Remembering Macli-ing Dulag and the Anti-Chico Dam Struggle
Published on April 24, 2021
“If we do not fight and the dams push through, we die anyway. If we fight, we die honourably. Thus I exhort you all, kayaw (struggle)!” – Apo Macli-ing Dulag.
On the evening of 24 April 1980, Macli-ing Dulag, pangat (elder) and barrio captain of the Butbut tribal group of Bugnay in Tinglayan, Kalinga, was in his home when he was killed by elements of the Philippine Army’s 44th Infantry Battalion. Following his death, the 24th of April was declared as “Cordillera Day,” to honor him and all the other martyrs who laid their lives on the line in the struggle for the Cordillerans’ right to life, land and identity.
The iconic photograph of Apo Macli-ing Dulag with his fellow Kalingas. Photo accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission.
Macli-ing’s name is inscribed in the Wall of Remembrance, dedicated to those who valiantly resisted abuses during the Martial Law regime of Ferdinand Marcos. With the passage of time and the evanescence of memory, it proves vital that the heroism and actions of Macli-ing and other martyrs be ingrained in our national consciousness. The Cordillerans’ dedication to keep his legacy alive permeates in the collective battle against historical revisionism, perpetrated by elements akin to those seeking to erase his role in Philippine history.
Macli-ing Challiyong Dulag was born to Dulag Innog and Uyahu Challiyong in Bugnay. He was elected barrio captain of Bugnay thrice and became a recognized elder, or pangat, among the Butbut and the Kalingas as a whole. He and the papangat (the council of elders) would handle the internal affairs of their people and were expected to maintain the social and cosmic order of their land, including the enforcement of peace pacts and settling of conflicts.
The Kalingas regard their land with paramount importance. Dr. Maximo Garming writes that the land connects them with Kabunyan, their deities, and their ancestors; it sustains their life and their village, and is believed to do so for future generations. Death in the Kalinga culture does not signify the end of one’s existence. The community’s dead are buried in their yards to form a connection with their guardian spirits, who allow their land to yield crops more abundantly. This belief system is anchored on sustainability, as the land must be maintained by the living as its stewards. It thus also fell upon Macli-ing and the other papangat to ensure and maintain their way of life.
The Chico River and the locations of the proposed dam facilities. Photo from an article in Science Direct.
Given these beliefs, both the Kalinga and the Bontok peoples to the south were reasonably alarmed when the National Power Corporation (NPC), on orders of the Philippine government, began constructing camps and deploying survey teams in 1974 for the Chico River Basin Development Project (CRBDP). The construction of the four dams on the Chico River was proposed as a solution to a national energy crisis, expected to increase crop production in the irrigated areas as well as to provide and cheapen electricity. The project however would submerge and destroy villages in the Kalinga, Mountain Province, and Apayao areas. An estimated 100,000 Kalingas and Bontoks would be affected, and some 5,000 would have to move from and abandon ancestral domains. While plans were proposed to relocate the people to be adversely affected, the same people were neither consulted nor notified in advance of the government’s actions. For people who hold their land sacred, leaving and allowing its destruction would be unforgivable, even if they were compensated.
Opposition to the project was spurred to action, disrupting the operations of surveyors and soldiers. Some would directly dismantle the NPC campsite and take the building materials with them. Women kept watch on barricades set up to block NPC and military vehicles, playing a crucial role in maintaining peace in places where tensions were highest. In one instance a group of women disrobed themselves in front of said surveyors and soldiers, displaying their tattooed torsos and limbs. This was believed to bring bad luck to those who beheld them.
Meanwhile, some Kalinga and Bontok elders also attempted to reach out to the NPC and the Philippine government to negotiate. Several delegations were sent to Malacañang. One pleaded with Marcos but was dismissed as “sentimental” and told to sacrifice for national development, as they would be relocated and paid all the same. Five separate Kalinga delegations in 1974, on the other hand, were given the run-around, being pointed from one office to another, and were not able to meet with authorities to discuss their grievances. Numerous petitions were sent to the President, the concerned agencies, the Church, and the media. In response, local and regional government officials, with the NPC, organized barrio meetings to convince the people of the project’s insurmountable benefits.
Led by their papangat, the people still remained steadfast in opposing the Chico dam project. In 1975, the Kalingas held two assemblies, one in Barrio Tanglag and the other in Quezon City. In attendance were the papangat and other elders of various Kalinga ili (villages). The result was a bodong (peace pact) that united the different communities in their struggle against the CRBDP and outlined their plan of action. Macli-ing became the de facto spokesperson for the opposition as the Kalingas resorted to civil disobedience and continued calls to halt the project.
The Chico River as seen in Kalinga. Photo from the National Irrigation Administration-Cordillera Administrative Region (NIA-CAR) website.
