Handwritten account by Leticia “Tining” Bula-at of the people’s resistance against the Chico River Dam in Kalinga, 1970s-1980s. Mother Tining’s story is adapted in comics in Let the River Flow Free/Lasst Den Fluss Fliessen/Dawwang for Goethe Institut’s Movements and Moments: Feminist Generations project.
It was between 1974 and 1977 — this was how long the residents resisted the construction of the dam in Chico River, which would have flooded or wiped out the people living on both sides of the river. Sabangan and Bontoc, Mountain Province to Tomiangan and Dupag in Tabuk, Kalinga, a lot of houses, farms and everything would have been wiped out by the planned Dam 5, Sabangan #1, Betwagan #2, Tinglayan #3 and Tomiangan #4. It was going to be the biggest dam in Asia. This was during President Marcos’ Martial Law.
During this time, we fought against the construction of the dam even though there were many PC soldiers, NPC members deployed in our towns. We resisted in many ways such as taking away the tarps from their camps, as well as other materials like wood, lumber. Since their camp was near a bridge, we could throw these materials into the river.
We kept an eye on their activities all day and all night so we could take down any camps that they built. We shouted at them, told them to leave because they were not from here. We resisted a lot, we even dismantled the biggest camp of the police force and PC.
The women, because there were many of us, we dismantled the whole camp. Our men followed. We took all the items from the camp in Bulanao, their cot beds, pots and others. There were 100 of us who walked carrying all of these from the camp back to our communities.
Later on, the soldiers set up another camp, they used wood frames and GI sheets. Once again, the women from Tanglag, Cagalwan, Ableg, Lubuagan and Tomiangan, where I am from, gathered. When we were dismantling this new camp, the soldiers tried to stop us. That was when we took our clothes off. The women who were lactating, sprayed their milk at the soldiers. We were able to dismantle one tent/structure. These were not the only actions we did, we also made a petition and sent it to Manila.
In 1977, a dialogue was supposed to take place between the townspeople and the NPC and so many people came. The NPC and army declared that the dialogue would be held at the center. All the elders went. I escaped.
There is another incident that I cannot forget. I gathered the children and we went to pull out the markers of the land survey that was being done. When the soldiers saw us, they shot at us and we ran back home. The soldiers and NPC ran after us. We took an off-trail path but they caught us. One of them hit my back with a (bullet) magazine. My son, Jerry, saw what happened so he threw stones at them.
I think the women and the rest of the community today cannot assert their demands like we did, [especially those] who only think about personal gain and money.
The people of Kalinga united as one because of the bodong. The people of Kalinga came together to write the (governing) laws of the peace pact. If someone violated the laws, they would be excluded from their community/tribe.
There was also a written agreement saying that nobody should apply for work with the NPC because if they got killed, it would not be the community’s concern.
Blood was used as a thumbmark. The finger was pricked for the blood which was marked on the signer’s name.
What we did to thwart the project (…), we had no fear. We were brave to say that we did not have anyone to rely on but ourselves, that all of our time would be devoted to this moment. We sacrificed all of our time because we knew that this was going to be a long fight. It took the community five years to fight.
I think the women and the community these days cannot do what we did, especially those who only think about personal gain and money.
About the struggle against the Chico Dam project, I cannot forget that everybody, men, women, and even children (was involved). We went to the campsite of the NPC and soldiers to take apart their tarps. We were on the lookout day and night. We slept on the road. Why? Because we could not let Kalinga drown, we did not want to leave the land where we were born and where our parents and elders were born.
The ancestral land, the rivers, the natural resources, the inheritance by the community/tribe such as the peace pact, you own all of these as a tribe. All of these resources belong to the tribe/community.
Earlier, there was no formal group yet, no president nor officers but we were organized because of our traditions/practices. For example, the term innabuyog means “helping one another.” When the CWEARC came to research about the Chico Dam struggle, it was made known that women are strong/powerful. It was the women who were on the frontline so that there would be no trouble, because the men are hot-headed. That’s why we told them, stand behind us and guard us.