Ni ABIGAIL B. ANONGOS
In one of the many tributes to Rafael Markus Bangit in June 2006, Carol Galvez read a speech (that flowed like a poem) written in honor of human rights defender Shirin Ebadi. “For the man who is all man” she said. That day it was for Makoy, pangat and activist elder.
Evening of June 8, 2018 as I write this. Twelve years ago on this day, Makoy was shot in front of his oldest son in a bus stop over en route to Baguio City. He died instantly. I cannot forget the year 2006 for the spate of human rights violations across the country, and the Cordillera was not exempt. The numbers grew. The names became faces, and later, faces that I knew. Markus Bangit was one of them. Hindi ko na maalala kung pang-ilan siya sa mga katutubong aktibistang pinaslang sa ilalim ng rehimeng US-Arroyo.
The people’s movement was under attack—as in the present situation. Who knew that during Cordillera Day 2006 in Uma, Lubuagan, Makoy’s rationale (Ti Kaipapanan ti Aldaw Kordilyera) was his final uggayam. But I am not writing this for us to be lonely. To remember him, surely. To honor his memory, rightly—and to draw strength and inspiration for a life well-lived in service of the people. And I have in mind the youth—I hope this strikes a chord.
Someone told me, we must not forget our heroes and martyrs in the people’s movement. So here is a story I wish to share, chronicled over several evenings of pulong parangal in Tabuk in 2006, until Makoy was laid to rest in his beloved Tomiangan, overlooking the Chico River. I think it is also fitting to recollect Makoy, at a time when the Chico River is threatened anew with development aggression (just this afternoon the China-funded Chico river pump irrigation projected ground breaking took place in Pinukpok), and how Makoy’s activist awakening all started with the Chico River.
Born Rafael Bangit on October 24, 1959 in Sitio Tomiangan, Brgy. Dupag, Tabuk, Kalinga, Makoy was the eldest of 6 children. His father, Pedro “Mangwag” Bukaw-Bangit was a peacepact holder who traced his roots to the Naneng, Malbong, Salegseg and Sumadel tribes. His mother was Adelina Banutan Bangit, of Malbong and Naneng descent.
Growing up in Tomiangan, Makoy walked long roads daily and excelled in school. He finished his elementary schooling at Gaogao Elementary School in 1972 when the country was declared under martial law. Formal schooling gradually exposed Makoy to the social conditions affecting the country under the US-Marcos dictatorial regime.
Ferdinand Marcos started constructing the Chico Dam, one of the largest dams in Asia. As a highschool student and graduate of St. William Academy, Makoy witnessed the human rights violations of the State military to his fellow i-Kalinga and to the Bontok peoples who were directly affected by the dam construction. Many were arrested and thrown to jail for opposing the dam construction. Already a youth leader in his own community, Makoy served as chairman of the Dupag Youth Council where he effectively led and educated his fellow youth.
The conditions under martial law and the hard peasant life of the Bangit family did not hinder Pedro and Adelina from sacrificing and persevering to make ends meet and be able to send Makoy to college in Baguio City. By 1980, Makoy earned his degree (Bachelor of Arts, Major in Political Science) at the Baguio Colleges Foundation (now University of the Cordilleras). It was also at this time that pangat Macliing Dulag, leader of the Butbut tribe in Bugnay, Kalinga, was assassinated by elements of the 44th IB led by Lt. Leodegario Adalem.
As a college student, Makoy actively led and participated in information campaigns and public fora on the opposition to the Chico Dams and its impact to the land and lives of the Bontok and Kalinga. Makoy was one of the youth leaders and best speakers of the campaign, where he would reach as far as Metro Manila to speak and explain in various conferences and gather support from support groups including government officials.
Sa UP Diliman dati, kwento ng isang kasamang aktibista noong nag-aaral pa siya, nahuhusayan sila kay Makoy tuwing nagpapaliwanag siya. Crush mi amin ni Makoy, kunana. Malalagip ko daytoy nga istorya.
