Gus Saboy’s Memoirs: “The Bodong has no ideology”

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[Note: Unknown to most Kalingas, the Kalinga Bodong Congress and the subsequent codification of the Pagta (laws of the Bodong) were the brainchild of Augustus U. Saboy. In this portion of his memoirs marked  “12 o’clock mn, September 15, 1998” on the original manuscript,  he gives a backgrounder on the Kalinga Bodong and the codification of its pagta). – SMSaboy]




The Kalinga Bodong or “Peace Pact” has been practiced by Kalingas long before I was born.  I was born into this primitive social system which had governed Kalingas for an indeterminate number of years.  Nobody yet can tell when this social institution so treasured by Kalinga was instituted.  However, legends of this indigenous customary law show that it could be within the vicinity of more than a century.

My father and mother told me of stories about Bodong celebrations.  During my childhood days, there were pajolnat ceremonies at home in Balbalasang which we youngsters would attend but not without any meaning to us except for some crack at the rudiments of native dancing which spiced the occasion.

My father seldom talked about Bodong because he was not a “Peace Pact Holder.”  Illustrious tribal leaders in our Banao Tribe whose names I cannot miss were Kapitan Juan Puyao — a blood uncle since my father is a first cousin — Tubvyan (one name), Malna (one name), Dalipog/Jalipog (one name), and another I could not recall.  But like any other tribal member bound by the Bodong, he is supposed to be an “authority” on the art and niceties of Bodong-making.  So far, this home education on the Kalinga Bodong from my father and mother was a blessing in my later entry to public life especially in the field of newspapering because these were ready backgrounders on future writings on the Kalinga customary law.

Besides, in my college days, especially during my stint at Silliman University in Dumaguete City (1951-1953), I found myself drawn into retracing my cultural roots inspired through the anthropology courses under Prof. Timoteo Oracion which had me journeying into the cultural world of the Micronesians and Melanesians of the Pacific, the Incas of South America, the different tribes of Black Africa, the Aztecs of Mexico, the Tasmanians of Australia,  and the different American Indian Tribes of the United States of America.

One  “Baby Thesis” I authored dwelt on the Peoples of the Pacific.  My readings also gave me more interest in their Tribal Peace and Justice System which they practice as we do also our brand of justice system in Kalinga.  In my immersion into life and the lives of these indigenous peoples through the books, I simply could not gobble up the temptation to believe that even today as in those college years of researches and studies, the Kalingas are the only indigenous peoples of the world that practice and had preserved their own customary laws which are recognized by the Constitution as a parallel governance among the people covered by the Bodong.

The curse of the Bodong institution is vengeance-killing and were it not for this tolerance or freedom which has become a part of the system, Bodong would be one of the most wonderful arts of governance mankind had ever discovered.  For vengeance killing in the Bodong has also institutionalized the art of killing for the sake of honor, pride and for the thrill of it.  In those early days, head-hunting was a fad.  The Bodong either would spark head-hunting expeditions or would force down a ceasefire in the tribal conflict towards bringing about a restoration of the severed peace pact.  But the essence of this is that there is no Bodong if there is no blood spilled as a result of murder or actual physical injuries.  The Bodong practice has showed man to play God and to take upon himself the power and privilege that belongs only to the Maker.  Thus God said, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.”

This is the main reason why whenever a Bodong is severed, the tribal fold involved or whose Bodong has been impaired, scamper to safety, the residents forced to stay home within the vicinity of the Bodong boundaries.  During this period, there may occur sporadic encounters between the two warring tribes or that a vengeance raids may be launched, especially against the aggressor.

It was only during my high school days at the Kalinga Academy in 1947 after the end of World War II that I began to take the Bodong seriously.

It was the aftermath of a Congressional election in which Max Duguiang, a prominent Kalinga politician, was one of the candidates.  He lost in that election, and his tribe took the loss in the Balbalasang electoral voting as an affront to the Bodong and so they cut the Bodong between Banao and Lubuagan.  One afternoon, I went to buy some school needs in one of the stores in the main street of Lubuagan called “Lonas.” One street drunkard (he was accepted as a notorious drunk and brawler) saw me and immediately ran after me with his bolo intending to chop me down.  Fortunately, out on the other side of the street was Max Duguiang, together with another Lubuagan leader, Ralph Gasatan. With instinctive reaction, both thundered with shouts scaring the would-be killer away.  I had never been scared out of my wits like I was in that memorable incident.

During the summer months after school, many of us who chose to attend high school at Kalinga Academy had second thoughts of returning to that famous high school.  We were toying with the idea of going to St. Mary’s School, Sagada, Mountain Province (my alma mater in the Intermediate Grades), or go to the fabled City of Baguio.  One Sunday morning, Father Alfred L. Griffiths, the American missionary who returned from his furlough after suffering in the concentration camps of World War II, held a meeting of the community in the Church yard. The agenda presented during the meeting was about the opening of a high school in Balbalasang.  Of all the people who were in that bright sunny morning, I believe I was the most interested and absorbed. After that Lubuagan attempt on my life, I was drawn deeply and seriously into that historic proposal.

