June 1, 2023

An open letter to the Butbut people of Kalinga

We are troubled by the resolution that some of you adopted on Sept. 18 condemning us for “unauthorized use . . . of the names of (your) local heroes . . . to further (our) political agenda . . . , making it appear (that) these local heroes, well honored and revered by the people, were once . . . members or under the influence of the Lefts (sic).”
The heroes the resolution refers to were Macli-ing Dulag, Pedro Dungoc, and Lumbaya Gayudan, in whose honor, and in honor of all the other Butbut heroes of the anti-Chico dam struggle, we erected a monument in Bugnay in 2017. The resolution speaks of Macli-ing as “just a plain prominent tribal leader who led the opposition of the dam project” and says that Dungoc and Lumbaya were only “forced to run into the mountains to join the local New Peoples Army because of the assassination attempts.”
First, Macli-ing was more than a tribal leader. He, Dungoc, and Lumbaya were instrumental not only in uniting their own tribe against the Chico dam project but in building inter-tribal unity among both the Kalinga and Bontoc peoples against the said project and its proponent, the Marcos dictatorship.
Articulating the traditional Kalinga view of land and people in multi-lateral bodong conferences, in confrontations with the Presidential Assistant on National Minorities, and in forums with students and professionals in the cities, Macli-ing’s words spoke to the hearts of other Cordillerans, touched the minds of other Filipinos, and was heard and echoed by other indigenous peoples throughout the world. As spokesman and, later, martyr, Macli-ing became an icon, not only of the Cordillera cause but also of the Filipino anti-dictatorship struggle, and a shining light of the international movement for indigenous peoples’ rights.
Second, Dungoc and Lumbaya did not join the NPA just to take refuge. In the warrior tradition of the Kalinga, they and many others took up arms to defend their land against destruction and shield their people against state violence. Their heroism should not be belittled.
To belittle the three leaders is to belittle what they fought against and what they stood for. It is to forget the magnitude of the destruction that the Marcos dictatorship’s greed for resources would have wrought on the Chico River valley. It is to disregard the three leaders’ irrefutable contribution to the Cordillera and the Filipino people’s continuing struggle for freedom from exploitation and oppression.
The resolution also disregards important truths about the annual observance of the Macli-ing Memorial and Cordillera Day.
Although hosted by the people of the Chico valley, the Macli-ing Memorial was never a narrow commemoration of the death of one “plain tribal leader.” When Macli-ing was assassinated by the state’s force on the April 24, 1980, the Chico struggle had already drawn support from all over the Cordillera, the Philippines, and the world. Macli-ing’s key role in achieving this was precisely the reason why he was killed. It was also the reason why the commemoration of his extrajudicial killing became a big yearly event in which countless people participated, contributing their skill and effort, and their logistical and material resources.
In renaming this event as Cordillera Day – in 1985 in Belwang, Sadanga, Mountain Province, and not in Balbalan, Kalinga, as erroneously stated in the resolution – we, members of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance, including the peacepact holders whocomprised the Cordillera Bodong Association, were simply acknowledging the broadness of our shared struggle for the same cause as Macli-ing’s. Thirty-five years later, we continue to celebrate Cordillera Day in areas where communities are fighting against threats to their ancestral lands and their survival as indigenous peoples.
No matter that they were primarily your tribesmen, you cannot condemn us for having embraced Macli-ing, Dungoc, and Lumbaya as our heroes. Neither can you deny us the right to gather together and reaffirm our commitment to the Cordillera people’s struggle on the death anniversary of the first of these heroes.
We realize that the drafting and signing of the resolution was not an initiative of your tribe or its elders, or of the families of Macli-ing, Dungoc, and Lumbaya, but was instigated by Police Regional Director B/Gen. R’win Pagkalinawan during a visit he made to Bugnay. In the presence of this personage, those among you who signed the resolution were probably anxious to deny the leftist history of your tribesmen because it might reflect negatively on the Butbut tribe as a whole, especially in the context of End the Local Communist Armed Conflict, the ongoing campaign of the military, police, and civilian bureaucracy to end communist armed conflict. Still, history cannot be changed, and the signatories should have refused to participate in any attempt to distort it.
And now, we hear that moves are also underway for the demolition of the Macli-ing, Dungoc, and Lumbaya monument. The Upper Kalinga District Engineering Office claims the monument is an illegal structure because it is situated only four meters from the center of the road. But the monument – which was first requested from us by Macli-ing’s son Francis in the year 2000 – stands on the Macli-ing family’s property and is within your tribal domain. Your tribe, in fact, participated in its installation and inauguration.
If you do not prevent the monument’s destruction, you would be allowing a sacrilegious act to be committed. Destroying the images of Macli-ing, Dungoc, and Lumbaya would be comparable to defiling their graves.
The monument to Macli-ing, Dungoc, Lumbaya, and other Butbut heroes is a reminder of these heroes’ legacy to present and future generations. It is a reminder of your tribe’s place in the history of the Chico valley, the Cordillera, the country, and the world. Do not allow the government to destroy it. Let the monument stand. — WINDEL BOLINGET, CPA chairperson and SARAH DEKDEKEN, secretary general

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