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A Women’s Anthology of Songs, Poems, and Stories

Editor’s Note

It has been fifteen years since the publication of the first volume of KALI, Voice of Cordillera Women. The first anthology echoed the Cordillera women’s recollection of the early struggles and their tributes to the victories of the pioneers of the Cordillera people’s movement, such as the participation of women against the Chico Dam and Cellophil Resources projects, and the ensuing burning issues of the early 2000s. The corruption and tyranny of the regimes that manifested as development aggression and militarization in the region were denounced by women writers, visual artists and musicians and they found their voice in Kali.

Much has transpired in the women’s movement in the Cordillera through those years from which we draw valuable lessons and insights. This trove of experiences and challenges has been translated into individual writers’ reflections and leaps; and collective dedication of communities and women’s organizations to the continuing pursuit of the aspiration of the women’s movement. Because development aggression still rears its ugly head and tyranny has fiercer fangs that preys on women, defense is much bolder now.

Women organizers in the indigenous people’s movement, women who work as staff in development programs, women who are mothers and income earners in communities, students who carry out cultural work in schools, have crafted their literary pieces, songs, stories, visual images as mirrors of their daily lives and involvement in the struggle for a better, humane society. Their aspirations are for a Cordillera and a country that practice and enjoy the fruits of self-determination in aspects of politics, economy and culture. In this period under a regime that spites human rights and reeks of misogyny and disregards the value of life, how is rage expressed by women who are not only the life source but also nurturers of generations? In this period of utmost deprivation and wanton disregard for right to life and security, how is resistance expressed by women who dare not remain on the sidelines but also take crucial tasks in the front lines? Women draw strength and courage from the heroism and selflessness of foremothers and ancestors who were not superwomen, but were able to combat fear, limitations and real enemies. The power to create, to transform, to reflect and act, to leave and break from the shackles of tradition and social limitations is a weapon that women in the Cordillera are learning to protect and utilize. The beauty is in the realization that they are validated by their fellow women in these perilous times, and supported by men who have deep understanding and appreciation of the women’s struggle. It is time once again to share the voice of Cordillera women to wider communities of readers. The poems, songs, personal essays and illustrations in this anthology are testimonies that we shall prevail, we shall not be daunted to express our fears and aspiration until true change has come to our Motherland.

Ti Parabur a Manangguddua: Komiks Basar iti Kapadasan ti Umili ti Kordilyera iti Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps)


Daytos a komiks ket naglaon kadagiti istorya ken kapadasan dagiti nainsigudan a babbaie iti rehiyon Cordillera maipanggep iti Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT), wenno popular iti termino a 4Ps (Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program), a kangrunaan nga ipagpagna ti Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). Nagrugi ti badyet na daytoy iti P4 milyon idi 2007 para iti 6,000 a benepisyaryo.

Daytoy ti kangrunaan a programa nga ipanpannakil ti dua a nagsaruno nga administrasyon (Gloria Macapagal Arroyo ken Benigno Aquino III), a mangrisut kanu ti kinakurapay dagiti umili a Pilipino. Ti kangrunaan a pokus ti 4Ps ket para iti edukasyon ken salun-at dagiti pamilya a napili.

Ti 4Ps ket inadaptar ti Pilipinas babaen iti duron ti World Bank (WB) ken Asian Development Bank (ADB) a kangrunaan a naggapuan ti pondo. Immuna a naipadas daytoy a programa idiay Latin American ken Africa sakbay nga inadaptar dagiti gobyerno iti Asia, mairaman ti Pilipinas. Sigun iti panagadal iti kapadasan ti Latin America ken Africa, maysa daytoy a dole-out; programa a nangiyaw-awan kadagiti pudno a pangkasapulan ti umili a nabayag nga inlablaban da kas iti pudno a reporma iti daga ken agrikultura, natalged a pagtrabahoan, ken naan-anay a sweldo.