Shortly after, the suspension of the dam project was announced. In response to the persistent and unified opposition, Marcos sent Manuel Elizalde as the Presidential Assistant on National Minorities (PANAMIN) to gather support and persuade tribal leaders and elders to endorse the project. Elizalde brought with him gifts of food, chocolates, basketballs, and other items in order to ingratiate himself and the government to the people. Though it is believed that he was able to co-opt a few elders to support him, many continued to tear down NPC work camps, aware that these were being watched by the Philippine Constabulary (PC) and the Integrated National Police (INP).
According to human rights activist and Cordillera researcher Joanna Cariño, in 1975, Elizalde invited a Kalinga delegation to Malacañang. However, upon their arrival in Manila, the delegates were brought to isolated hotel rooms instead, where they were bribed, threatened, and harassed into signing a document in support of the CRBDP. The elders, having signed under duress, later retracted their signatures, demanding witnesses and legal counsel when dealing with government officials in future meetings. Journalist Ceres Doyo also detailed how Elizalde handed Macli-ing himself an envelope, to which the pangat responded: “This envelope can contain only one of two things – a letter or money. If it is a letter, I do not know how to read. And if it is money, I do not have anything to sell. So take your envelope and go.” In other instances, he was also reportedly offered to work with the Kalinga Special Development Region and shown a room full of women to “pick one for the night,” to which Dulag refused.
In the following year, a massive Kalinga boycott was organized against an October referendum regarding the dam project and the continuation of nationwide martial law. The PC responded the following month with waves of arrests and detainments. Many papangat, couples, women, and youths were arrested on charges such as obstruction of the referendum, hampering government projects, illegal possession of firearms, and subversion. Most of these detainees were kept at a stockade in Bulanao, while some 50 Bontoc and Kalinga leaders were taken to Camp Olivas. The latter were held for approximately four to eight months – interrogated, harassed, and threatened to sign an oath of allegiance in support of the dam. Meanwhile, the NPC continued their work at the damsite in Tomiangan, Kalinga. The PC intensified militarization of the area, cultivating a climate of fear among citizens.
Despite the crackdown on dissent, the Kalingas, led by Macli-ing and the papangat, continued renewing their bodong pacts through 1978 and 1979, strengthening their opposition to the damsites. In April 1979, the president of NPC, Gabriel Itchon, met with several Kalinga representatives during a conference in Baguio by Ugnayang Pang-Aghamtao (UGAT). Itchon presented the government rationale behind the CRBDP but was sharply rebuked by said representatives. In the end, no dialogue was held as both parties were unmoved by the other.
On 3 February 1980, Itchon hosted a delegation led by Macli-ing in Itogon, Benguet to discuss the same. The delegation unanimously asserted that the dam project had only brought them trouble and would only destroy their properties. They argued that the dams were unnecessary for the Kalingas, who have been self-sufficient for a long time, and that it would likely uproot them all instead for the sake of providing energy to factories and houses owned by the wealthy. They firmly rejected the government’s suggestion to relocate them as well. Itchon chided the Kalingas and assured them that the project would push through, with or without their support. The Kalingas then retorted that their opposition would also push through. They asserted that they were willing to die for their cause, as allowing the dam’s construction essentially meant death for them all the same.
The government continued its attempts to persuade the Kalingas through all sorts of means. Bribery, military action, harassment, and coercion, among others, were all on the table. Despite this, due to the leadership of Macli-ing, backed by the support of the entire community, the Kalingas managed to consistently stifle the attempts of the government to push through with the CRBDP. The government likewise knew that they would not be able to temper the volatile opposition if they could not deal with the unwavering stance of its leaders. The government then zeroed in on the pangat.
He and some of his peers in Bugnay were singled out by the government forces on the evening of 24 April 1980. Pedro Dungoc Sr., one of the Kalinga leaders, was awakened by knocks on his door. He was commanded by members of the 44th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army to come out, lest his house be shot at and burned. He promptly arranged two pillows to make them look like a sleeping person and positioned himself beside this, then instructed his wife to open the door. The soldiers asked her where her husband was, and, upon being directed to the pillows, immediately opened fire. Dungoc got away with only a wound on his left wrist. He went out and heard a surge of gunfire from the nearby house of Macli-ing.
In his house, the Kalinga tribal chief had sternly asked the soldiers to return the next morning, as he lit a lamp and asked his wife, Samun, to hold the door while he fixed its lock. When the light illuminated his figure through the slit in the door, the soldiers did not hesitate to fire. Macli-ing sustained 10 bullet wounds and died instantly.
Protest art depicting Macli-ing Dulag during a funeral march for Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino on August 31, 1983. Photo accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission.
In the aftermath of this event, the Kalingas galvanized their resolve to oppose the CRBDP, winning support from all over the nation. One Kalinga elder, Apo Takhay, recalled that “the village mourned, but did not weep” following their beloved pangat’s death, remembering the latter’s eloquence and influence over the people, unifying the communities for a common goal. The anti-Chico Dams struggle was eventually integrated in the nationwide uprising against the Marcos regime.
