As a new PAR community is building up in Kalinga, please allow us to share the stories of some of our friends and partners there. They will allow the readers to get to know them and the culture that they live in.
For a tribe with a reputation of fierce warriors and head hunters, the Kalingas have an impressive amount of peace practices. One of them is the Bodong Holder, or Peace Pact Holder, whose responsibility is to maintain a peace pact between two subtribes of the Kalingas.
Auntie Allen grew up as the daughter of a Peace Pact Holder. Her father’s duty was carried by her whole family. When she was a child, her father held the peace pact for no less than 4 different tribes. For her back then, it meant having a lot of visitors who would bring products from their tribes like mats or baskets, and accompanying them into town with her siblings to sell their products. Their parents would butcher chickens or a pig to show hospitality. In the evenings, neighbors and friends would come to their house to call on the visitors.
But sometimes, a conflict would arise, or a crime be committed. If the offender belonged to their tribe, her father’s duty was to punish him or his relatives accordingly, to prevent retaliation from the other tribe. If their tribe was the offended party, her family would host the members of the transgressing tribe who came to discuss the issue. They would walk around the village to call a meeting, butcher a pig or a carabao, facilitate the meeting and receive the blood price paid by the other tribe.
Then one day, when Auntie Allen was a student, her uncle was killed. He was a mayor and people loved him, but his political opponent held a grudge for his election. There was no peace pact with the B*** tribe, where the killer came from: in the indigenous way, blood had to be paid for blood and her uncle couldn’t be buried until he had been revenged.
It was the first time for Auntie Allen to see the whole tribe on the verge of war; a war that became one of the worst tribal war of modern-day Kalinga. She watched in awe as all the elders, her relatives, pounded rice with sharp bamboo while chanting for revenge. The prayers were accompanying one of her cousins who had gone out with his weapon. That night, she woke up to a commotion in the night: tires screeching, and cries of “Nai-faroson!” “We took revenge!” A man from the B*** tribe was dead.
But the B*** were now seeking revenge. The war lasted for two years, and all the members of the tribe had to go back to S***, their original village. Auntie Allen left her studies and hid inside the village with the others. The S*** families gave up a big part of their income to buy guns for themselves and food for the ring of guards around the village. An epidemic of measles broke out in the village and many children died. They could not tend to their fields anymore. Mostly, Auntie Allen remembers the fear, the bullets being shot at her house, the machine gun noises in the night.
One day, she heard that someone from B*** was outside, looking for her. In the tribal law of Kalinga, killing a woman during sub-tribal war is paniyaw, a despicable crime that is punished both in the physical and spiritual world. The war was weighing heavily on everyone and making them reckless. Allen hid, and the man shot one of her relatives instead.
3 weeks after that event, elders from S*** and B*** met to call a ceasefire, and decided that B*** would go to S*** to negotiate a peace pact. Her uncle had been chosen to be hold the peace pact with the B***. But he still strongly resented the death of his brother, and asked for an impossible price. The B*** left the negotiation, defeated, expecting the fight to continue.
Auntie Allen’s mother was in the field at that time. She saw the people of B*** arrive at S***, stay for a while, and leave again. When she asked them how it went and was told that the war would continue, she thought of her children, her nieces and nephews, of the fear that they were living in. It had to stop. To be a peace pact holder is traditionally a man’s job, but women in Kalinga are considered to have spiritual power: when a woman puts her foot down, her decisions have power. Allen’s mother decided then that she would hold the peace pact herself, and invited the elders to come back with her to S***. There she negotiated a peace pact with the tribe that had killed her brother. She became the first woman to be a Peace Pact Holder, and a respected peace maker in the village.
Auntie Allen is proud of her family and of their Peace Pact Holding mission. Granted, it is a demanding vocation, but it is a fulfilling one.