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

Macliing Dulag

If you mention the name of Macliing Dulag to a Cordilleran, you are going to arouse three possible responses. One, the person has no idea who Dulag was. Two, the person has heard of the man but can’t accurately place where Dulag stands   in Cordillera history. Millions of people knew the name of Che Guevara but hardly aware of his origin, his activities and his goals. And three, he was like a David conquering a Goliath.

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 celebrate before his grave are oblivious who he is and what he stood for. That’s a shame considering the fact that Dulag perished only three decades ago.

Dulag deserves recognition or a mention in the nation’s history bookstand in every Cordilleran’s heart. Any individual who would laid his life before a table in selfless service to others deserves to have his name inscribed in golden letters.

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?”

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. Because the dams would submerge lands into water in Kalinga and Mt. Province, Macliing Dulag opposed the dam project and he rallied Cordillerans to join him in the cause. Government soldiers killed Dulag in his home in Kalinga in 1980.

Dulag ‘s objective was that the land  called home always remain intact in the hands of it’s inhabitants.. The Chico River Dam Project planned to build at least four dams in the river. The trapped waters would have submerged 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 showered bullets into Dulag’s home in Bugnay, Tinglayan, Kalinga. Dulag died that night. The Marcos regime thought they could silence Dulag by sending him under the ground. It is ironic that Dulag accomplished more being six feet under the ground than when he was above it. His death sparked the abandonment of the dam project. The World Bank which was supposed to fund the project withdrew.

The family of Dulag and villagers put up streamers demanding  justice right after Macliing’s death in 1980. Dulag’s character was based on death defying courage. It took a unique kind of bravery to oppose the dictatorship of the Marcos regime. When most men succumbed in fear, Dulag stretched himself to the limit in his opposition. No one knows where he inculcated 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. It occurred when the tribes were constantly engaged in heated conflicts due to issues like land disputes and thievery. Somehow, Dulag was able to knit them together into a cohesive force, in pursuing a common goal.

Dulag was perfect illustration of a person waging struggle relentlessly even when the current was against him. From the depths of despair he would rise like a phoenix from the ashes. Today we need to plant the seeds for more characters like Dulag to emerge, with imperialism at a helm and people’s movements mercilessly crushed. Countless movements against deforestation or protecting environment are struck to the ground

Harsh Thakor is freelance journalist who has one extensive research on peoples movements worldwide

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