By Artemio Dumlao — Everybody must have heard of
Macli-ing Dulag, a folk hero in a remote mountain village in Kalinga.

But perhaps not everybody knew why he was killed.

Twenty-four years ago, on the evening of April 24, soldiers belonging to the Army’s 4th Infantry Division under Lt. Leodegario Adalem strafed houses in the village of Bugnay in Tinglayan town.

The attack was meant to kill two prominent leaders of Kalinga and Bontok, who were opposed to the World Bank-funded Chico River Basin hydroelectric dam project of then President Ferdinand Marcos.

These two leaders were Ama Macli-ing Dulag and Pedro Dungoc. Dulag, a respected pangat (tribal chieftain) of the Butbut tribe, died from multiple gunshots while Dungoc survived. Dungoc later joined the New People’s Army (NPA) and died a communist fighter.

Instead of being cowed by fear because of Dulag’s killing, thousands of Kalingas and Bontoks were roused against a perceived common enemy — the Marcos dictatorship and the Chico dam project.

The spontaneous fighting eventually stopped the construction of what could have been Asia’s biggest dam then and unified indigenous groups for the "defense of their ancestral land and for genuine regional autonomy."

"The just struggle for indigenous peoples’ rights and against national oppression carried out by the militant mass movement would resound beyond the Chico valley and into the national and international arena of the broad movement for indigenous peoples’ rights and for self-determination. This is the legacy carried on by the Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) up to the present," CPA chairman Joan Carling, a Kankanaey-Igorot, said.

Formed in 1984, the CPA claims to have the widest alliance of indigenous people’s groups and tribal organizations in the Cordillera region.

It has provincial chapters all over the region and has even been recognized by international institutions such as the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Affairs and the UN Commission on Human Rights.

Last April 24, thousands converged in the mountain village of Tucucan here to mark the 24th death anniversary of Dulag, not to mourn but to celebrate and be inspired by the example set by an "unschooled but wise tribal leader."

Now known as Cordillera Day, the celebration every April 24 gives Cordillerans the opportunity to come together and continue what their forebears had fought for — the recognition of their ancestral land rights and "fighting the evils" that are against it.

Carling said the legacy of Macli-ing Dulag and other Cordilleran martyrs who fought for indigenous people’s rights through the years must persist in the face of continuing threats against mountain folk like government-sponsored dams, mining and industrial projects.

For one, Loreta Yocogan, secretary-general of the CPA-Mountain Province chapter, said Cordillerans still face threats of militarization.

Bontok youth Joseph Torafing, CPA vice-chairman, said tribal wars stemming from boundary disputes triggered by government-sponsored boundary delineations have disrupted village life.

He accused the military of fanning these conflicts to sow disunity among tribal folk and prevent them from addressing threats to their existence.

Mai Andin, spokesman of the Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP), a nationwide alliance of indigenous peoples’ groups and organizations, said indigenous groups are also hounded by biopiracy, agro-conversion and other projects.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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