Macliing Dulag was a respected elder who successfully led his community and the Cordillera ethnic people in opposing a dam project of the Marcos regime that would have inundated ricefields, homes, communal forests and sacred burial grounds.
Macliing was a little-known village pangat serving his mountainside village of Bugnay in the 1960s. Pangats are village elders in Kalinga, chosen by the community to lead because of the courage and wisdom they had shown in the past.
Macliing was a rice farmer, and also had a weekday job as road maintenance worker for the Bureau of Public Highways.
In 1974, the newly-installed Marcos dictatorship sought to implement a 1,000-hydroelectric power project along Chico River. The project involved the construction of four dams that would have inundated 1,400 sq. kms. of Kalinga homes, rice terraces, orchards, and graveyards. The lives of as many as 100,000 living in villages along the river, including Macliing’s Bugnay, would have been affected by the project.
Macliing became a strong and articulate leader in this struggle, which pitted small nearly powerless communities in the Cordilleras against the full powers of the martial law regime. Kalinga and Bontoc leaders were offered bribes, harassed, even imprisoned by the martial law regime but they, including Macliing, stayed firm in their opposition.
The ethinic Kalinga and Bontoc communities, and lowlanders who sympathized with their cause, argued that national development should never be achieved at such extreme sacrifice.
"You ask if we own the land. You mock us. Where is your title? Where are the documents to prove that you own the land? Title. Documents. Proof. Such arrogance of owning land when you are owned by it. How can you own that which outlives you? Only the people own the land because only the people live forever. To claim a place is the birthright of everyone. The lowly animals claim their place, how much more of human beings. They are born to live," spoke Macliing, when asked about land titles and documents.
Resistance to the dam project helped unify what was once a divided Cordillera region. Macliing and other Cordillera leaders initiated a series of tribal pacts, which helped cement this unity and create a very broad anti‑dam front. Macliing became the recognized spokesperson for the anti-dam opposition, for although virtually unschooled, Macliing saw life sharply:
“If you (government) in your search for the good life destroy life, we question it. We say those who need electric lights are not thinking of us who are bound to be destroyed. Or will the need for electric power be a reason for our death? "
Macliing was assassinated on April 24, 1980. A group of government soldiers raided his house and killed him with a rain of bullets. His assassination, however, solidified the opposition to the dam, which had won sympathizers from all over the country and even outside the country. His assassins were eventually convicted.
Even the World Bank, which would have funded the dam construction, withdrew from the project, forcing the government to back out of it at last.