I first went to Bugnay, Kalinga in 2006, unsuspecting of protocol and the impact of the martyr’s
grave I planned to visit. Covering the Tinglayan, Unoy Festival, our group decided to take a side trip to the barangay Bugnay, the home of Macli-ing Dulag, celebrated pangat (Chieftain) of Butbut Tribe in Kalinga. So, we went with our local guide from Tinglayan, leaving the vehicle to the roadside, signaling our hike to the small barangay. Down the road we walked towards a manageable
hanging bridge a few meters long.
I crossed it with a bit of anxiety as children would pass us by running carrying heavy loads, seemingly unbothered by the height of the bridge nor the side railings made of rusting metal, which first timers clutch at. We reached the end of the bridge to find a concrete gate to the village manned by elders holding homemade weapons, guarding the entrance of the Bungay, like Sphinx guarding
the Greek city of Thebes, only, there is no riddle to be asked, only intimidating blank stares.
Our guide politely went forward and explained our purpose, saying we were from the media and that we have the permission to conduct interviews and take pictures inside the village. There was tension in the air until one of the elders grinned and asked for a male colleague who was not with us, we explained that the colleague was on another travel assignment.
He laughed and said, he was the only media person they know, grinning from ear to ear and letting us in, without our guide, we were given a new local guide, one from the village itself, protocol, I did not realize we would have to face, but humbly accepting the rules of the village. We made the rounds to the village leaders, explaining what we were to do, asking for permission, disclosing what
stories we plan to do, who we will talk to, basically giving a rundown of movements in the village in the short 4 hour stay we planned to take.
With preliminaries done, we were allowed to go roam the village. We proceeded to the home of Macliing Dulag and met his eldest son, Francis. Francis was gracious enough to speak to us as he was weaving bamboo mats. He showed us the grave of his hero father. The grave of the celebrated leader was so modest you might miss it. As it was the practice of the village to bury their dead within their compound, the hero’s grave was in plain sight, fading inscriptions and with an electric
post at its headstone.
It was on the eve of April 24, 1980 soldiers belonging to the Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division under Lt. Leodegario Adalem fired at two houses in their village. The attack was meant to kill two prominent leaders of the Kalinga and Bontoc people opposed to the World Bankfunded Chico River Basin Hydroelectric Dam Project Macliing Dulag and Pedro Dungoc. Macliing, from the Butbut tribe, died from multiple gunshots while Dungoc survived.
Francis showed us the door from which the bullets came through and killed his father. We stood in silence, looking at the small house of the hero known far and wide, his grave and his son weaving
bamboo mats. Years later, Francis would die in a bus crash, he was 62 years old, 11 days before his
father’s death anniversary on April 24, known as Cordillera Day. I wrote many stories on the late hero and his small village after that 2006 trip. The play about the life and death of Macliing Dulag was recently staged, and I remember my many Bugnay trips.