Martial law was coming to a head. The Cordillera people’s resistance against Chico and Cellophil had spawned the growth of progressive organizations both in the countrysides and in the town centers and regional urban center. On June 1-3, 1984, a people’s congress for the defense of the ancestral domain and self determination was held in Bontoc, Mountain Province, and the Cordillera People’s Alliance was born.
Padi Solang was elected as our first secretary-general, with Atty. Billy Claver as the chairperson and Fr. Pat Guyguyon as the vice chair. At the CPA Congress the following year, Padi was elected as one of the two vice chairpersons. And when Atty. Claver had to leave the position as chair, having been appointed as the OIC governor of Kalinga after EDSA 1, Padi assumed as chairperson of CPA. He continued to be actively involved with the CPA both at the regional and provincial levels even after he passed on the chairmanship in succeeding reorganizations.
In the early years of CPA, as the popular resistance to Chico and Cellophil and the martial law dictatorship spread throughout the region, there were numerous human rights violations committed by the AFP. Fact-finding missions had to be mobilized to look into these incidents. Padi Solang joined many of these fact-finding missions. He put his life was on the line having to go through military checkpoints or be on the negotiating panel with the fascist troops.
In 1986, in the wake of the confusion caused by the formation of the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army and its attacks on the CPA, Padi Solang steadfastly stood in defense of our Alliance at the risk of life and limb. He went to the United Nations and exposed the crimes of the CPLA. We believe that this is one reason why Cory Aquino, who supported the CPLA, failed to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
As all of us who have ever attended Cordillera Day know, Padi Solang was an almost indispensable fixture at these celebrations. He would emcee, sing his songs, lead the most exhaustive of pattongs, and tirelessly and energetically exhort us all to actively participate in the activities. After a long and exhausting solidarity night, his voice through the microphone would wake us up very early the following morning, entertaining us with his sallidumay and his brisk non-stop commentary on various issues.
Padi Solang clearly recognized the power of the cultural form for education and propaganda. He accompanied the first cultural caravan that travelled from Baguio through the Halsema Highway and Mountain Province to Cordillera Day in Belwang in 1985. When the Dap-ayan ti Kultura ti Kordilyera was organized, he was greatly inspired by their cultural projects such that he wanted to become part of DKK! Himself an indigenous artist, Padi has composed numerous songs which he collected and made into an album. He leads a mean pattong. He proudly wears the indigenous garb during important occasions. He has been seen teaching the youth how to tie the g-string or how to dance correctly the indigenous way.
Padi Solang lived simply, even sparingly, and advocated a healthy lifestyle. He was a great believer in the powers of ginger/salabat, which he often carried around with him. He would tell us to eat more vegetables and less meat to remain healthy. He did not drink nor smoke. He scolded me that I allowed myself to eat too much and grow fat.
Padi Solang was both an indigenous elder and an Anglican priest, and he did not let these two personas conflict. He was grounded in his indigenous community values and he was a man of God. He could speak on indigenous knowledge, as much as he could make reference to the Bible. His spirituality comes shining through in his songs.
A number of friends have already written their eulogies for Padi Solang, such as Beverly Longid and Jun Versola. I hope that the family will be given copies of these eulogies so that they know how much Padi was well-loved by so many. I will include here some additional comments which describe his character:
From Luchi Maranan: Padi Solang brimmed with energy and militant cheerfulness. “Snappy, snappy, snappy!” He would always remind us, prod us to move it! Do it! Carpe diem! He lived a great life for the indigenous peoples’ movement in the Cordillera. Matago ni Padi Solang!
From Minnie Degawan: Cried, laughed and smiled as I tried to write down my memories of Padi. I think he would prefer us to remember him with smiles and if possible, sing his songs. They will live on in our collective memories.
From Roxanne Veridiano: Padi Solang made our 2 hour hike seem like a 15-minute walk with him singing to us his original compositions about issues. He was always there at the forefront of the struggles. He made life colorful with his wisdom, wit and humor. His humble ways and his commitment was an inspiration to different generations. Surely, we will miss him.
What makes a hero? It is not the manner of death that makes someone a hero, rather it is how one lives his life and serves the people to his very last breath. For us in the CPA, Padi Solang is a hero, and we come here today to pay him tribute for a life well-lived in the service of the indigenous peoples of the Cordillera.
He was steadfast in his commitment, and tireless in passing on the positive cultural values of indigenous society
He was grounded in the past, but was forward looking and working for a better future for his children and for all children
He was a man of the cloth and he spread the word of the progressive Jesus
He was innovative, and open to new ideas and constructive suggestions
He actively helped build unity among the indigenous peoples of the Cordillera, and with other oppressed sectors of Philippine society
He was a political activist for indigenous peoples rights, national freedom and democracy
He was our elder, and he inspired and gave strength and courage to the militant mass movement in the Cordillera region
Padi Solang, we give you our final salute. We grieve, but as Carol Galvez commented:
Apay nga sangsangitam ni Padi? Kayat mo nga masermonan? She would prefer to remember him as the militant joyful Padi — the bravado of his chants; the thump of his feet when he dances with the strike of the wood on the gong; the lessons of his songs; and that wisdom and wit of the elder in his eyes.
Yes, we grieve, but we have to snap out of it right away. Because we need to continue his chant, his dance, his song.
Padi Solang, go in peace. We will continue…
By Joanna K. Cariňo
Cordillera People’s Alliance