By ARTHUR L. ALLAD-IW
BAGUIO CITY – A Geneva-based independent, international institution – having a United Nations consultative status – had recently chose an anti-Chico dam veteran from Bontoc as among it 10 worldwide women awardees for 2009.
Mother Petra Macliing, 80 years old, was awarded the Laureate Prize for Rural Women for the year 2009 by the Women’s World Summit Foundation (WSSF), a Geneva-based humanitarian, non-government and non-profit organization.
The WSSF was founded on the occasion of the international working women’s day on March 8, 1991 in Geneva, Switzerland. Three years after, in 1994, the WSSF established the Laureate Awards which honors creative and courageous women and women’s groups worldwide for their contribution at improving the quality of life in rural communities, for protecting the environment, transmitting knowledge and standing up for human rights and peace.
Widowed early and forced to raise seven children alone, Mother Petra, as she is fondly called, joined the anti-Chico dam struggle with the Bontoks and Kalinga indigenous peoples against the World-Bank funded dam project of then Pres. Ferdinand E. Marcos.
“ Mother Petra’s leadership and courage started in her ili’s (home village) active participation in the successful opposition to the dams in the late 1970’s, which was also the period of Martial Law,” says Jill Cariño, vice president for external affairs of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), a regional federation where Mother Petra is a member of the Advisory Council.
Carino added: “She is also a founding member of the Kalinga-Bontoc Peace Pact Holders Association (KBPPHA). She went to Bugnay, Dulag Macliing’s village, to organize the women against the Chico River dam despite heavy militarization.” Dulag was killed by state troops on April 24, 1980 due to his anti-Chico dam leadership.
Mother Petra has never wavered in her understanding that the identity and life of indigenous peoples is intrinsically tied to the protection and conservation of the land…she is a living representation of the role of how rural women protect land and culture, Carino added as they handed to Mother Petra on Sunday the WSSF plague which the latter coursed through CPA.
Anti-corporate mining struggle
In her village in Mainit, Bontoc, Mountain Province in the mid 70s, Mother Petra, also known by her igorot name – Tannaw, led the opposition against the Benguet Corporation’s exploration.
“There were some 200 of us men and women from Mainit who confronted the BC prospectors. The men immediately wanted to physically assault the company’s camp, and this would have been violent,” recalled Mother Petra.
She reasoned out that women took the lead, while the men were not far behind, as the women had other means. “Arms linked, we told the prospectors to leave our land. We were only women, but our anger and rage at that moment gave us the strength we did not think we had,” she recalled.
She continues, “We burned the campsite and threw their equipment downstream. The second time, we took with us the equipment we could carry and brought it to their office at Bontoc Poblacion so they would leave our mountains forever. Disrobing by older indigenous women to curse, shame and drive them away was exercised at that time. We were so determined to drive the prospectors away, we also grabbed and squeezed their groins to their pain and agony. And so they left.”
Fellow women activists
The family of Mother Petra in this city joined her at the acceptance ceremony of the WSF Laureate Award on Sunday at the Philippine Baptist Seminary here.
“We want to point out the role of other women in the development work and advocacy,” said Dra. Elizabeth M. Solang, a daughter of mother Petra.
She identified Esther Ngolab who stood shoulder to shoulder with Mother Petra in their anti-mining campaign against Benguet Corporation in Mainit.
She also identified Ana Palangchao of Tucucan, Bontoc who had been with mother in her organic farming in Isabela. “They were able to prove to farmers that rice husk can control golden kuhol(snail), said Solang adding: “Ina Endena of Besao who had been with mother in her holistic CPA work.”
Attributable to her being a good mother was her raising of her 7 children—all girls— who are all now professionals. She has among her daughters a lawyer, a doctor, a businesswoman, a teacher.
In accepting the award, Mother Petra claimed in her native Bontok language that the award was for every body.
“Para kendatako amin man na. (The award is for all of us who continue to struggle for the defense of our homeland), says Mother Petra, who is known also in her village as Tannaw.
Anglican priest Eduardo Solang, former CPA chairman, said that Mother Petra personifies an elder who is committed for a selfless sacrifice for the common good of indigenous peoples in the region.
“Until today, Mother Petra is a leading figure in the Cordillera for the defense of land, life, resources and for self-determination,” says Cariño pointing: “In her advanced age, she is still very active in the campaign against destructive peoples affecting the indigenous peoples.”
“Mother Petra’s distinct contribution for indigenous peoples rights not only in the Cordillera but also internationally gives us inspiration and resoluteness to carry on CPA’s work to protect and fight for indigenous peoples’ rights”, said Cariño in closing.
Aside from Macliing, the other nine Laureate Awardees are women leaders from Burkina Faso, Brazil, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, India and Mongolia. # nordis.net