By KIMBERLIE NGABIT-QUITASOL
TINGLAYAN, Kalinga — Under the scorching midday sun of April 23, hundreds of delegates to the Cordillera Day 2017 from all over the country and abroad met with Kalinga folk along the Bontoc-Tinglayan road to unveil a shrine in honor of Butbut tribe’s martyrs and heroes of the Chico River Mega-Dam struggle.
Three solid steel markers representing images of Ama Macliing Dulag, Pedro Dungoc Sr. and Lumbaya Gayudan who led the struggle against the World Bank-funded dam project of the Marcos regime that threatened to submerge Kalinga and Mountain province communities, ricefields and burial grounds stood proud above Bugnay village, of Tinglayan town in Kalinga province.
History tells that the Butbut tribe were among the Kalinga and Mountain Province tribes who forged unity and staunchly defended their villages against the mega-dam project despite the country being under martial law at that time.
On April 24, 1980, Philippine Army soldiers led by Lt. Leodegario Adalem raided Bugnay village to look for Ama Macliing and Pedro who were then active leaders in the struggle against the projects. The soldiers straffed their houses killing Macliing on the spot and wounding Pedro on the hand.
Ama Pedro was able to escape and later decided to take up arms and join the New People’s Army (NPA) in his continuing pursuit to defend his people and his homeland against the destructive project. He died an NPA red fighter.
Ama Lumbaya is from the Ngibat village, also of Tinglayan and a territory of the Butbut tribe. He was known as the father of the tribe who tirelessly explained to his people the impact of the mega-dams to their homeland as he worked hard to forge unity among the affected villages.
Ama Lumbaya received death threats because of his work. The death threats heightened after the death of Ama Macliing. Like Ama Pedro, Ama Lumbaya chose to join the NPA to be able to continue educating and organizing the people amid the threats to his life.
In 1984, during the bombings and pursuit operations of government troops, Ama Lumbaya was forced to take refuge in the forest where he died of pnuemonia.
Aside from the three pangats (leaders), the Butbut tribe also etched the names of other heroes and martyrs of their tribe that include Kathlyn Iyabang-Atumpa, Guzman Gunday, Julio Dulanag, Pingwot Dawing, Yag-ao Ebulwang, Daniel Ijog, Orchag Olyog, Simeon Talis, Dalunag Dawadaw, Gaspar Yag-ao and Elena Edpis.
In his message read during the unveiling program, Rev. Brent Harry Alawas, a bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Philippines (EDNP), said it is fitting that the memorial marker is established in Bugnay village, Macliing’s village, the Chico dam struggle’s first martyr.
Bishop Alawas said that the first team to respond to the murder of Macliing was from the EDNP in Bontoc.
He said then Bishop Richard Abellon sent his staff Benedict Solang and Victor Ananayo, village leader Eduardo Akiate and Elizabeth Dirige of Bontoc on April 26, 1980 to investigate the incident.
The team threaded through several military checkpoints and gathered information on the killing of Macliing they then made it public upon returning to Bontoc.
The initial EDNP fact-finding report was followed up with subsequent missions and protest actions by various groups.
Windel Bolinget, chairperson of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), said that the government failed to give justice to the murder of Ama Macliing. He said that even after the late Corazon Aquino took power and supposedly restored democracy, the government did not hold the Philippine Army acoountable or punish erring soldiers involved in the murder of Ama Macliing.
“The government did not punish Lt. Adalem or his men, it was the NPA who later punished Adalem and gave justice to Ama Macliing,” Bolinget said.
Bolinget further said that government sponsored and approved hydropower, energy and mining projects that continue to threaten not just the Butbut territories but the whole Cordillera homeland. He added that just like in Ama Macliing’s time, state security forces are deployed to Cordillera communities to quell the opposition.
Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate said the marker is a symbol of the continuing struggle not just of the Cordillera people but of the Filipino people as a whole for genuine democracy.
“We remember Macliing and other Cordillera heroes and their shining example as we continue to struggle against destructive projects that continue to threaten our communities,” Zarate said.
Bolinget said the Cordillera people has a long list of martyrs and heroes who are remembered and honored every Cordillera Day celebration. He said that the list is even getting longer because the struggle started by Ama Macliing, Pedro and Lumbaya continues.
Bolinget said that the shrine will serve as a constant reminder of the Cordillera people’s proud heritage. He said that it is a symbol of the people’s collective efforts to immortalize the heroes of the people’s struggle for the defense of ancestral land and self-determination.
“But the highest tribute we can ever pay our martyrs and heroes is living their legacy by following their example of selfless sacrifice for the defense of land, life and honor,” Bolinget said.
Bolinget said that the building of the shrine alone is a testament to the legacy of unity and collecttive action the martyrs and heroes have taught their people. He said that from the conceptualization to the actual putting up of the structures and to the continued maintenance of the shrine, has been a mass movement.
Robert Macliing expressed gratitude for the honor bestowed to his father Ama Macliing.
“Ama Macliing was not just my father. He was our father, a father of the Cordillerans. This marker is ours to be proud of,” he said.
“The challenge as Macliing’s children is to strive to follow in his footsteps and continue his struggle for the defense of the homeland,” he added.
Dungoc’s son, Fr. Pedro Dungoc Jr. was among the priests from various denominations who concelebrated a Mass at the unveiling ceremony
“In closing, I would like to borrow the words of Bishop Alawas: Let us be inspired by our martyrs to continue the struggle that they started to protect our ancestral land, environment and resources, rights as indigenous peoples, and to promote just and lasting peace in the Cordillera,” Pedro Jr. said.
The shrine was designed by Architect Vlad Longid and solar painter Jordan Mangusan.
Mangusan who spoke during the unveiling said that he is honored to have been chosen to design the marker.
“I am not good with words, but I can paint so this is my contribution,” Mangusan said.
And so the three steel frames bearing the images of the three pioneers of the Chico dam struggle stands at a curve just above Bugnay village, a symbol of a people’s highest tribute to their martyrs and heroes. # nordis.net