April 23, 2013

Commemoration of 29th Cordillera Day

On April 24 1980, soldiers of the Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division fired at two houses in an attempted coup of two prominent national leaders. This event has been commemorated as the Cordillera Day since 1985.

It was in the evening of this day in 1980 when soldiers belonging to the Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division, under Lt. Leodegario Adalem, fired at two houses in the village of Bugnay, Tinglayan, Kalinga. The attack meant to kill two prominent leaders of the Kalinga and Bontok peoples who opposed the World Bank-funded Chico River Basin Hydroelectric Dam Project of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.  These were Ama Macliing Dulag and Pedro Dungoc.  Macliing Dulag, a respected pangat (tribal chieftain) of the Butbut tribe, died from multiple gunshots while Pedro Dungoc survived. 

The Cordillera indigenous people, numbering around 1, 1 million, are both blessed and cursed by the fact that they live in one of the most diverse and resource-laden provinces of the Philippines. Besides having numerous agricultural fields and being the premier mining site with eight foreign companies operating in the region, Cordillera is also container of headwaters of the major rivers in Northern Luzon. If these rivers were to be dammed it could provide at least five million kilowatts of the total electrical needs (some 56%) of the entire country. This has led to many damming projects that have proved to have devastating effect on the people living in the region: many have been forced to leave their ancestral homeland and turn into refugees and squatters. Opposing these inhumane projects was one of the main catalysts of the creation of the Cordillera Peoples’ Alliance (CPA), a democratic federal organization which aims to protect the Cordillera people living in the troubled areas.

The April 24 celebration, from 1981 to 1984, was known as the “Macliing Memorials", but the annual commemoration and celebration of Cordillera Day has taken place since 1985. It is a political event dedicated to communal discussion on the most urgent issues of the Cordillera people andpresentation of new topics. Still, serious matters do not damper the festive atmosphere of the event, as the community dancing and gong music follow the duration of the whole event, from April 23 to 26.

UNPO congratulates its Cordillera Member on this day and wishes the Cordillera people productive decisions which will enrich their community life and provide them with possibilities to attain self-determination.

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