In March 1982, a congress of tribal leaders, primarily from Mountain Province and Kalinga, met in Bugnay to reassess the Bodong and reinforce the inter-tribal federation borne from it. The Kalinga-Bontoc Peace Pact Holder Association (renamed Cordillera Bodong Association or CBA the following year) was formed thereafter, seeking to sustain their opposition to the CRBDP. In 1984, the CBA joined with some 26 other organizations allied with their cause to form the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) and called for the establishment of an autonomous Cordillera Region, consisting of Abra, Kalinga-Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, and Mountain Province. For their part, the CPA resolved to commemorate April 24 every year onward as Cordillera Day, to honor Macli-ing Dulag as well as all those who relentlessly opposed the forces that threatened to uproot the social and cosmic order of the Cordillera communities.
The steel markers depicting Pedro Dungoc, Macli-ing Dulag, and Lumbaya Gayudan symbolically overlooking the Cordillera and the Chico River in Bugnay. Cropped photo from Rappler.
The CRBDP was suspended indefinitely afterwards. Even so, the struggles of this past continue to be reflected to the present day. In recent years, Cordillerans have found themselves facing another Chico river project with arguably similar economic and destructive potential. Moreover, in January of this year, a monument erected in Bugnay to honor Dulag, Dungoc Sr., and Ama Lumbaya Gayudan was covertly dismantled. Despite the legal basis cited, the demolition order put forth last October and the eventual dismantling caused widespread condemnation. At least, it would seem that the memory of Macli-ing and those who had played a part in their struggle appears to remain strong. Through concerted local efforts, the memorial was restored alongside the dismantled steel markers of their heroes last April 9.
It has been 41 years since Macli-ing’s death, and his legacy is still upheld by the Cordillerans of today. As long as they continue to protect their ancestral domains, and as long as Filipinos continue to recognize and remember their struggles, the efforts of Macli-ing and the Kalingas will never be diminished nor erased from memory. His name is etched in the Wall of Remembrance; moreso, it is etched in the annals of Philippine history. In pursuit of justice and freedom, #WeRemember.
Robert Macli-ing in front of the Wall of Remembrance next to his father’s name in 2017. Photo from Bantayog ng mga Bayani’s FB page.
 Analyn Salvador-Amores, “Honoring Macli-ing Dulag, Defender of the Cordillera,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, April 22, 2015, accessed April 20, 2021, https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/686979/honoring-macli-ing-dulag-defender-of-the-cordillera. According to Salvador-Amores, while the elders of Bugnay still vividly recall Macli-ing, the same cannot be said for younger members of the community.
 Doyo, Macli-ing Dulag, 14. The latter capacity as a pangat, in particular, signified the recognition of his wisdom and virtues within the community. The pangat serves in the capacity of a tribal leader.
 Maximo Garming, “The Dynamics of Leadership in Kalinga,” PDF, Aghamtao Volume IV (1981): 26-28, accessed April 20, 2021, https://pssc.org.ph/wp-content/pssc-archives/Aghamtao/1981/07_The%20Dynamics%20 of%20Leadership%20in%20Kalinga.pdf. At the time of publication, Garming was a lecturer for UP Diliman’s Department of Political Science. As of recently, he was a professor from the Kalinga-Apayao State College. He has written extensively about Kalinga, its history, culture, and people. See also Mariflor Parpan-Pagusara’s “Kalinga Ili: Cultural-Ecological Reflections on Indigenous Theoria and Praxis of Man-Nature Relationship” for further discussions on the Kalinga’s relation to their land.
 Gabriel Y. Itchon, “The Case for the Multi-Purpose Chico 4 Project,” Aghamtao, PDF, Aghamtao Volume II (1979): 27-36, accessed April 20, 2021, retrieved from: https://pssc.org.ph/wp-content/pssc-archives/Aghamtao/1979/08_The%20Case%20for%20the%20Multi-Purpose%20Chico%204%20Project.pdf.
 Joanna Cariño, “The Chico River Basin Development Project: A Case Study in National Development Policy,” PDF, Aghamtao Volume IV (1980): 7-10, accessed April 20, 2021, https://pssc.org.ph/wp-content/pssc-archives/Aghamtao/1980/05_The%20Chico%20River%20Basin%20Development%20Project_%20A%20Case%20Study%20in%20National%20Development%20Policy.pdf; Gabriel Y. Itchon, “The Case for the Multi-Purpose Chico 4 Project,” Aghamtao, PDF, Aghamtao Volume II (1979): 27-36, accessed April 20, 2021, retrieved from: https://pssc.org.ph/wp-content/pssc-archives/Aghamtao/1979/08_The%20Case%20for%20the%20Multi-Purpose%20Chico%204%20Project.pdf. Both Cariño (1980) and Itchon (1979) cite estimates with these statistics. The NPC places the number of families affected at around 750 to 850, while the provincial government’s estimate puts it around 1000.
