Come April 23-24, Cordillera Day celebrations will be held in each of the provinces of the Cordillera region. Unlike in the past when a centralized celebration was held in a single host community (except in 1995), this year it will again be decentralized with one or two provinces holding separate, though simultaneous, commemorative activities.
BY MANNY LOSTE
INDIGENOUS PEOPLES WATCH
Posted by Bulatlat
BAGUIO CITY (246 kms north of Manila) — Come April 23-24, Cordillera Day celebrations will be held in each of the provinces of the Cordillera region.
Unlike in the past when a centralized celebration was held in a single host community (except in 1995), this year it will again be decentralized with one or two provinces holding separate, though simultaneous, commemorative activities. This is both to save on travel costs and to achieve greater focus on local issues presently confronting various communities in the Cordillera.
It will be recalled that Cordillera Day started as the Macli-ing Memorial Day in honor of the late Kalinga pangat, Macli-ing Dulag, who was assassinated on the night of April 24, 1980 by Philippine Army troopers in Bugnay, Tinglayan, Kalinga. It was a desperate attempt on the part of government security forces then to silence the growing opposition against the World Bank (WB)-funded mega-dams project on the Chico River. Instead of cowing the affected indigenous communities into submission, Macli-ing’s death inspired a generation of Cordillerans to stand up and fight for their rights to their ancestral land and, eventually, for their right to self-determination.
This valiant stand of the supposedly unschooled indigenous peasants of the Cordillera won the support and admiration of human rights advocates here and abroad despite various threats issued by the dictatorial martial law regime of the late Ferdinand Marcos. Outstanding nationalists, like the late Senators Lorenzo M. Tañada and Jose W. Diokno, were among staunch supporters of the Cordillera peoples’ struggles, together with religious leaders from various denominations.
Despite public outcry against what came to be known as “development aggression”, more Cordillerans fell victims to the guns of the Marcos regime, notably among the Tingguians in Abra who were resisting the depredations of the Cellophil Resource Corporations. As resistance to these unwanted projects including like large-scale mining spread across the Cordillera, more innocent lives were claimed by the militaristic regime and its cohorts.
Again, instead of cowering in the face of intensifying military atrocities, the Cordillera peoples’ movement spread throughout the region and a stronger unity was forged among the various indigenous peoples of the Cordillera. Meanwhile, friends and advocates of indigenous peoples rights from here and abroad continued to express their solidarity in various ways. In recognition of all these developments, Macli-ing Memorial Day was renamed Cordillera Day starting 1985 to make it more inclusive. Although the heroic role of Macli-ing Dulag remains as the cornerstone of the celebration, a tribute in honor of all Cordillera martyrs and heroes is done.
Since then, it has been led by the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) through its various provincial and municipal chapters. The alliance itself, founded in 1984, was the organizational expression of the region wide effort to strengthen and coordinate the popular resistance against the rampant violations of the indigenous peoples’ rights to their land and resources upon which the peoples’ lives depended.