Tribal elders opened the 34th Cordillera Day on April 22 with the ritual sacrifice of a boar. This is described as the largest political gathering of indigenous peoples and advocates joined by many international friends to raise the call to defend the ancestral lands, protect the environment and to assert the right to self-determination.
April 24 is a historic and significant date for the Cordillera peoples and for the Filipino people. It was on that day in 1980 when government soldiers shot two Kalinga and Bontok leaders: Ama Macliing Dulag and Pedro Dungoc in the village of Bugnay, Tinglayan, Kalinga. Both were leaders of the movement to oppose and stop the Chico River Basin Hydroelectric Dam, a project of the Dictator Marcos and World Bank. The Dam would have put their homes and ancestral lands under water, destroy their traditional way of life, and displace their people. Macliing Dulag died from multiple gunshot wounds, Pedro Dungoc survived and later joined the New People’s Army. The Dam was never built because the people fought against it. The government does not learn its lesson because the Philippine and Chinese governments have recently teamed up to push the Chico River Pump Irrigation Project along the Chico River and its many tributaries. The Cordillera people knows too well the lessons of fighting back on all fronts to defend the Chico River to “let the river flow free” and will use those lessons again.
Migrante BC delivered its solidarity message to the Cordillera Day celebration and here it is in full.
“Migrante BC, the grassroots organization of Filipino migrant workers and immigrants in British Columbia, Canada, sends its warmest solidarity greetings to the Cordillera Peoples Alliance, the Tongtongan ti Umili and KAIABANG in their organizing and hosting of the People’s Cordillera Day, an annual celebration since the last 34 years.
It is not lost on us that Cordillera Day, also known in the early years as the Ama Macliing Dulag Memorial, takes place at a time when the US-Duterte regime continues to blatantly attack legitimate people’s organizations and human rights defenders, including those in the Cordillera, who are exercising their fundamental and democratic rights to dissent, defend the people’s ancestral domain and to assert self-determination. The US-Duterte regime has demonized human rights defenders as terrorists and has reduced the struggle of the people in the Cordillera to defend their ancestral lands, resources, and homes from being destroyed by mining and energy corporations as a crime! The tyrannical US-Duterte regime has easily forgotten or ignored that the struggle of the Cordillera people against oppression and development aggression is a historical one and will continue and grow.
We believe that the viciousness of the US-Duterte regime against the Cordillera people exposes its fear of the Cordillera people and its determined and united stand and its growing strength. It is afraid because the Cordillera people refuses to bow down in spite of arrests, detention, harassment and extrajudicial killings.
We salute the Cordillera people, more so today on Cordillera Day. To continue to hold this yearly gathering for more than three decades now, and for it to have taken root in various cities of the world, speaks volumes of your perseverance, bravery and commitment. For truly, there is much to celebrate and so much more to be done.
From thousands of miles away, we do hear the sounds of your gongs and feel the ground shake with the stomping of feet as all of you at the Cordillera Day dance in resistance and in celebration! We stand in solidarity and join all of you! Happy Cordillera Day!”
And a militant Cordillera Day as well!