Sunday, August 27, 2017

Who is your hero?

Bugnay, Tinglayan, Kalinga, the village of Dulag Macliing.

Hero ba? Syempre may kanya-kanya tayong hero. Ako si Dulag Macliing, isa sa mga taong lumaban at napatay ng mga sundalo ni Macoy. Kung di sya lumaban kasama ng iba pang katutubo, natabunan na sana ng tubig ang Bontoc hanggang Tinglayan.
The project was to build 4 big dams along the Chico river that would have affected many villages in Mt. Province and Kalinga. The people opposed the project but one of the most vocal was Dulag Macliing from the village of Bugnay in Tinglayan, Kalinga.
But the death of Macliing was just the tip of the story. There were many community elders and leaders detained in Manila who were opposing the project. Stories of intimidation, coercion and threats were rampant. We don’t know how many more died but this has led to unity among the warring tribes.
The people from different villages forged peace pacts through the traditional systems and united together to oppose the dam project. They kept vigil at night and barricaded the sites - men, women and children were all involved. They took turns in cooking, planting, keeping vigil and watching over the barricades. Almost everyone in the villages affected was mobilized. Each day, callers were assigned to provide the signal whenever government men brought in construction equipment and materials or if they made a move to start to build the dam. And they heard the loud cry which is the signal - everyone stopped what they were doing - and go to the site and stop any move to construct the dam.
The Igorot people persisted and in 1987, 20 years after they started the survey of the project, the government officially shelved the Chico River Dam Development Project. The Igorot people rejoiced and held celebrations. This was a historic event because it was the first time that an IMF-World Bank-funded project was successfully stopped because of the militant opposition by the people.
A few years later, the government had another proposal, to create not only 4 but 17 dams across Cordillera. But because of people like Dulag Macliing, these government projects that are supposed to benefit the majority did not push through.
The continuous opposition of the people is based on how history has treated them. One of the important examples was Ambuclao Dam where the people were promised land where they can be resettled and the government said that they will be paid - these promises were never fulfilled and the project never benefited displaced people.
It was only the time when they planned to build the dam along the Chico river that the government offered and gave them a resettlement site - but in an area so far away from their original village, where there is no clear source of water, where the land is not arable and in an area that is malaria-infested and it was on an island so far away from home.
Many of the people got sick. They left the area to live with their relatives. Others went to live in the cities but were considered as squatters. At another time, they were offered a resettlement area in the nearby lowlands. Again this was not arable and worse, it was the ancestral home to another group of indigenous peoples. Some went to Casecnan - in an ancestral land of another tribe where they are presently again being threatened to be displaced because of another World Bank-funded dam project of the government.
History has taught these people to fight for their lands. Some sectors had been saying that had they allowed the construction of the dams, they should have received the promised support from the government.
Another project of Marcos was the Pantabangan Dam where until now, many of the promises were not fulfilled and some of those displaced have become outlaws because they’ve lost their sources of income and the promised support of the government was not fulfilled. I went to live for several months with the people displaced from San Juan in Pantabangan and what they become is not exactly how the government promised it to be.
Dulag Macliing and the elders who stood up and fought the government oppression were on the right path when they opposed the project that will only benefit the big foreign investors and the pockets of the politicians facilitating the approval of the project.
So there you go, Dulag Macliing and the people like him are my heroes, not some politicians who oppressed the many and give away people’s rights for the greedy corporate business.