37th People’s Cordillera Day

Gantala Press stands in joyful solidarity with the Filipino people in their celebration of Cordillera Day.

Forty-one years ago today, state agents came to Macli-ing Dulag’s house in Tinglayan, Kalinga in the dead of night and assassinated him. They then went to fire shots at Pedro Dungoc, Sr at his house. Dulag and Dungoc led the Kalinga people against the World Bank-funded Chico River Dam project, which would have submerged their villages and obliterated their land, their lives.

“The village mourned, but did not weep,” was how an elder described the Cordillera people’s response to Dulag’s murder. Since the early 1980s, Cordillera Day was celebrated in honor of Dulag, who was known to have united not only the Kalinga ili among themselves but with the other Cordillera groups as well, and mobilized them against their “common enemy.” According to historian Joanna Cariño, Cordillera Day served as the early versions of the Cordillera Heroes’ Monument in Tinglayan, Kalinga, launched in 2017 in honor of Dulag, Dungoc, and Ama Lumbaya. 

We are inspired by the women leaders of Cordillera who defended their communities from colonizers, state authorities, and multinational corporations who throughout history have attempted to plunder their mountains and rivers for gold, energy, and other natural resources. We stand in awe of Mother Leticia Bula-at who from the 1970s up to the present has been speaking against divisive and destructive government projects like the various hydroelectric power plants in Kalinga; of Petra Macli-ing who successfully led the anti-mining struggle in Bontoc; and of the women organizers of Innabuyog-GABRIELA who continue their elders’ legacy of protecting the land and their culture. 

Early this year, the government dismantled the Cordillera Heroes’ Monument also at night, while the villagers slept. This kind of cowardly, treacherous attack on indigenous peoples, peasant leaders, and community organizers has become more and more common under Duterte’s regime, which seeks to crush all forms of dissent through militarization, the Terror Law, and outright murder. In October 2020, Cordillera activist Beatrice “Betty” Belen, an outspoken critic of the planned Chevron geothermal project in Kalinga, was arrested on false charges. Other leaders such as Sarah Dekdeken continue to be red-tagged and threatened with imprisonment. 

On April 9, National Valor Day, the people reinstated the Cordillera Heroes’ Monument in strong defiance of state fascism and in assertion of their identity not only as Cordillerans, but as Filipinos. All too often, indigenous peoples are ignored or treated as collateral damage in pursuit of “development” or the interest of the majority (which in reality turns out to be the interest of only a few). But so many lessons can be learned from indigenous peoples’ history and struggles, from their ways of caring for and protecting the earth from the devastations continuously brought by imperialism.

Indigenous peoples all over the world serve as our biggest wall against the dominant culture of commodification, fantasy production, profit and greed. In the era of capitalist greed and domination, the life traversed by IP communities is a great threat to the powerful. That is why they remain under constant attack and threat of decimation.

With the Cordillera people, today and always, we call for the government to protect ancestral lands and waters and to respect and uphold indigenous communities’ right to these resources; we call for the government to heed its mandate to serve the people, not those in power. Long Live Cordillera!

#RiseAmidCOVID #CordilleraDay2021 #DefendCordilleraPH

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