THE Cordillera gongs relay and the celebrations done, the Cordillera Day holiday is over but the discussions on Cordillera Autonomous continue.
Years ago for more than two decades I have worked among the tribes of the Cordilleras in terms of education, health and other community development work. I have met many and some of them, like me have moved on to other endeavors.
Yet some had opportunities to go back and visit those areas, we had visited in the mid-1980s until early 2000s. The peace and order situation has continued to be an issue in many tribes, but education, religion and government has definitely made its mark in the change that came to the tribes and its people. The tribal indigenous justice system and peace processes have been some of our research focus and some documentations and research have found its’ way as a source of lessons learned by those who were outside of the life of these peoples.
My brother Andrew had a stroke a few years ago which has greatly affected his faculties and made him close his office and printing press. However, he has a continuing desire to go back to the “ili” and for a few years now he has been visiting Mountain Province and Kalinga whenever he can.
Sometimes we do reminiscing as we have met common people, visited common villages in the past. Good for him, he had the opportunity to recently visit Tinglayan and Tulgao, two villages that had a continuing conflict rooted in territorial boundaries and the understanding of the bodong/vhocong/ processes.
He has remained objective as he visited friends in Tinglayan where the Tongrayan talked against the Tulgaos, similarly when he visited Tulgao, his friends talked against the Tongrayans. A sense of objectivity has to be maintained as an outsider hearing stories about people in conflict.
The recent killing of a Tulgao and a lubo in Tabuk has been alarming indeed.
I am impressed by his single mindedness that even if he has to use a walking cane or two and even have to be piggy backed by one of the barangay officials he was determined to reach Tulgao with Karen, an anthropologist who wanted to know more of these people. They have climbed the mountains escorted by the police from Tinglayan until they reached the boundary of Tulgao.
The police maintain a sort of a demilitarized zone between the two tribes making sure no one crosses over. Then when they crossed the line, people from Tulgao met them and were surprised to see him now looking like an old man with a beard, sukod (cane) and a pronounced difficulty in walking. They even have to go down to bath at the natural sulfuric pond but unfortunately, he stayed in the water too long that chilled his back and slowed down his pace as they were going back to the village. He was piggy backed halfway through the path by a very strong muscled able bodied young man.
Mayor Mauricio Domogan, a staunch advocate for Cordillera autonomy has appealed to the tribes to maintain peace and prevent another blood bath because of the bodong being broken with the death of a Tulgao and Lubo fellows in Tabuk City. He has aired his concern for Baguio being a peace zone as the agreement was signed years ago to maintain Baguio and Benguet as a peace zone not affected by any breaking of a bodong or peace pact.
During the time I was based in Bontoc in the 1990s, I have seen students leave Bontoc in droves once the peace pact is broken. The news would be very fast, when the elders of the tribes would call their families working and of students studying in Bontoc to go back to the Ili, disrupting their businesses and studies.
Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with each one, for the Peace from above is universal.