WATCH: Kalinga revisited

LeAnne Jazul
WATCH: Kalinga revisited

LeAnne Jazul

The militancy of the indigenous peoples may have died with their beloved tribal chieftain, but their culure and tradition lives on

KALINGA, Philippines – The night of April 24, 1980 is a significant date for the Cordillera peoples. It was when Macli-ing Dulag, a pangat (tribal chieftain) of the Butbut tribe died when soldiers belonging to the Philippine Army attacked the village of Bugnay, Tinglayan. 

Macli-ing led the opposition to the Chico River Basin Hydroelectric Dam Project of then president Ferdinand Marcos. The dam project was aimed am providing electricity for the lowlands but for the people of Kalinga and Bontoc it meant cathastrope and displacement.

The impact of the respected pangat’s death strengthened the unity of the Cordillera peoples in their struggle for the defense of ancestral lands and regional autonomy, paving the way for the creation of the Cordillera Autonomous Region in 1987.

 

35 years later, only a few remember Apo Macli-ing.

The younger generation can recall the name, but are clueless about the tribal chieftain’s contribution to the struggles and triumphs of the Butbut tribe.

Today, their present hero is Whang-Od, a mambabatok (tattoo artist), from the nearby village of Buscalan, Tinglayan.

 

Whang-Od’s skills have brought livelihood to the community and placed Kalinga on the tourism map. Both local and international tourists trek Buscalan to have the mambabatok’s design printed on their skin.

Most of Buscalan’s locals could speak about the meaning of the exoticized art, but only a few could barely recall how this was used by their elders during the struggle against the dam project.

For the elders, looking or observing their tattoos would bring bad luck and harm, particularly to men. During one of the dam project protests in the village of Basao, the women disrobed and displayed their tattoos in front of soldiers and government surveyors. Feeling ashamed, the men walked away. The women then started to dismantle, and eventually, they burned the project campsite.

EXOTICIZED. A Butbut-Kalinga elder shows her tattoo.

The people of Kalinga may have forgotten Macli-iing and will only remember April 24 as Cordillera Day. The militancy of the indigenous peoples may have died together with their beloved pangat but their culure and tradition lives on. – Rappler.com

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LeAnne Jazul

LeAnne has had 25 years of experience in the media industry. He joined Rappler for the 2013 elections and has stayed on. He is currently Rappler's photo editor.