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In Kalinga, a thousand gongs boom for peace

/ 12:52 AM February 16, 2014

A BOY playfully imitates gong-beating Kalinga natives in a parade around the poblacion in Tabuk City, Kalinga province. A thousand gongs rang for peace in Kalinga on Thursday, the eve of its 19th anniversary as an independent province. VILLAMOR VISAYA JR/INQUIRER NORTHERN LUZON

TABUK CITY—More than a thousand gongs on Thursday played a rhythmic beat that grew louder and louder as dancers from seven towns in Kalinga province and this capital city formed into letters that declare to the world, “Kalinga Shines.”

To the uninformed, the beats played by 1,049 gongs at  Kalinga Athletic Bowl would have sounded like any invitation to a Cordillera feast.

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But to people who gathered here this week, the beating of the gongs encouraged peace, unity and prosperity in a province once feared for its head hunters.

Kalinga mounted its first gong festival, “Awong Chi Gangsa (A Call for a Thousand Gongs),” on the eve of its 19th founding anniversary as an independent province on Feb. 14.

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Kalinga used to compose the sub-province of Kalinga-Apayao, which was part of the Mountain Provinces formed by the American colonial government in 1920.

Kalinga-Apayao remained a single province in 1987, when the late President Corazon Aquino created the Cordillera Administrative Region, after forging peace with slain rebel priest Conrado Balweg.

Kalinga became a separate province on Feb. 14, 1995. Apayao province also celebrated its 19th foundation day on Friday with its own festivities.

Kalinga (pop: 201,613 as of 2010) has been the subject of scholarly attention for its indigenous tattoos and its “bodong,” a form of peace pact that became the template for a region-wide  peace agreement.

“Awong Chi Gangsa” was Kalinga’s latest effort to highlight its distinct Cordillera identity by promoting the value of its gongs.

“This is a symbol of Kalinga’s bond for peace, unity and progress. This is a manifestation of how we value our culture,” said Kalinga Gov. Jocel Baac, minutes before he beat the ceremonial gong to open the province’s 19th anniversary festivities and the 2014 Ullalim (Kalinga epic) Festival.

“We never play gongs during wars, disasters, calamities or skirmishes, but these are significant instruments during cultural events or celebrations,” said Amelia Miranda, chair of the festival’s steering committee.

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“The rhythmic sounds produced by the gongs remind us to value our life and culture,” said Sandra Alunday, a resident, who was among the 5,000 people who joined the gathering.

“They lift our spirits and make us happy,” said another resident, Vikki Ao-as.

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TAGS: anniversary, Festival, Kalinga, peace
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