Women’s Front: Breaking away from old ideas


In the traditional dap-ay (indigenous socio-political institution) system among the Bontoc, Aplay and Maeng tribes, women are prohibited to participate. Women are not even allowed to stay near the dap-ay especially when male elders and leaders are having a meeting. In the bodong system among the Kalingas, Tingguians, Bontocs, Aplay, and Isnags, women are not allowed to join as well. Instead, they participate by cooking and serving food and coffee, and washing the dishes. But can we categorically state that these are reflective of the low regard for women?

In the traditional dap-ay and bodong, most of the issues that elders and leaders talk about are tribal disputes, tribal wars and other issues relating to defense of ancestral territories which were designated as the world for men. In the order of society before, they have spontaneous and reciprocal roles: the war is the world for men but women are also powerful in the economic survival of the community. There are also testimonies among women elders in several tribes in Kalinga that while they are not allowed to join in the warriors’ meetings, their husbands consult them and their opinions are presented and given importance.

In fact, if women disagree with the men engaging in tribal wars, women defect on their role to prepare food for the warriors. They may not participate in engaging in the actual war but their role is as important as the roles of the warriors. Their reproductive role ensures the continuity of their tribes. It is their production roles that ensure the survival of the warriors and the tribe as a whole.

What were then the factors that lead to the changes when it comes to the regard for women? In the colonial period, institutions like the Church, and schools spread values of patriarchy. Before domestic roles are considered as equally important to war roles. Colonial thoughts however eroded this and made the domestic roles as private matters of families where the head of the families are men. The traditional roles then of women became confined to the four corners of their homes. If these roles were given high regard before, it has been degraded. The patriarchal values has also been ingrained to this day that consider men as bread winners while women are the house keepers. Most of the time, their voices are not given equal importance in the decision making of a community.

Despite this, there are many women who were able to break away from patriarchal ideas and were still able to participate especially in the defense of land and life. This is because issues that are being confronted by the indigenous communities have turned more complex that need not only the opinion of the male elders and leaders but the opinion and leadership of women. In the Cordillera, women leaders have shown their courage in confronting issues that include threats from extractive and destructive industries in ancestral territories. These women have broken away from patriarchal roles and struggled to make their voices heard and as a result, they are respected not only among women but in the entire community.

Women have also shown played leadership roles in confronting the issues of abuse against women and children. From 2012 to present, two cases were documented in Mountain Province where women led the arrest and pursued cases against perpetrators of rape.

Exemplary women include Petra Macliing who along with Pangat Macliing Dulag led many brave men and women in the opposition against the Chico River Dam struggle. Petra also led a successful protest against a corporate geothermal power prospector within their ancestral domain in Mainit, Bontoc.

Beatrice Belen from Uma, Lubuagan, Kalinga is one of the leaders in the ongoing opposition against Chevron’s geothermal power project affecting more than 10 ancestral domains in Kalinga.

Leticia Bula-at from Dupag, Kalinga was also one of the leading personalities during the anti Chico River Dam struggle.She was one among those who lead the dismantling of a military camp near their ancestral domain. Today, she is one of the leaders in the ongoing protest against the two hydroelectric power projects that are planned to be constructed along the Chico River within the ancestral territories of Taluktok, Malbong ang Naneng Tribes in Upper Tabuk, Kalinga.

Ina Dolores of Ifugao who duringMartial Law stood against the dictatorship now continues to work for women’s rights and most specially for their collective rights as indigenous peoples.

During the recent 6th Assembly of the Metro Baguio Tribal Elders and Leaders Alliance, a woman leader, Evelyn Afidchao-Miranda who hails from Bontoc, Mountain Province has been elected as the Vice Chairperson. Miranda is a fearless public speaker who have always stood for indigenous peoples rights. Her being a woman has not been a hindrance in the recognition of her capacity to lead the alliance of elders and leaders from various tribes and ethnolinguistic groups in Metro Baguio.

These women are only few among many who have broken away from the old concept that women should be confined only to the four corners of their homes. Undeniably, the progressive peoples movement have great influence on these women to build their confidence, also in asserting their opinions and to take on leading roles at various levels. The bravery and leadership of Petra Macliing, Ina Dolores and Evelyn Miranda are honed by their active participation in the progressive indigenous peoples movement lead by the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) while Leticia Bulaat and Beatrice Belen were polished in Innabuyog, the alliance of women’s organizations in the Cordillera.

Today, while we are confronting intensifying issues of corporate plunder of our ancestral territories, the regress of human rights, it is a challenge for women youth and elders to actively participate and take on leading roles in movements that assert peoples rights. Let us join movements that are unflinching in speaking the truth in the face of human rights violations. # nordis.net


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