June 20, 2024

The real Cordillera Day

On July 15, 1987, then President Cory Aquino signed Executive Order 220, which created the Cordillera Autonomous Region, as a product of the 1986 peace pact (sipat) in Mt. Data between the government and the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army, a break-away group of the New People’s Army.
Meanwhile, April 24 marks the death of Kalinga hero, ama Macliing Dulag, who persistently fought for the rights of their people during Martial Law.
While Cordillerans value both events, it is confusing to celebrate two Cordillera days with the April 24 celebration.
For some time now, some of the groups spearheading such event have been demonizing the government for alleged cases of oppression and violations of human rights, but do not have the audacity to condemn the underground movement for committing human rights abuses and other forms of atrocities to the public.
These groups bank on Dulag’s death to celebrate their version of Cordillera Day to portray they honor his martyrdom and call on indigenous peoples to follow his example.
They also use the names of other IP heroes to convince fellow Cordillerans into believing that they are champions of IP rights since poor Cordillerans cannot fight for their lands and lives without them.
Celebrations have often centered on calling for justice for IPs and indigenous cultural communities whom they claimed are victims of oppressions and displacement. But they never demanded the same for IPs who were abused and killed by the underground movement.
They have done this in the past 38 years of celebrating their Cordillera Day every April 24, which by the way, is also the founding anniversary of the National Democratic Front.
This year will be their 39th time of putting up such Cordillera Day celebration with events organized in the provinces apart from Baguio City and as far as Canada, the United States, and Hong Kong. We can expect the same portrayal of supposed IP rights advocates that turn a blind eye on the true gruesome stories of abuses of the underground movement.
We live in far democratic and civilized society today, therefore, are more than capable of fighting for our rights. We are more informed now, and aware of the legitimate Cordillera Day; hence, we should not allow such groups to be meddling with our history by distorting established and known facts about our region.
July 15 is the true Cordillera Day and there is no other Cordillera Day. — CRISTINA CATBAGAN, chairperson, Nagkakaisang Samahan para sa Kapayapaan at Kaunlaran.