The population of Kalinga province is incredibly diverse, consisting of 48 different tribes. In this diversity is a history of persistent inter-tribal violence. The name of the the province itself can be translated as "headhunter" or "enemy". While headhunting is by no means the modern way of the Kalinga people, there is still a strong sense of tribal affiliation. This at times manifests in cycles of revenge and violence. An article from an NGO operating in Kalinga quotes local Sison Paut, “most of crime cases in Kalinga are related to tribal conflicts. While it is all quiet right now and there is no war going on, peace and order in the province is volatile because hostilities that happened even long ago can be rekindled. Here in Tabuk, once it is 7:00 PM, you do not see people walking out in the streets and there is hardly any vehicle on the road. There is that fear of either being affiliated with a tribe or caught in crossfire.” National court cases concerning anything, land disputes, traffic violations, or violence, always include mediators from the tribes of the parties involved. The local Episcopal Churches are also deeply involved in efforts for reconcilliation and peaceful mediation.
In a province of so many different tribes, what brings people together? What enabled the people to come together from the far reaches of the province and celebrate together, as I witnessed this weekend? I asked a friend of mine about this, and she looked at me a little funny. Wasn't the answer clear? "Because we are all indigenous people... we have to protect our traditions." One tradition that all these tribes have in common in the playing of gongs. This is a live and energetic part of life for the people of Kalinga. In my time here, anytime there is any sort of celebration or gathering, I know it is not finished without the inevitable playing of the gongs and the dancing that goes along with it. The different tribes and regions have different rhythms and melodies, but they all play gongs.
So for this Kalinga day, the province issued a call for 1,000 gongs for peace in Kalinga. This meant that all of the 11 municipalities, and their various tribes, would have to come together and play. On Monday, February 16th, this vision became a reality. Each municipality, dressed in different colors, paraded through Tabuk ending at the local sports arena. Then, each group gave a performance of their own particular style of gong playing and dance and moved on to each form a letter in the provincial motto, "Kalina Shines".
But the real exciting moment of the day came, when at long last, the gigantic gong was struck, and all the people played and danced in unison. At this point, the letters, once segregated by colored t-shirts and tribes, moved and mixed together to form the word P-E-A-C-E. The crowd stood and roared. In that moment, it seemed like a prayer briefly answered. There was something that the people agreed upon besides the playing of gongs, a deep desire for peace, unity, and cooperation of the indigenous peoples of Kalinga province.
|The Crowd and Food Vendors Assemble to Watch the Parade.|
|The Representatives from the Municipality of Tabuk.|
|The Parade Enters the Arena Alongside the Giant Master Gong|
|Keynote Speakers Having a Chat Before the Program|
|A Tableau Representing the Products and Livelihoods of Kalina Province|
|A Tableau Representing the Natural Resources and Beauty of Kalinga Province|
|Tableau Representing the Spanish Colonial and Religious History of the Philippines|
|Dancers Trying to Escape the Heat During the Presentation|
|From Left to Right: The Flag of The Philippines, The Cordilleras Region, and Kalinga Province|
|The Kiddos and the Motors|
|The Gong Players and Dancers Formed the Motto "Kalinga Shines"|
|In Formation Waiting for the Playing to Begin|
|The Sound of a Thousand Gongs|