Daytoy a komiks ket nakabasar kadagiti istorya manipud kadagiti workshops ken focused grouped discussion kadagiti babbai idiay Kalinga, Apayao, Montanyosa, Abra ken Baguio manipud idi 2012. Ti inisyal a report, “The Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) in the Cordillera from the Perspective of Indigenous Women” ket naipresentar idi naisayangkat ti Cordillera Development Conference idi Nobyembre 2013. Ti Proceedings ti komperensya ket naiparuar. Napabaknang ti inisyal a report babaen iti nagtultuloy a dokumentasyon kadagiti kapadasan dagiti benepisyaryo ken saan a benepisyaryo iti 4Ps.

Weaving Indigenous Women’s Empowerment as Human Rights Defenders


It’s not completely a new initiative. What makes this journey unique, however, is the utilization of positive aspects of customary institutions and values as avenues to promote indigenous women’s rights. It was a painstaking journey of human rights awareness and capacity building of indigenous women in 26 communities of Sagada and Bontoc, Mountain Province in the Cordillera region and in the municipalities of Alabel and Malapatan in Saranggani Province in Mindanao, from the last quarter of 2010 to 2013. It was an empowering experience for the participants who face human rights issues and violence against women due to conditions of militarization, development aggression, and poor delivery of social services. Development aggression in the form of corporate mining and energy projects is an issue of economic violence among indigenous women participants deprived of their access and control to land and natural resources. That empowering journey pushed them to speak and practice human rights as a collective, broke their silence about their own experience of sexual and domestic violence and mustered their confidence to access facilities and services that reduce their vulnerability to violence.

Their human rights awareness was not theirs alone. The indigenous women participants shared that awareness to their communities who became their support to access certain services and entitlements. The awareness was translated into having the skills to communicate human rights to fellow women within their organizations and communities, and to structures of leadership and decision-making.

There is now a deeper appreciation of having written documentation of their own experiences from the usual practice of oral tradition. The stories of the participants that they themselves have written are proof of how liberating the journey was. Their stories show were changes have occurred– in the mind-sets, attitudes or behavior, and in practice. These changes are difficult to measure. However, these powerful stories make the transformation more concrete.

This report also clarifies the role of customary institutions in protecting women from violence, and how women are respected traditionally. With the decline of power of indigenous socio-political institutions brought about by the dynamism in the wider society that indigenous peoples are very much integrated into, the protection or values that used to be accorded to women has eroded. It is vital to accord value on efforts made by organizations of indigenous women and communities in strengthening and promoting positive aspects of indigenous systems that provide protection for women against violence and danger.

Where there is a growing conflict between human rights and business, a larger gap between human rights holders and duty-bearers is created. Nothing would sustain the empowerment of women but their continued interest and collective actions to be liberated as productive members of their communities and the wider society.

Indigenous Women: Defending land and resources against Chevron’s geothermal project

Executive Summary

The study is aimed at strengthening the affirmative actions of local indigenous women leaders and their organizations. This is done through a framework where the local indigenous women leaders are involved in the entire process of the research. It is a process where the researcher is working “with” the community rather than working “for” the community. It is a process which empowers both the participants and the researcher. It is a research process that has a bias in favor of the poor, oppressed, and struggling women.

The study presents the important role of indigenous women in Western Uma in the municipality of Lubuagan in Kalinga Province. The Cordillera Women’s Education Action Research Center (CWEARC) saw the importance of documenting actions of women of Western Uma as a concrete process of indigenous women’s empowerment. This is also in the context that leadership of women in community struggles is not adequately acknowledged and projected in current documents.

The study reveals how indigenous women led community resistance against a geothermal project since the 1970s. The project is now being pushed by Chevron. It uncovers the Uma women’s tireless efforts to urge their village mates and tribe mates on the adverse effects and impacts of the corporate geothermal project particularly on their access and control of their ancestral territory, livelihood, environment, human rights and cultural integrity. The community mobilization on 18 May 2012 where women were in the front line as negotiators is an acclaimed event in Uma’s history of struggle, stopping Chevron in its insistence to conduct its temperature testing. Since then, Chevron never showed up in the village. This does not however say that Chevron abandoned its project. Indigenous women were involved in the formulation of community petitions and urged concerned government agencies especially to the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to take responsible action.

“The people, water, land, forest and the trees are connected. Where will we live? Where will we find refuge from heat? Where will we get our food if you are grabbing our home?” These words of Beatrice Belen, a woman leader in Western Uma captures the Uma tribe’s view of land as life.

