Agbiag ti umili ti Kordillera!*
By Carol Pagaduan-Araullo
Agbiag ti Umili ti Kordilyera!?
"Life! If life is threatened, what should we do? RESIST! This we must do, otherwise, we are dishonored and that is worse than death. If we do not fight, we die anyway. If we fight, we die honorably... and our children may win and keep this land. And the land shall become even more precious when nourished by our sweat and blood."—Macliing Dulag
In the early years of the Marcos dictatorship, when martial rule still struck terror in the hearts of many, Macliing Dulag led the Kalinga people’s resistance against the construction of the Chico Dam. The dam would have driven them from their ancestral lands, destroyed their source of livelihood, and submerged everything they held sacred under tons of mud and water. It would have buried their past, obliterated their identity as a people, and destroyed their future in the name of “development” and “progress”. The resistance to the Chico Dam so effectively dramatized the struggle of the Igorots – the name the Cordillera peoples collectively call themselves – against national oppression, exploitation and discrimination. Such that when Macliing Dulag was gunned down by government troops on April 24, 1980, he rose to become the symbol of the Cordillera people’s struggle for self-determination.
Every year since 1985, a large, mixed group of youth, workers, urban poor, peasants, church people and professionals, some of them foreigners, trek to a chosen place somewhere in the Cordillera on April 24 to celebrate “Cordillera Day”. The occasion highlights the unity and resolve of the peoples of the Gran Cordillera mountain ranges to persist in their struggle for their ancestral domain; for the right to practice and develop their indigenous socio-political systems and to maintain their cultural integrity; for the right to self-determination ; and their basic human rights -- against the anti-people and anti-national schemes of the imperialists and the local puppet state as exemplified by the current US-Arroyo regime.
This year, three busloads and half a dozen other vehicles left Metro-Manila Monday evening and arrived in the wee hours of the 22nd here at San Miguel, Abra, where we were met by peasants, workers, youth and professionals of the Cordillera. We recall that also in the early 70s, the Tinggians of Abra waged a resolute struggle against the Cellophil Resources Corporation, forcing it to shut down. Today, Abra remains one of the poorest provinces in the country with a record number of OFWs. It is once again being targeted by multinational corporations, this time for mining operations. As before, local government officials serve as the multinationals’ agents, misrepresenting mining as the solution to unemployment and poverty in the province.
This year’s theme for Cordillera Day, “Resist Mining Plunder and State Terrorism” addresses the current situation and challenge in the Cordillera as well as nationwide. The 1995 Philippine Mining Act opened up to foreign corporations as much as 15 million hectares. More than half of these are in indigenous territory, with six of 23 priority projects in the Cordillera. The immediate result is the displacement of indigenous peoples and other poor farming communities, driving them into greater poverty, misery and social and cultural degradation. The end result is the destruction of the land and the environment which, for the indigenous peoples, is the fountainhead of life, of their collective identity and of their livelihood passed down from one generation to the next.
As early as the American colonial period, the Cordillera became known for its copper and gold mines, of which the biggest were eventually owned by Americans. The exploitation of mining resources in the Cordillera by foreigners, as of other natural resources all over the country, continued well beyond the granting of formal Philippine independence in 1946, as US imperialism continued to dominate and plunder the Philippine economy through unequal treaties and sheer geopolitical pressure.
One would think that after a century of exploitation and oppression, there would be nothing left for foreign capital to extract from the Cordillera or for that matter from the rest of our islands. But that is not the logic of imperialism. Contrary to claims that “globalization” would bring prosperity and progress to all, including Third World countries, the entire world capitalist system has gone into chronic stagnation and ever deeper crises. To escape from the rut of overproduction, highly industrialized economies constantly pass on the burden to the Third World economies, pushing them deeper and deeper into the ocean of debt and depression. Neoliberal globalization has only further opened up the Philippine economy to exploitation and plunder by foreign capital, stunting and then destroying our own industries and rendering our economy even more dependent and vulnerable.
Invariably, as the people awaken and struggle against increasingly intolerable exploitation and oppression by multinational corporations and their local comprador partners, the puppet state’s iron hand strikes swiftly and ruthlessly. Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL), the Arroyo regime’s counter-insurgency campaign, has gone beyond intensifying military operations against the NPA while terrorizing the civilian population in the countryside. It has targeted progressive leaders, mass activists and even professionals for assassination, abduction, illegal arrest, torture and prolonged detention. Militarization has extended into urban areas including Metro Manila communities. Even without the formal declaration of martial rule, such fascist brutality continues with impunity in the name of “counter-terrorism”, under the aegis of the US-led “war on terror”. This is state terrorism at its naked worst, beyond all bounds of law, morality and human decency.
The people’s resistance to the plunder of our natural resources has strategic importance, particularly for the generations still to come. At the same time, the people’s resistance to state terror under the Arroyo government serves to defend the people’s democratic and fundamental human rights, and contributes to the eventual downfall of this corrupt, illegitimate and puppet regime while weakening imperialism’s stranglehold in this part of the world.
For it is only under a truly free and democratic state that the national patrimony could be developed to benefit the Cordillera people and the Filipino people for generations to come.
* Long live the Cordillera People!