB-funded Chico dams. The
anti-Chico dam struggle later broadened into a mass movement of the Cordillera
peoples and advocates. The struggle
evolved to the defense of ancestral land and for genuine regional autonomy.
just struggle for indigenous peoples rights and against national oppression
carried by the militant mass movement would resound beyond the Chico valleys and
into the national and international arena of the broad movement for indigenous
peoples’ rights and for self-determination. This is the legacy carried by the
CPA up to the present.
1981, a year after the martyrdom of Macliing Dulag, elders from Kalinga and
Bontok gathered in Bugnay, Kalinga to commemorate his death and sacrifice and
renew their commitment to the struggle. Since
then, villages along the Chico River would take turns hosting the annual
Macliing Memorial organized by the KBPPHA (Kalinga-Bontok Peace Pact Holders
KBPPHA was organized after several inter-tribal bodong conferences forged a
multi-lateral pagta (peace pact). From
the traditional bilateral peace pact, the pagta was crafted into a
multilateral peace pact arrangement to unite many villages opposed to the dam
project and the fascist suppression of the Marcos dictatorship. Unity was
established on the uncompromising defense of the Chico valley from destruction
and displacement by dam and mining projects, and assertion of human rights and
indigenous peoples rights in view of fascism and militarization.
indigenous socio-political structure and processes of the peace pact were
appropriately and creatively used to build broad inter-tribal unity. This was a
political advancement and widening of worldview from the traditional bilateral
peace pact. One pagta provision was “exclusion from the bodong
those who join the Philippine military and those who work for the construction
of dams.” Thus the indigenous binodngan practice of pagta was
popularized. It served to build
unity of Cordillera peoples in their common struggles to defend land, livelihood
Macliing memorials increasingly grew from the gatherings of elders and mostly
Chico villagers and their supporters in the anti-dam struggle to include other
people who represented other struggles being waged in other parts of the
Cordillera. It became an annual
celebration to remember martyrs who gave up their lives for the Cordillera
struggle and an occasion for solidarity with Cordillera advocates. The memorials
served to build and strengthen inter-tribal unity.
Since the venue of these commemorations were in far-flung and militarized
areas, participants endured long hikes and braved military checkpoints.
Students, professionals and guests came to know the realities in the
successful anti-Chico dam struggle by the Kalingas and Bontoks was followed by
the victory of the Tinggians against Cellophil Resources Corporation (CRC).
This corporation, owned by Marcos crony Herminio Disini, was awarded a
logging and paper-pulp concession covering 200,000 hectares of land with the
biggest bulk in Abra in 1973.
two struggles dramatically demonstrated the people’s decisive stance to fight
for their rights and their ability to muster widespread national and
international support. In the face
of the open fascist rule during Martial Law, this even meant resorting to armed
resistance especially as tribal communities are traditional warrior societies.
one message was put across strongly: No
force, not even the military might of a fascist state supported by the United
States could crush a determined people from waging and winning their just
inspired struggle in the Cordillera countryside and the militant struggle of
students, workers, professionals in the urban centers converged into the
progressive and militant mass movement in the Cordillera that asserts the
interests of the various ethno-linguistic groups and tribes as well as of the
democratic classes and sectors. This
has evolved into the Cordillera mass movement for the defense of the ancestral
domain and for self-determination.
organizational expression was realized in June 1984 in a Cordillera Peoples’
Congress that was attended by more than 300 representatives of 23 organizations
all over the Cordillera region. In
that assembly, the Cordillera Peoples Alliance was born. CPA was the first, and
continues to be the only Cordillera-wide formation that brings together in a
common program and within one umbrella organization, the elders, youth and
students, women, church people, professionals, workers, peasants, urban poor,
and overseas Filipino workers.
February 1985, the KBPPHA resolved that the Macliing Memorial be celebrated as
Cordillera Day under the banner of the CPA. April 24 became an annual
celebration of Cordillera peoples’ struggles encompassing all issues, in
commemoration of all Cordillera martyrs. It was also declared a solidarity day
with national and international advocates and solidarity partners.
In that assembly, the KBPPHA was also transformed into the Cordillera Bodong Association (CBA) that would co-sponsor the celebration of Cordillera Day every year. In 1992, the CBA evolved into the present BPO–Binodngan People’s Organization. Bulatlat.com