By ABIGAIL B. ANONGOS
What is the most precious thing to man? Life! If life is threatened, what ought a man do?Fight! This he must do, otherwise he is dishonored. That will be worse than death. If we do not fight and the dams push through, we die anyway. If we fight, we die honorably. Thus I exhort you all, kayaw (struggle)! –Macliing Dulag, Kalinga Chieftain
37 years ago since the successful opposition of the Bontoc and Kalinga peoples to the World Bank-funded Chico Dams, this challenge penned in the words of Macliing Dulag, one of the many elders who led our people in asserting right to land and life, remains true, current, and inspirational as we join fellow indigenous peoples in celebration of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on August 9. Indeed, the story of the Chico struggle is a timeless example of self-determining indigenous communities. It is remarkable how much this struggle is rather reknown to indigenous peoples and advocates in other countries. It should mean much more to us here in the Cordillera and in the Philippines.
So let us celebrate landmark victories at the international level: the declaration of August 9 itself as World Indigenous Peoples’ Day by the UN General Assembly, the establishment of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), the establishment of UN mechanisms for the recognition of IP rights and the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples Rights. We celebrate as well the galvanized efforts of indigenous peoples worldwide into global platforms for the assertion of self-determination, such as the founding of the Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL).
More importantly, let us salute the communities on the ground that gave breathe to movements for the recognition of indigenous peoples rights and self-determination. Without these, the wider achievements of indigenous peoples nationwide and globally may not have been. Let us salute these communities from where struggles are taking place and recognise that much has been sacrificed for indigenous peoples’ social movement from development aggression, State terrorism and imperialism. Therefore, the path can only lead forward.
From Ifugao to Kalinga, from Benguet to Abra, from Mountain Province to Apayao: communities have asserted the right to ancestral land and Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) from the incursions of capitalist mining and energy projects such as SN Aboitiz, Quadriver, Sta. Clara, Chevron, Goldfields and Golden Lake Mineral Resources and more. Communities are also asserting human rights in the face of militarisation and State repression of IP human rights defenders in the form trumped-up charges.
Cordillera history is rich with practice of self-determination that exemplify working collectively for the common good, nurture and defense of the ancesral land and environment and service to the people. In the present situation it is both duty and challenge to sustain these practices.
Let us therefore celebrate the upcoming World Indigenous Peoples’ Day on August 9 by reflecting on the challenges and victories that indigenous communities confronted in the Cordillera peoples’ struggle for self-determination. Let us remember our Cordillera heroes and draw inspiration from their lives of sacrifice, in defense of our cultural heritage, ancestral lands and human rights. Let us continue to take pride in our culture and identity while building solidarity and unity with other sectors and advocates in advancing our common goal for genuine peace and development.
For until our right to self-determination is recognised, and genuine regional autonomy in place under a truly sovereign Philippines, the only recourse for indigenous peoples is to press onward with the struggle for self-determination and national democracy.
In Baguio City if you are around on August 9, you are invited to join the parade and program organised by Cordillera Peoples Alliance. Come in your indigenous attire (or a touch of it). Magkita kita po tayo.#nordis.net