Father Griffiths broached the idea.  Without much discussions, the debates were concentrated on the only two questions — HOW and WHEN. Kalinga Sub-provincial Deputy Governor Mary Puyao-Cuesta also gave her full approval to the proposal and promised to get the government to recognize the dreamed high school.  My father was a Municipal Councilor at that time and he, too, had some say and he pledged to get municipal-wide support for the high school’s establishment. And so our dream high school —  St. Paul’s Memorial High School — was opened the next school year. We were the immediate beneficiaries of first classrooms as high school sophomores. (I finished my first year at the Kalinga Academy).

It was an exciting and dramatic year for us the pioneers of St. Paul’s Memorial High School.  For me, it could only be through God’s full blessings that I would climb up the acquisition of formal education.  As a high school student at Kalinga Academy, I was fully a self-supporting student.  We worked on odd jobs, cleaning, gathering firewood on Saturdays, gardening and what-have-you just to earn a few pesos.  My meal sustenance was to come from home but with the distance form Balbalasang to Lubuagan, it was a suicide to be always carrying rice to Lubuagan from Balbalasang.  Arrangements were, however, made to get my rice supply, through the negotiations of my brother, Father Theodore T. Saboy from Balinciagao.

I would hike from Lubuagan to Balbalasang and back every week.  But now with the high school only 500 meters away from our house, my quest for education became like a walk to Paradise.

So it was a severed Bodong that gave the underlying reasons for the establishment of St. Paul’s Memorial High School.  As things were already promising well for St. Paul’s, the tribal peace between Lubuagan and Balbalasang improved and later the Bodong was restored as was the tribal relations between the two tribes. Since there was no third year course offered by St. Paul’s, I had to return to Kalinga Academy which I chose instead of Baguio or Sagada because of limited financial resources.

My interest in the Kalinga Bodong was kept aflame by nosy non-Kalinga classmates in college and colleagues in the employment world.  Kalinga has long been notoriously known as the gladiatorial arena of tribal vengeance killing.  It was natural for me, a member of the Bodong Community, to be asked by people what this Bodong is all about — in my layman knowledge, of course.  But just the same, to enrich my knowledge on the Bodong, I read Barton’s The Kalingas and some articles in the local newspapers which were based on interviews of people knowledgeable in the Bodong. I would go home and get a refresher from my father and other tribal leaders on Bodong.

I began writing about Bodong when I joined the Philippine News Service (PNS), then the national news of the Philippines.  Outbreaks of tribal vengeance killings would keep me on my toes in my coverage.  I would share another provincial newsman, Guillermo “GEM” Mamoyac of The Manila Times all my coverage items and these would land also in the pages of the said paper. I was soon to become a “legman” of Mamoyac while covering for PNS.  The  Manila dailies through these news reports had helped propagate the Bodong institution.

In the 1973 Constitutional Convention, I ventured on joining the race for Delegate to the Convention, representing my province, Kalinga-Apayao.  In my candidacy platform, I gave recognition to the Kalinga Bodong institution by including as it as one of the items in my candidatorial agenda:  That if elected, I will incorporate the Kalinga Bodong System in the Philippine Constitution.  The two items were taken up by the ConCon all right, the enfranchisement of the Bodong having been couched in a general language or clause: “…The State shall consider the customs and traditions of the national Cultural Communities in the determination of national policies…”

Some bonafide Kalinga Bodong members were skeptical but there were those whose eyes were opened on the importance of the proposal.

And so, campaign I did with gusto among Kalingas who love and have deep and innate love and pride of their Bodong for the Bodong to be “Constitutionalized.”   I believe that if I won a landslide in the Kalinga areas of Tinglayan, Tanudan, Lubuagan, Pasil, Balbalan, and Pinukpuk, it was because of this Bodong Platform.  I topped all the other ethnic Kalinga candidates and in the raw Operations Quick Count counting. I only did not sweep the Kalinga area elections as No. 1 but also landed at least No. 2 in the provincewide polls.  Unfortunately, the ugly electoral culture in those days as it   is today had robbed me of my chance to present that Bodong Agenda in the 1973 Constitutional Convention at the Manila Hotel. (In the subprovince of Apayao, I was full zero votes in the municipalities of Kabugao, Luna, Sta. Marcela, Pudtol and Fora.  Only the devil would believe this since there were votes cast in my favor in the OQC tallies which would have made me No. 1 in the overall rankings.)

I joined the Congressional Office Staff of Congressman Felipe B. Almazan in 1973 while the Constitutional Convention was in session.  It was my opportunity to hop out once in a while from my crowded office hours to watch the proceedings and to contact our elected delegates, especially form the Mountain Provinces. In one of my platform items,  included there the enfranchisement of the no-read-no-write citizens of the country.  I do not know if I was the only candidate in the entire country who had placed that item as a Constitutional Agenda. But it was there and in Manila I sought some of the delegates who are members of the Suffrage Committee.  I also wrote Delegate Raul Manglapus on the proposal and there was some hope for its incorporation into the Constitution.  This was among my reasons to frequent the ConCon Session and I was more interested and fired up to see how the Bodong could be given a mandate in the Fundamental Law of the Land.  One delegate, William F. Claver, suggested that it would  be covered in the provision of the national cultural communities.