Makoy’s work extended to issues beyond the Chico Dam. He was part of the struggle against the Grand Cañao, militarisation and recognition of ancestral land and self-determination in the 1980s.
His talent in cultural form had always been an effective way to inform, educate and motivate. He was very skilled in the delivery of Kalinga chants, such as the uggayam. His colleagues recall that, as good as he was on cultural work, he never ceased from further studying and familiarising himself with indigenous systems to learn how he could effectively reach out to the masses. He was very particular with word usage (“use words that the masses use in everyday life”) and the use and placing of slurs in chants.
He rendered an uggayam in many an occasion that it somehow got associated with him. I witnessed a workshop where he was asked to teach a much younger generation to perform the uggayam: nalaka laeng met ti ag uggayam, basta nagapu iti puso, kunana. Saan ko metlang malipatan daytoy.
The saga of the successful Chico Dam opposition was also at a time when the Marcos regime facilitated the entry of large scale mining in Pasil (Batong Buhay Gold Mines or BBGMI) and the massive logging operations of Cellophil in Abra and Apayap. These experiences honed Makoy to be the sharp, analytic person that he became, and fully grasp the situation that shrouded his beloved Kalinga-Apayao and the Cordillera region.
After college, Makoy went back to Kalinga-Apayao to give back his eduation to his home province, at a time when development aggression engulfed it so: BBGMI pollution of Pasil and Chico Rivers, logging in Apayao, Hacienda Madrigal in Rizal, national oppression and the fascist rule of the Marcos dictatorship. Makoy organised among indigenous peasants. He was instrumental to the formation fo the Mutual Assistance of Kalinga-Apayao and the Chico People’s Action Group (CAPAG) during the successful BBGMI opposition.
Makoy played a key role in strengthening the Kalinga-Apayao chapter of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance where his guidance and leadership were indispensable to the development of the staff and strengthening the mass movement in the province. He was elected Bayan Muna provincial chair in 2002, where he actively campaigned for the politics of change through Bayan Muna’s platform.
Makoy also played a key role in organising elders in the region. He was assigned to the CPA Regional Office in 2004 to coordinate the work of the Elders Desk. He was willing to work where he was more needed. Years of experience and skill in the mediation of tribal dispute earned him the respect of his elders until such time he became a pangat.
As pangat he was the peacepact guarantor (holder on behalf of the Malbong tribe on its peacepact agreement with the Dangtalan tribe of Pasil) of his tribe. Until his death, he served as the secretary general of Binodngan People’s Organisation. In December 2006 the Cordillera Elders Alliance (CEA) was finally established, with provincial chapters in Kalinga, Mountain Province (MAITUD), Abra (ABEA), tri-boundary of Abra, Ilocos Sur and Mountain Province (AM-IN) and Baguio (MBTELA).
Makoy has played an important role in all of these, bagamat hindi na niya nakita ang CEA establishment. Surely he would be happy to know that now there is a CEA provincial chapter in Benguet (Benguet Elders Assembly) and Ifugao (Pun-oohan nan di Kanomnoman ad Ifugao).
He was once invited as resource person to the consultation workshop of the Supreme Court Academy on Alternative Dispute Resolution, on the topic of peace tribal mediation.
I will stop here. Inabutan ko si Makoy sa CPA Regional Office in 2005, and the one thing that struck me most about him was his humility. He called me mestiza ti PIC (Public Information Commission). I cannot forget that one time he watched the fax machine intently, waiting kanu for an email to download. After that I think he has got around sending and downloading emails.
For the last three Cordillera Day commemorations, I saw his second and third sons perform: Bukaw and Sumkad had become cultural activists like their father. They have a band back home in Tabuk with the oldest, Banna. Crisanta Mae, the youngest, had graudated from senior high this month. Makoy would have been 59 this year.
Now, how his nickname Markus/Makoy came to be was told by the late great Atty. William “Billy” Claver in his 2006 eulogy—but I will have to look for that other notebook yet to tell you how exactly. # nordis.net