 Abraham Battawang (Secretary General, MAITUD – Movement for the Advancement of Inter-tribal Unity and Development), video interview for the Panaglagip: Revisiting the Chico Dam Struggle Webinar, Safeguard the Anti-Chico Dam Heroes’ Legacy and Monument, Zoom Facebook, April 9, 2021.
 Doyo, “Macli-ing Dulag,” 30, 75-76. Bantayog ng mga Bayani, “Dulag, Macli-ing,” Bantayog ng mga Bayani, October 15, 2015, accessed April 20, 2021, http://www.bantayog.org/dulag-macli-ing. The bodong focused on prohibiting the Kalingas from working for the dam project or cooperating with the NPC.
 Cordillera Peoples Alliance, “A History of Resistance: The Cordillera Mass Movement against the Chico Dam and Cellophil Resources Corporation,” Bantayog ng mga Bayani, October 10, 2015, accessed April 20, 2021, https://www.bantayog.org/the-cordillera-resistance-against-chico-dam-and-cellophil. Elizalde, a scion of a family allied with the Marcoses, was head of the PANAMIN, tasked to protect Philippine ethnic minorities. He was also engaged in many government-supported concessions as a crony of Marcos. Through these, he became infamous for tracks of human rights violations and corruption. He is perhaps most famous for his discovery of the controversial Tasaday tribal group, the existence and authenticity of which has been fiercely debated in the years that came after. See “Some Are Smarter Than Others” by Ricardo Manapat for a detailed analysis of Elizalde and his activities.
 Doyo, “Macli-ing Dulag,” 30-31. Doyo pursued the truth behind the murder of Macli-ing Dulag and was targeted for her publications. She became one of the many human rights violations victims in 1980.
 Cariño. “The Chico River Basin Development Project,” 8-11; “Resolution,” (Case Nos. 2014-16-00423, 2014-16-00445, 2014-16-00457, 2014-16-00460, 2014-16-00470, 2014-16-00483, 2014-16-00484, 2014-16-00500, 2014-16-00512, 2014-16-00624, 2014-16-00656, 2014-16D-00004, 2014-16D-00038, 2014-16D-00041, 2014-16D-00051, 2014-2D-00722, Quezon City, 2014), accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission. The victims also cite Cariño and detail the circumstances of their detainment and of the increased militarization of their area.
 Dungoc, Pedro Jr., “Affidavit,” (Case Nos. 2014-16-00635, Quezon City, 2014), accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission. Dungoc Jr. is the son of the late Pedro Dungoc Sr.
 Macli-ing, Robert, “Affidavit,” (Case Nos. 2014-16-00611, Quezon City, 2014), accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission. Macli-ing is the son of the late Macli-ing Dulag. He also submitted as supplementary evidence an article entitled “The Killing of Macli-ing Dulag in Kalinga-Apayao,” which discusses the incident in further detail, also found in the archives of the Commission. It was originally published by Ichthys in May of 1980 and archived by the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation.
 Cordillera Peoples Alliance, “A History of Resistance.”; Cordillera Peoples Alliance, “On the People’s Cordillera Day and Genuine Regional Autonomy,” Cordillera Peoples Alliance, 13 July 2012, accessed April 20, 2021, https://cpaphils.org/campaigns/CPA%20statement.EO%20220.7132012.pdf. From 1981 to 1984, April 24 had been marked as Macli-ing Memorial Day.
 Frank Cimatu, “Groups condemn dismantling of anti-Chico Damn heroes monument in Kalinga,” Rappler, January 14, 2021, accessed April 20, 2021, https://www.rappler.com/nation/luzon/groups-condemn-dismantling-anti-chico-dam-heroes-monument-kalinga. The monument was erected by the CPA in 2017 to honor the three as the renowned leaders of the anti-Chico Dam struggle, as well as others who took part in the same.
 Peter A. Balocnit, “Kalinga council seeks removal of Macli-ing Dulag marker built on RROW,” Philippine Information Agency, 2 October 2020, accessed April 20, 2021, https://pia.gov.ph/news/articles/1054853. A Philippine Information Agency Report cites that the monument encroaches on the road right of way of the national road at Bungay. The guidelines of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines were also invoked, particularly involving its private-ownership, the use of public space and the question of consent from government entities and the public.
 Kimberlie Quitasol, “On Day of Valor, Kalinga tribe restores Cordillera Heroes’ Monument,” Northern Dispatch, April 9, 2021, accessed April 20, 2021, https://nordis.net/2021/04/10/article/news/on-day-of-valor-kalinga-tribe-restores-cordillera-heroes-monument.