Martial Law was declared on September 11, 1972 and Congress was abolished.  Some time in November of that year the Provincial officials of Kalinga-Apayao led by Governor Rolando T. Puzon called on Congressman Almazan.  One of their purposes was to ask me to join the provincial governor’s staff in Tabuk since there was no longer a Congress where I could work. Congressman Almazan gave me the permission to leave his Office Staff and I also accepted the offer.

In December of that year, I reported to Governor Puzon for work.  I was given a casual item to serve as Information Officer.  Before the appointment, however, I requested that in order for me to participate in Puzon’s program of government and in order to supplement his program of administration, he would consider some proposals which I prepared to be presented to him.

There were eleven proposals but again the Bodong came foremost among the suggestions.  In that item, I proposed that all Kalinga tribal leaders and Bodong holders be called for a “Congress” to tackle the Pagta and to deliberate on the standardization of the Pagta to be printed for reference and guide of Bodong holders.  I reasoned out that at present, the Pagta was still in its oral form and chances are that it may be prostituted through intrusions and adulterations.  Besides, I also pointed out that this is one of the most important cultural treasures of Kalingas which should be preserved for posterity.

There was only one answer from Puzon’s alter ego, Atty. Pablo Veridiano, after Govenor Puzon said “Approved without thinking” and which his subalterns who were present also echoed in chorus: Your first job, Mr. Saboy, today, is to reduce all these proposals into Memorandums or Executive Orders, as the case may be!

The Bodong item gave me the opportunity to draft a Memorandum calling for a Bodong Congress or Convention.  Board Member Iluminada Duyan was tasked to head the Committee.  While the Congress did not materialize because of the turn of events, one of which was the removal of Puzon as Governor and  his replacement by Governor Tanding B. Odiem, credit must be given to Governor Puzon, a non-ethnic Kalinga, for the initial approach towards the gathering of Kalinga Pangats for the purpose of standardizing the Bodong Pagta.

During the incumbency of Governor Odiem, I had occasion to discuss with the Governor the pursuit of the Puzon Plan of gathering Kalinga leaders.  Odiem expressed his keen interest but the volatile peace and order situation during his term — the Chico Dam 4 Problem — had shunted aside the Bodong Convention proposal. As Odiem’s Executive Assistant and alter Provincial Secretary and Provincial Administrator, I had occasions to feel the desire of Governor Odiem to insert an occasion during those troubled months but it was just that the raging priority was the Chico Dam 4 Problem.

Odiem was later replaced by Governor Amado B. Almazan.  I was retained by Governor Almazan as Provincial Administrator on the strength of the personal recommendation of outgoing Governor Odiem and for the fact that Almazan may have known me as  a subordinate during his governorship by assumption (after the death of Duyan) and also as Secretary to his brother, Congressman Felipe B. Almazan.  I continued serving as Provincial Administrator.

The unsettled peace and order situation in province would waft from bad to worse and on some periods, bad to good.  I suggested in one of our personal meetings with Governor Almazan that we should call all Kalinga tribal leaders to a Congress to get ideas from them on how to solve the Chico River problems and at the same time review the Bodong Pagta which was now taken advantage of by the New People’s Army (NPA) and its front organizations as well as by the PANAMIN representing the government — PANAMIN declaring that the NPAs be exluded from the coverage of the Pagta and the NPAs also declaring all PANAMIN and supporters of the Dam as excluded from the coverage of the Bodong.  To my mind, this was an outrageous violation of the time-honored sanctity of the Bodong.  To me, Bodong has no ideology.  It exists as a way of life developed through years of continued governance under its indigenous customs and traditions.  Communism as an ideology has its own dogma and philosophy just as democracy has. And here was the purity of the Bodong being challenged and threatened with adulteration and prostitution by cultural soldiers of fortune and ideological poachers…

Those were thoughts which had cramped my mind during those days.  And so, pregnant with those tintinnabulations,  I inserted in my talk with Governor Almazan the proposal to hold a Kalinga Bodong Congress.  And so the Congress — the first of its nature to be convened by Kalingas — was held at the Tabuk National High School and attended by some 500 Kalinga tribal leaders, Barangay Captains, the PC led by Col Retuta, and provincial officials.

While the Convention had done much in defusing the Chico River 4 powderkeg, the Convention had  another  more important outcome: the securing of a continuing session of a Bodong Congress, a pledge made not only by the participants but also by the bureaucracy from the provincial officials including Malacanang down to the Barangay Captain.

With the initial success, Governor Almazan began to get a deep interest in the Bodong Congress.  It gave me the opportunity to throw my weight into the preparation, scheduling, and strategizing the activities towards the realization of the standardization of the Pagta.

2 thoughts on “Gus Saboy’s Memoirs: “The Bodong has no ideology”

  1. Author’s gravatar

    Agyamanak met apo iti panagbisitayo iti nanumo a website tayo.

  2. Author’s gravatar

    Thank you Mr. Augustus Saboy for your valuable diligent works and advocacy for the Kalinga Bodong Codification.

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