Tanglag stories of courage: Seeds of hope (2/2)

By ALMA B. SINUMLAG
www.nordis.net

LAST OF TWO PARTS
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PANAMIN: a douse for submission

Manuel Elizalde Jr. still rings a bell among the I-Tanglag as he was the (in)famous personality representing the Presidential Arm for National Minorities (PANAMIN) who went to their village professing that PANAMIN will help them progress.

From the accounts of the elders, PANAMIN distributed sardines, a few chupas of rice, and tinali (glass beads). They also facilitated the treatment of 11 patients in Manila. They organized film shows featuring the T’boli indigenous peoples who, according to them, were “civilized and developed” with their help. They also invited three elders to experience riding an airplane. They chose a few students for educational scholarships. To build divisions and win the submission of the village people.

All of the above actions, the elders said were PANAMIN’s methods to divide them to break their opposition against the dam projects. PANAMIN used the issue of government neglect to their advantage by presenting themselves as “saviors.” The agency’s ulterior motive was to make them sign a ready made resolution signifying their approval to the dam projects. Some elders were fooled and they signed the paper.

Believing that PANAMIN was facilitating a dialogue between the affected minorities and President Marcos, they willingly went to Manila. The elders did not know that it was another trick. The elders from Tanglag were separated from the other elders of Kalinga. They were billeted at the White Plains Hotel and were not allowed to go out without signing a blank resolution. They were threatened and intimidated until they decided to sign it just to go home. They thought that they will will be able to find a way to retract their signatures.

Bakas: A demonstration of rage

In 1976, a day of reckoning came. Fed up by the abusesive military, women from Tanglag, Dupag and other neighboring villages trooped to Mosimos, Tomiangan and lead the panagbakas (dismantling) of the military camp. According to the description of Tanglag women, when the women leaders called the attack, around 250 women, youth, and men took the camp. They shook the skeletal frame of the temporary camp; they sequestered all the materials including blankets, cot beds, and cooking utensils. They then carried the remains of the camp and marched from Mosimos to the center of Tabuk and dropped the materials in Camp Duyan.

For the women who were part of the action, it was the day when they felt empowered. They were afraid but their rage was greater than their fear. Ultimately, their unity gave them the strength they never thought they had.

After the dismantling, Tanglag and other villages posted volunteers to keep watch in Mosimos to prevent any plans for the military to rebuild their camp. It was only until when the military made a mass arrest and put their villages into hamlets that the soldiers were able to rebuild their camp.

Hamlet: a coward’s way of quelling resistance

Military abuses heightened after the women dismantled the military camp and the tribes boycotted a referendum. There were 130 leaders and villagers from Tanglag and other communities who were arrested and charged of disruption of a government project implementation and boycotting of the referendum. They boycotted the referendum as a decision making process because they saw it as a tactic to divide their ranks.

For several years, Tanglag suffered more abuses ranging from torture, killings, and many more. The soldiers built a camp inside the village and kept on intimidating and threatening the people. There was one incident which was indelibly eked in their memory that still triggers their anger towards the soldiers. It was during the early 1980s when several male villagers were fired at by soldiers for no reason at all. This incident caused the killing of a villager named Felipe including a four-year-old boy who was with him.

Also, on October 5, 1987, elder, Ama Daniel Ngayaan was abducted and killed by elements of the paramilitary group, Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army (CPLA). He was on his way home from attending an elders conference. His remains were never found. While the villagers called for a hotad (call for immediate action) to search for Ngayaan, the soldiers ransacked several homes and committed further harassment in Tanglag. A military operation ensued which gave the soldiers a chance to steal from the people’s homes. Accounts of the elders revealed that their tools for blacksmith, some livestock, money, tape recorder, ethnic artifacts and garments were stolen. Soldiers also assaulted and tortured a villager named Quirino. The community did not forget how the soldiers ordered a male villager, Sebastian Linggayo to dance without music which they recall as preposterous and humiliating.

Whenever, they recall those years, they cringe in detest and anger. On the other hand, they are proud to say that due to their perseverance, the dams project was halted. They explored all venues to fight for their right to their lands and resources and their right to plot their future. They did not deny that most of the able-bodied men and women joined the NPA as a form of defense.

A seed to a future we yearn for

The community had been struggling to defend their right to self-determination as indigenous people and as human beings. They survived the turmoil that was Martial Law, the fascism and neglect by the succeeding administrations with their perseverance to keep their unity. From defending their ancestral land against plunder and aggression to developing their self-help mechanisms and over-coming poverty, the I-Tanglag capitalized on their tribal unity. They used their organizations like the Tanglag Women’s Collective (TWC), the Tanglag Community Organization for Unity and Development (TACOUD), the Saint Mary’s Society (SMS) among others as channels to strengthen their unity, to empower themselves, and to propel genuine village development.

A village like Tanglag shows the world a glimpse of a future that people in the mass movements yearn. It is a future where all sectors, including women, are catalysts of development. It is a future that is plotted by the people and not by greed. # nordis.net

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