BAAY-LICUAN, Abra (Apr.. 24) — Locals and delegates of the 24th Cordillera Day were treated to readings of popular Cordillera adages with Dr. Carol Pagaduan-Araullo, chair of the nationalist Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) quoting Cordillera martyrs in her keynote speech.
One such age-old saying that remained an inspiration to many indigenous peoples’ campaigns worldwide is one from Macliing Dulag, whose death in 1980 inspired the birth of many peoples’ organizations in the Cordillera, among them the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA).
Dr. Pagaduan-Araullo joins the pattong (community dancing) during the Cordillera Day held in Baay-Licuan, Abra. Photo by Cye Reyes/NORDIS
Araullo’s voice did not fail to inspire new campaigns against the plunder of the region’s mineral resources as she recited: “Life! If life is threatened, what should we do? Resist! This we must do, otherwise, we are dishonored and that is worse than death. If we do not fight, we die anyway. If we fight, we die honorably…and our children may win and keep this land. And the land shall become even more precious when nourished by our sweat and blood. — Macliing Dulag”
This year’s Cordillera Day on April 22 to 25 here gathered more than 3,000 delegates from many provinces not only in the Cordillera but also throughout the country and supporters from foreign countries as Taiwan and Hong kong in China, Ireland, Switzerland, Canada, US, and several other Asian countries allied with the Asian Rural Women’s Coalition.
Araullo said the theme “Resist mining plunder and state terrorism” sharply addresses the situation not only in the Cordillera but in many parts of the country. More than 15 million hectares have been opened up for financial and technical assistance agreements with foreign mining companies.
In the Cordillera, besides the present mining operations, more than 1.2 million hectares have been applied for, according to Santos Mero, CPA deputy secretary-general. This represents more than two-thirds of the total land area of the region.
Araullo summarized what locals have been saying in various workshops the day before. “Mining spells destruction, displacement of indigenous peoples from their ancestral domain; poverty; misery; and other socio-economic degradation.
In sharp contrast, the government has raised its iron hand through two levels of Oplan Bantay Laya, the counter-insurgency program of the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration.
“OBL targeted leaders and mass activists,” she said. The US-designed war on terror is state terrorism in its naked worst, according to Araullo.
In the Cordillera, at least seven activists have been killed recently. Several others, who are farmers, and ordinary civilians have been killed in the provinces in the course of the implementation of OBL 1 and 2.
Those killed in the course of military operations were either hunters or forest dwellers mistaken to be members of the New People’s Army, according to the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance.
Ending her talk with another popular adage: When the Americans came, they had the bible and we had all the gold in our mountains. When they left, they had our gold and we have their bible.
Heat in the rice field-turned-gallery was high as the keynote speaker bade the delegates with lines from a nationalist song. “Ang magbuhos ng dugo para sa bayan ay kagitingang di malilimutan…
The Cordillera Day in Baay-Licuan is the fourth hosted in Abra, the first was in Kili, Tubo in 1998, followed by Sallapadan in 2000 and Bangilo District in Malibcong in 2005.
On April 22, a cleansing ritual was performed by local leaders at Mount Capcapo, where Olympus Pacific Minerals, Inc. bore seven holes in its initial exploration work for which locals did not allow. Workshops and discussion groups on indigenous peoples issues centered on mining and state terrorism. Before the Solidarity night capped the four-day activities, a ritual commemorated the martyrdom of Macliing Dulag and other martyrs. # Lyn V. Ramo for NORDIS