Testimonies of indigenous women and community leaders in the village reveal the corrupt, divisive and manipulative practices of Chevron in order to obtain consent of indigenous communities. Accounts of women and community leaders divulge of ill manners of the NCIP, acting more as a broker for Chevron than protecting the rights of indigenous peoples.

The indigenous women of Western Uma continue to hurdle the still prevailing feudal-patriarchal culture along with the challenge of not being publicly acknowledged as active agents in community struggles and development.

The study shows the strong connection of indigenous women to land and life, putting themselves in active defense mode when land and life is threatened. The study confirms that it is honor for indigenous women and dignity for the tribe to defend land, life, and resources. The active participation of women in the Uma tribe’s struggles, then and now, is enabling community leaders and members to agree that indeed struggles and community development will not be complete when women who are more or less half of the population are left out, not acknowledged of their productive and leadership contributions and are denied of opportunities to be empowered.

The study findings will be used by Innabuyog Uma, the local indigenous women and the indigenous women’s movement in the Cordillera led by Innabuyog, in strengthening the work for women’s rights advocacy. In particular, the study findings serve as evidence in advocating, lobbying and networking that would galvanize indigenous women’s voices and actions in asserting access and control over their ancestral land and resources.

Climate Change and Indigenous Women in Traditional Agricultural Communities in the Cordillera Region, Philippines


Indigenous communities are basically agricultural or peasant communities. An important indicator telling of change in an indigenous peasant women’s life is her family’s harvest or agricultural produce. In the phenomenon of climate change, an indigenous peasant woman would refer to a decrease to her family’s harvest to describe the environmental changes. Hence, it is important for every indigenous peasant woman to be keen of her family’s produce or harvest. This is a knowledge she learned from her long engagement of the land and the environment. Her tutors in agriculture production- her parents, fore parents, community elders and experts in traditional agriculture, who are usually women, taught her of the conditions of a particular land area her family or village tills, what care is required , what crops are suitable and the suitable or viable production cycle. She knows how many bundles of rice are produces per paddy and how long the harvest normally lasts.

The factor which could create a variable in their harvest are pests, water supply or irrigation and weather conditions like droughts, strong rains and typhoons. The stories that indigenous peasant women tell show these factors had always been treated as natural and so it was also natural for the farmers to adjust. In the process, they as farmers learn to cope up with the environmental changes. They develop innovations and corresponding adjustments or changes in their agricultural practices, develop new varieties of crops and innovated to maintain productivity. All these were part of their indigenous knowledge on agricultural production and bio-diversity management.

The last two centuries are hallmarked with great strides in technology, production and the standards of living, but these advances were achieved by the lopsided and illogical use and abuse of the world’s resources, which are mostly concentrated in indigenous territories. Abuse of the resources were done for the benefit of a few and to the detriment of the many, most especially the tenders and stewards of these resources.

At the forefront of this injustice are insatiable giant corporations of capitalist or northern countries whose relentless pursuit for profits demand the command of vast energy and natural resources. This arrangement led to massive environmental destruction and resources wars aside from massive environmental destruction and resource wars aside from massive dispossession and impoverishment of large numbers of peoples all over the world.

The last two centuries of increasing emissions and ecological destruction coincide with the two centuries of worsening economic inequality between and within the countries- the increasing concentration of wealth to a narrow global elite, colonial and neo-colonial subordination of countries, corporate takeover and exploitation of natural and productive resources of the south, loss of economic and policy sovereignty of southern countries to powerful and multilateral institutions as the world bank (WB), international monetary fund (IMF) and the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The system that has resulted in climate change is the same system behind structural poverty underdevelopment, which magnifies the vulnerability of millions, especially indigenous peoples, who have little or no responsibility for causing climate change (Lauron, People’s Movement on Climate Change 2010).

The United Nations intergovernmental Panel on climate change (UNFCCC) reported in 2007a steady increase in green-house gas (GHG) emissions due to human activities – from 70 percent between 1970 and 2004. Additional studies have highlighted the compounding negative impact of global warming on human livelihoods in the context of the global food and energy crisis. These include dwindling crop yields in most tropical and sub-tropical regions, decreased availability of water in many water – scarce regions, desertification and land degradation processes, change in rainfall patterns, rising sea levels, dwindling natural resource productivity and in some cases, irreversible loss of biodiversity (Kelkar,2009).

