In June, 1984 more than three hundred representatives from all over the Cordillera region gathered in a People’s Congress in Bontoc and organized the Cordillera People’s Alliance for the Defense of the Ancestral Domain and for Self-Determination (CPA). Among our founding documents was the seminal paper Towards Defining the Substance and Features of Self-Determination in the Cordillera. In this document, we proposed that regional autonomy would be the form of self-determination for the Cordillera.
From 1984-86, the CPA distinguished itself by being at the forefront of the struggle for indigenous people’s rights. We launched many campaigns such as those for Ancestral Land Rights, Regional Autonomy, anti-militarization, Kaigorotan unity, and others.
One of the early campaigns of the CPA was to bring together the Cordillera provinces as one region. Many people may not know it but the Cordillera provinces did not always stand together as one region. One of the early declarations of the dictator Marcos was to divide the Philippines into regions. Without any consideration for the commonalities of history, geography, national minority status and the like, Marcos divided the Cordillera provinces, including Mountain Province and Benguet along with Abra in Region 1, and Kalinga-Apayao and Ifugao in Region 2. CPA protested this act as a form of political misrepresentation and national oppression, which had the ulterior motive to stop the unification of the indigenous peoples of the Cordillera, especially as the resistance against Chico and Cellophil was raging.
In 1985, the Cordillera representatives to the Interim Batasang Pambansa were trying to pass a bill to regionalize the Cordillera provinces. The CPA allied with the sponsors of the bill for the tactical demand of regionalization but raised the slogan regionalization and beyond, to be able to conduct a regional campaign on indigenous peoples’ rights and regional autonomy as the form of self-determination for the region.
CPA’s main thrust was towards the conscientization, organizing and empowerment of the Cordillera indigenous peoples in the struggle against national oppression and for self-determination. It played a most significant role in popularizing the demand for the rocognition of indigenous people’s rights, not only in the region but even nationally. To set the record straight against historical revisionism, it was the CPA that popularized the concepts and slogans of ancestral land, national oppression, self-determination and regional autonomy, such that these became integrated into the national struggle against the Marcos dictatorship, as it was the CPA which was at the forefront of this struggle in the region.