April 18, 2024

Macli-ing Dulag, or more popularly known as “Macli-ing”, was a respected elder and pangat (traditional leader) of the Butbut ethnic group in the village of Bugnay, Tingalayan, Kalinga.

He was one of the outspoken leaders opposing the World Bank-funded Chico Dam Project impelled by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, Sr. during the 1970s, and paved the way for the formation of a pan-Cordillera movement for the defense of ancestral land and assertion of self-determination.

On April 24, 1980, military troops riddled the house of Macli-ing with bullets in an effort to intimidate and quell the increasing peoples’ movement. Macli-ing died a people’s hero and martyr. His assassination solidified opposition to the dam and won in sympathizers from all over the country and even abroad.

Four of Macli-ing’s killers were prosecuted, and tried in 1983 before a military tribunal. An army lieutenant and a sergeant were subsequently found guilty of murder and frustrated murder.  

The Chico Dam project

The series of four large dams to be constructed along the Chico River was the priority project of the Marcos government in the late ‘70s to the early ‘80s.

The World Bank has committed funding to these mega-dams, and the National Power Corporation (NPC) was to implement the project.

Because of the sheer determination and courage of the dam-affected communities to stop the proposed project by all means, the WB has decided to withdraw its funding for the dam project. In fact, it was because of the experience of the WB on the Chico Dam struggle that it formulated its operational guidelines for projects affecting indigenous peoples.

Outstanding theatrical play

The legacy of Mac-li-ing has been depicted in a theatrical play in Baguio on Dec. 3 and 4 at the University of the Philippines Baguio Himnasyo Amianan.

It was written by Malou Jacob, directed by Karlo Marko Altomonte, and produced by Dap-ayan Ti Kultura iti Kordilyera in partnership with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, Cordilleran Youth Center, VOICE, and the UPB Committee on Culture and the Arts.

Aside from the legacy of Macli-ing, the theatrical play was about the heroic defense of land, life, and honor, which sets inspiration and stands as a testament to the enduring strength of community and resilience in the face of the ongoing struggle for human and ancestral land rights.

Main cast

The main cast in the theatrical play were Sixto Talastas or Chumiwar as Macli-ing and Ammin Acha-ur as Apo Samun.

Talastas was born in Lias, Barlig, Mountain Province and was raised in Metro Manila. Right after high school, he was involved with the cultural performing group Towards the Advancement and Development of Ethnic Culture (TADEC) performing socially relevant skits to mostly Cordillerans in Metro Manila. Throughout high school until college, he’s been a well-rounded artist and worked with various groups and collectives as a theater performer, singer, and visual artist. 

Acha-ur is a 25-year-old traditional tattoo practitioner, cultural worker, musician, and actress. She grew up in a small village of Loccong, Butbut, Tinglayan, Kalinga; sharing the same ethnic group as Apo Whang-od. Aside from practicing the art of traditional tattooing, Ammin is also a performer. She sings and plays the guitar, often playing her own compositions written in Whinutnut, Butbut’s local language. In 2021, she was casted the lead role of “The Headhunter’s Daughter”, which won the Sundance Film Festivals’ grand jury prize for the Best Short Film in 2022.