Here’s to the Kalinga Brave! | Inquirer Opinion
Human Face

Here’s to the Kalinga Brave!

“You ask if we own the land and mock us saying, ‘Where is your title?’ When we ask the meaning of your words you answer with taunting arrogance,   ‘Where are the documents to prove that you own the land?’ Titles? Documents? Proof of ownership? Such arrogance to speak of owning the land when we instead are owned by it. How can you own that which will outlive you? Only the race owns the land because the race lives forever.”—Macli-ing Dulag

Tomorrow, April 24, is Cordillera People’s Day, celebrated by Cordillerans who value their culture and heritage and who wish to honor Kalinga chief Macli-ing Dulag who was slain on April 24, 1980, by government soldiers. But there is another Cordillera Day in July, supposedly a nonworking holiday, which is a government-initiated celebration.

But suffice it to say that April 24 is important enough to make it a special day, official or not, because it was a watershed moment for Cordillerans.


I am sharing here the Author’s Note for my book, “Macli-ing Dulag: Kalinga Chief, Defender of the Cordillera” (University of the Philippines Press, 2015), which was launched yesterday, April 22, at UP Baguio. The launch was in anticipation of Cordillera People’s Day. It was also launched, along with 21 other books, last April 17 on the occasion of UP Press’ 50th anniversary at UP Diliman. Today I am supposed to do an Author’s Talk at Mount Cloud Bookshop in the City of Pines.


My thanks to UP Baguio anthropology professor Analyn “Ikin” Salvador, the university’s Cordillera Studies Center and UP Press for making the Baguio book launch possible. The book (with photos that I took in 1980) is affordable at P200. Great cover and book design, lovely paper.

It was at UP Baguio 35 years ago that our Church-initiated fact-finding team descended and held a forum on the killing of Macli-ing Dulag.

We had come from Bugnay, Macli-ing’s village, where we found his blood still splattered on the wall of his home. The ascent to the Butbut tribe’s mountain village was not an easy one. But first we had to cross the raging Chico River on the backs of Kalinga men who wore G-strings. I had several minor slips and falls. The scar on my right elbow still shows.

Here is my introduction to the book:

The name of Kalinga chief Macli-ing Dulag is etched on the black granite Wall of Remembrance of the Bantayog ng mga Bayani in Quezon City, one of the hundreds of names of honored martyrs and heroes who fought, suffered and offered their lives for freedom, justice and truth during the dark years of the Marcos dictatorship’s martial rule.

Macli-ing led the fight against the construction of dams on the Chico River, dams that threatened to wipe out the ancient Kalinga way of life. If not for the Kalinga chief’s leadership and bold utterances of truth to power, whole communities would have been uprooted and scattered.


This book is yet another way of honoring and keeping alive the memory of the man who fought for his people, the Kalinga people, whose mountain homes were marked to give way to so-called development.

Macli-ing’s struggle that led to his death on April 24, 1980, served as a watershed moment.

My story on Macli-ing (he is more known by his first name) in this book is an expanded version of my award-winning 1980 magazine article that led to my first interrogation and chastisement by military authorities. The article also put my editor (now the Inquirer’s editor in chief, Letty J. Magsanoc) in trouble with her publisher and the powers-that-be at that time. But the piece earned a journalism award handed to me by Pope John Paul II (now a canonized saint) during his 1981 visit.

The recognition was a Magnificat moment for me. And in those dangerous times, it signaled the beginning of my writing career and affirmed my human rights advocacy through writing.

The story on Macli-ing’s life and death is best understood in the context of the history and culture of the Cordillera, the mountainous ancestral domain of several major indigenous communities. Dr. Nestor T. Castro, current head of the University of the Philippines’ Department of Anthropology, so willingly wrote an accompanying study on the Cordillera that complements the story on Macli-ing. Our two written works were first included in the book “Seven in the Eye of History” (Anvil, 2000) edited by Asuncion David Maramba.

Dr. Castro’s piece, which makes up the second part of this book, provides context, a looking glass, so to speak, through which the reader can view and better understand the Cordillera mountain society that Macli-ing so fiercely defended.

April 24, 2015, is Macli-ing’s 35th death anniversary. (April 24 is now celebrated as Cordillera People’s Day.) This book is a way to remind Filipinos and those in foreign lands who supported his cause about the essence of his struggle and the price of triumph. The younger generation, particularly those in the Cordillera, needs models like Macli-ing.

I am honored to have, as publisher, the University of the Philippines Press which made this book affordable and easily available to many.

While working on this book project, I also had in mind the newly formed Memorial Commission that is mandated, through Republic Act No. 10368, “to honor the memory of the victims of human rights violations….” This law, signed by President Benigno Aquino III on Feb. 25, 2013, stresses that “the lessons learned from Martial Law atrocities and the lives and sacrifices of HRVVs (human rights violations victims) shall be included in the basic and higher education curricula, as well as in continuing adult learning, prioritizing those most prone to commit human rights violations.”

Here’s to the Kalinga Brave. You will not be forgotten.

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TAGS: Cordillera, Kalinga, Macli-ing Dulag

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