• Baguio City, Cordillera Administrative Region, Philippines


August 28, 2023

Today the country honors our national heroes, and we do the same for our Cordillera heroes, both named and nameless, who contributed to our fight for independence, for self-determination, and for the defense of our ancestral lands.

In the 2017 celebration of the Peoples' Cordillera Day, the Cordillera Peoples Alliance along with the people of Bugnay, Tinglayan, Kalinga, established the Anti-Chico Dams Heroes Monument that featured Macli-ing Dulag, Ama Lumbaya, and Pedro Dungoc Sr. It was not only to hallmark their legacy in the great Anti-Chico Dams struggle, but also to remind the people of what needs to be done in protecting our land, life, and resources.

However, alleged state forces demolished the monument in 2021 as if to complement the widespread historical distortion. At the same time, the onslaught of redtagging and terrorist tagging against Cordillera activists peaked outrageously. Trumped-up charges, threats, harassments, and intimidation by the police and military hounded members and leaders of the CPA, and worse, these continue until now.

The people of Bugnay successfully re-established the monument that same year, but to this day, no one is held accountable for the demolition. The people who spoke against it were the ones harrassed instead.

When we look back in our history, we see that the people we call heroes today were similarly branded by the state, even back to the colonial governments, as enemies that needed to be mocked, chased, jailed, silenced, and killed. These were people who fought for freedom and the welfare of their countrymen, and if they were alive today, they would also be called activists.

In these contemporary times, we saw how the government arbitrarily tags activists as "terrorists," or in essence, enemies of the state. Perhaps that's what makes people heroes. That unwavering commitment to serve the people, to offer one's life for a noble cause in the midst of state neglect and violence.

If the current administration is indeed sincere in celebrating today's National Heroes Day, they should immediately end the attacks against activists or even mere dissenters. They should stop weaponizing the law and persecuting those who are in genuine service to the people. They should repeal the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, which is now being used for trumped-up charges and terrorist designations. They should hold accountable those who committed crimes against the people instead of allowing them to hold power.

As for us, we should live out the very essence of heroism exemplified by Rizal, Bonifacio, Dulag, and the many more who offered their lives for their countrymen. We fight on, we carry with us the courage and commitment, and become activists who seek to change society for the better.