A large crowd of students filled the Kalinga Astrodome recently to watch local bands as well as listen to discussions on history, identity, and self-determination, all in the spirit of strengthening the push towards Cordillera autonomy.
The event, called the ‘Youth Concert-Forum on Cordillera Autonomy’, was attended by junior and senior high school students from Saint Tonis College Incorporated (STCI), Saint William’s Academy (SWA), Tabuk City National High School (TCNHS), and the International School of Asia and the Pacific (ISAP). College students from Saint Louis College of Bulanao (SLCB) were also in the audience.
High-energy performances of local acts such as the popular Living Anitos Band, Mingor Chi Kultura, and Project Jon Band fired up the students who gamely waved their hands in the air as they sang along to music immortalized by iconic personalities.
In between Bob Marley lyrics and classic rock tunes were serious lessons on Cordillera autonomy from members of the Information, Education and Communication (IEC) Speakers’ Bureau. Atty. John Wayet gave a lecture on the basic concepts and the roadmap to autonomy and Gerry Donaal discussed the core messages of Cordillera regional autonomy. Engr. Andres Ngao-i, on his part, narrated significant events in the history of the region and the struggle of the Kalinga people for autonomy.
According to officials of the Regional Development Council (RDC CAR), the support of the students is crucial to the advocacy for autonomy as a large number of the voting population comes from the younger demographic. And what better way to bring the cause to the younger generation than through the universal language of music.
The Youth Concert-Forum on Cordillera Autonomy came a day after the RDC, together with the Mountain Province State Polytechnic College (MPSPC), and other partner agencies held a workshop to map and mark historical sites in Kalinga that are significant and relevant to autonomy.
Speaking before students, community leaders, and local officials, Henry Gupa-al of the Kalinga provincial government narrated the events in the 1980s when Father Conrado Balweg led his group, the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA), to sever ties with the New People’s Army (NPA). Gupa-al said that the places in which members of the CPLA fought to liberate Kalinga from the NPA, a known communist group, should be commemorated as historical sites.
In another round of history lessons, Tabuk City Administrator Lawrence Bayongan related the significant events during the time of Martial Law when Macli-ing Dulag and other Kalinga tribal leaders heroically fought against then President Ferdinand Marcos’ plan to construct hydroelectric dams along the Chico River. The resistance won, preventing the destruction of ancestral lands along Chico River.
Clearly there is no shortage of history during the youth concert-forum and the workshop but as was repeatedly stressed in the course of the two activities, it is only through the struggles of the Kalinga people in the past can today’s youth understand the importance of autonomy not only for the present but also for the future.
“Yes to autonomy!” the students shouted as the concert came to an end. Whether this is only spurred by the excitement of the moment or a genuine verbal show of support will be determined when and if House Bill 5343 (or the Act Establishing an Autonomous Region in the Cordillera) eventually leads to a plebiscite.
By Iryll Sicnao