Kalinga tribes exchange peace tokens to end ‘war’

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BAGUIO CITY – The war is over, not just in Marawi but also for the Tulgao and Tongrayan tribes of Tinglayan, Kalinga after elders representing both tribes exchanged peace tokens that will make sure the members all over the country can freely move around and continue with their lives peacefully.

Through the “bodong process” an indigenous justice system practiced by the I-Kalingas that involve peace rites, the two elders of the tribes who have been named “bodong” (peace pact) holders exchanged tokens of “bolo” called “allasiw” which was consummated during the “sipat”.

Andee Ngao-I, chairman of the Kalinga Bodong Council who is also the chairman of the Kalinga Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) in a telephone interview on Thursday (Oct. 19) said that they have completed the first stage of the bodong process.

He explained, “the consummation of the sipat means there is already a peace, a ceasefire between the two tribal communities and even if they will meet each other along the way, there is no fear that one will avenge or revenge for the injury inflicted to their tribe member. There is no more atrocities.”

The sipat will be followed by a “Sunglip” where the bodong holders, together with other tribe elders will sit down and discuss the problem that led to the tribal war and to settle the conflict including resolving the boundary dispute. The tension between the two tribes escalated sometime in August when one tribe fenced the land being claimed by both tribes. This led to injuries and gun fighting among members where one was fatally injured. The tribal conflict also led to the deployment of members of the Philippine Army and the police in the area to maintain peace and prevent any atrocities between the two warring tribes.

“When they accepted the sipat, they agree that all the problems involving the two tribes will be solved and resolved during the sunglip, which we hope to happen within the month or as soon as the victim’s health condition improves,” Ngao-I said.

Because there was an injured person, the family of the victim will also be part of the discussion where the assistance to the injured will be settled. Once an agreement is entered, it will be put in writing called the “pagta” and will govern all tribe members, whether they are in Kalinga or elsewhere.

Ngao-I explained that at this stage, the most important thing is that there is no fear of retaliation from any member of the two tribes. “There will no longer be fighting,” he said.

Following the sunglip, the “inum” or “lunok” stage of the bodong will then be scheduled. It is during this time when the merrymaking happens. There are dancing and welcoming of the members of both tribes as their brothers.

Ngao-I related that the two tribes used to be covered by a bodong for decades but was severed, effectively lifting the peace pact. During the severance what is abnormal is that members of the tribes all over the country get involved and they all prepare for the vengeance to or from the other tribe and it is not confined to those who are left in the community.

The tribal war caused a tension in the whole province, needing that the PPOC, the provincial government and the Kalinga bodong council to get into the picture and make both parties meet and settle. The initial acts involved the signing of peace covenants among the Tulgao and Tongrayan tribe members in Tabuk city to spare those in Tabuk and allow the lives of the students and workers who belong to the tribe to continue living a normal life.

The signing in Tabuk was followed by another covenant signing of the members of the two tribes in Baguio, Metro Manila, Zambales and other parts of the country.

Ngao-I said that the participation of members of the tribes who are holding elected office also took it upon themselves to convince their tribesmen to enter in a sipat.

Acting vice governor James Edduba who belongs to the Tulgao tribe used an emissary to bring the information to Tinglyan mayor Sacrament Gumilab who belongs to the Tongrayan tribe that they are offering a sipat, which was adhered to upon conferment of the family of the victim who is still recuperating from his injuries following the initial gunfight. Even neutral tribes took part in convincing the warring tribes to go through the bodong process and end the hostilities.

“The municipal peace and order council was given 15 days to initiate the call for the holding of the sipat and even before it lapsed, they called for an emergency meeting and the exchange of peace tokens immediately followed,” Ngao-I related.

The Ngao-I, also a bodong holder and a national awardee for his peace initiative activities said that the bodong, an indigenous system of settling dispute is a very healthy practice observed by the I-Kalingas. “It does not only assure the end of hostilities and atrocities but is a very simple and inexpensive system where the members are gentlemen enough to adhere to the pagta.”

He said that the I-Kalingas adhere to cultural practices which were passed on from many generations by their ancestors, which are applicable up to the present time, an example of which is the successful settlement of the dispute, the ending of the war between the Tulgao and the Tongrayan tribes. LIZA T. AGOOT / ABN