Monday, April 27, 2015

Macliing Dulag: The Man Who Died Defending The Cordillera, Its People, And Its Lands

If you are to mention the name of Macliing Dulag to a Cordilleran, you are going to generate three possible responses. One, the person has no idea who Dulag was. Two, the person has heard of the man but can't exactly pinpoint where Dulag's place is in Cordillera history. Think of the millions of people who know the name of Che Guevarra but not a bit aware of where he's from, what he did, or what ideals he pursued.

And three, the person knows Dulag fully well. That he's a David who bravely went to battle against a Goliath. However, unlike the popular tale, Dulag triumphed but perished in the process.

It's sad to say that majority of Cordillerans don't have the awareness of person three. In a piece for the Philippine Daily Inquirer, professor of social anthropology Analyn Saludo Amores wrote, "Today, Macliing’s grave is a playground for children, a resting place for village dogs on a warm afternoon, or a meeting place for Butbut teens for their evening chats. Many of the children who play on the grave do not know who Macliing was."

Even those who play upon his grave do not know who he is and what he stood for. That's a shame considering the fact that Dulag only fell around three decades ago.

Dulag deserves recognition. Dulag deserves a mention in the nation's history books. Dulag deserves a place in every Cordilleran's heart. Anyone who would put his life on the line just so others can prolong theirs deserves a hero's treatment and remembrance.

A very common question from the ranks of the uninitiated is, "Who is Macliing Dulag and why should he be revered as a hero? What did he do?" Good question. After all, someone's hero can be somebody else's villain.

In a nutshell, here's what transpired that led to the elevation of Dulag as a local hero:
1. In the 1970's, the Marcos administration planned to dam the Chico River to generate hydroelectric power. The project which was worth millions of dollars was to be funded with the assistance of the World Bank.
2. Because the dams would drown lands in Kalinga and Mt. Province, Macliing Dulag opposed the dam project and he rallied Cordillerans to join him in the cause.
3. Government soldiers killed Dulag in his home in Kalinga in 1980.

Dulag wanted just one thing. That the land he had always called home remain intact. The Chico River Dam Project planned to build at least four dams in the river. The trapped waters would have drowned thousands of hectares of land including villages, pasture lands, ricefields, sacred burial grounds, and communal forests.

On the night of April 24, 1980, government soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division under Lt. Leodegario Adalem sprayed bullets into Dulag's home in Bugnay, Tinglayan, Kalinga. Dulag died that night. The Marcos regime thought they can silence Dulag by sending him under the ground. Here lies the irony because Dulag accomplished more when he was six feet under the ground than when he was above it. His death was the trigger that led to the abandonment of the dam project. The World Bank which was supposed to fund the project backed out.
The family of Dulag and villagers put up streamers calling for justice right after Macliing's death in 1980. Image credit: Ma. Ceres Doyo 
Dulag's character is one that's been built upon immense courage. It takes a special kind of bravery to oppose the dictatorship of the Marcos regime. When most men shuddered in fear, Dulag went all out in his opposition. Who knows where he developed such unbridled courage. Wherever he honed it, he started early. After all, as a young man, Dulag served as a porter for Filipino guerrillas fighting the Japanese invaders during World War II.

One lesser known accomplishment of Dulag was his unification of the Bontoc and Kalinga tribes in opposing the dam project. Take note that this came at a time when the tribes were constantly engaged in heated altercations (often violent) due to issues like land disputes and thievery. Somehow, Dulag was able to gather them, sit them together, and unite them in pursuing a common goal.

Dulag has left something good for all Cordillerans, whether they are aware of it or not.