Climate change cannot be ignored as this impact seriously on the planet’s life. The adverse impacts of climate change are compounding the long-standing development crises confronting the mass of humanity. Negotiations on solutions to the climate crises are made on various levels by governments yet hardly that solutions are reached to alleviate small producers adversely affected by the climate occurring.

Their slogan remains to be “business as usual” and their greed for profit is evident in their push for market-based solutions. The presence of World Bank and giant corporations in climate talks and negotiations would tell the intentions. The drivers of the global capitalist systems is notably exploiting the climate crisis to develop, legitimize and enforce self-serving solutions that create new profit opportunities, and sustain and expand corporate power over natural resources, production and energy systems, funds and technologies.

The greatest injustice is that the peoples most involved in ecological or environmental balance and sustainability are the ones who are made to bear the worst impacts every day of their lives.

Indigenous peasants are still manage to cope and make the necessary adjustments being when asked, their common response resilient survivors. When asked, their common response is that indeed they are able to make the necessary adjustments but they do admit that their capacity to cope is becoming more difficult. Their coping mechanisms can no longer match the survival level for unprecedented loss or decline in their produce as a result of climate change. It is also crucial to note that the coping or solution required in a fast-changing situation of environment or climate cannot simply be on an individual level. Indigenous peasant women agree that solutions can only be arrived at when they are part of the solutions as they are the ones who suffer gravely of any loss or decline in harvest.

The urgent concern of rural and indigenous women is to address the climate crises and to look at how the dominant socio-economic system has breached ecological limits and destabilized the planet’s climate. Mitigation and adaptation measures detached from context and development aspirations of rural and indigenous women renege on commitments to biodiversity and sustainable development.

Using the Law to Assert Women’s and Children’s Rights: A Handbook of Philippine Legislation on Women and Children

Historically, women in the Philippines held high status in society. We were Babaylans and katalonans (priestesses) then, who were very much revered and involved in the political, economic and social spheres of life. We were also central in the affairs of the clan, in production and decision-making. If there were at all laws or codes to speak of during these times, we were definitely part of the process and the results.

However, this status changed over time as we were influenced and controlled by Islamic laws and the colonial laws of Spain, America and even Japan. The making of laws was irrefutably reflective of our social context and space. For one, the issues of divorce, mobility, and property ownership for women which were recognized during pre-colonial times were radically changed by the Spanish Law that ultimately controlled and placed women in a subordinate position. Basically patterned after the Roman law, we inherit up to this day these biases against women from the Spaniards.

But history has also proven that today’s laws on women have somehow advanced to reflect the real issues and needs of women. The respect for women’s rights was reflected in Kartilya ng Katipunan at the turn of the century. Women’s role in politics has been recognized which is partially attributable to the Philippine suffragette movement. Today’s laws on labor, rape, sexual harassment, sex trafficking, anti-violence against women and many other were results of painstaking advocacy of the Philippine women’s movement.

“A harvest of laws,” is how lawyer Evalyn Ursua, a staunch women’s rights lawyer, referred to laws enacted as a product of the country’s women’s movement. She further asserted that these laws were borne out of the struggles of the women’s movement.

While these laws can be appreciated as concrete gains of the women’s movement, we cannot rely solely on these gains for the defense of women’s rights. For laws are nothing without action. Laws are not always equal to the justice system. Laws become toothless when the powerful and the moneyed class can buy their way out of the many injustices and violence committed against women and children. Worse, laws can be instruments of the state to further degrade and oppress women and children.

Violence against women and children continue to rise despite the existence of these legislation. These laws can be deemed futile for as long as the feudal, patriarchal and bourgeois culture is still very much embedded in our system.

It is for these reasons that the Philippine women’s movement needs to continue its efforts in reclaiming a truly just society, not only through legislative reforms, but through challenging the different social institutions that perpetuate injustice. This can be done through awareness-raising, organizing of women, community consciousness-raising towards prevention of violations and respect and promotion of human rights and women’s rights.