Unity Gong Relay rolls out to drum up support to Cordillera autonomy

BAGUIO CITY — In the upland region of Cordillera in northern Philippines, the gong is a traditional tool in the indigenous people’s rituals, gatherings, and celebrations.

The beating and the resonant sound of the huge metal disc seem to call everyone to action and to celebrate the people’s camaraderie and oneness.

Some tribes of the Cordillera also use the gong in rituals to drive away evil spirits and bring forth prosperity among the people.

For the sixth year in a row, the people of Cordillera are now doing the annual week-long Unity Gong Relay, culminating on the region’s foundation day on July 15.

The Unity Gong Relay is the ceremonial bringing of a symbolic gong to all the provinces and cities in the Cordillera, with the heads of the localities doing the honors of beating the gong.

Since 2012, the festive ceremony is being done yearly to drum up support to the region’s call for autonomy.

“It links one province to the next and brings all into one,” Milagros Rimando, regional director of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) in Cordillera, told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) on Tuesday, the second day of the Unity Gong Relay rites. “It is a venue to join hands in discussing the end dream of autonomy.”

For this year, the 31st founding anniversary of the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), the Unity Gong Relay kicked off Monday (July 9) in Lagawe town in Ifugao province.

Ifugao Governor Pedro Mayam-o was the first to hit the symbolic gong, to usher the celebration bearing the theme “Regional Autonomy for Good Governance”, symbolically announcing the Cordillerans’ renewed call for autonomy.

The Cordillera Regional Development Council (RDC), which Rimando co-chairs, pushes for the region’s autonomous status towards federalism.

On Monday, the gong was transported to Mountain Province, where the convoy of government line agencies in Ifugao was received by Mountain Province Governor Bonifacio Lacwasan and his constituents, then passed on to the province’s Sagada town, where more festivities took place.

On Tuesday afternoon (July 10), the gong was brought to Kalinga province, amid more festivities in Tinglayan town, then to the capital city of Tabuk, where a welcome program was held in the evening.

After Kalinga, the gong relay is set to travel to Conner, Apayao amid another welcome program on Wednesday. Later in the day, indigenous friendship games will be up at the capital town of Kabugao.

On July 12, the Unity Gong will travel from Luna, Apayao to Bangued, Abra, where the convoy will be met by the Abra delegation at the boundary of Abra and Ilocos Sur before another welcome program at the Abra Provincial Capitol.

From Bangued, Abra, the gong will travel to Baguio City, amid yet another welcome program at the Baguio City Hall grounds.

The gong will then be passed on to the local officials of Benguet province at the Benguet Provincial Capitol in La Trinidad town for more festivities.

On July 14, the Unity Gong will travel back to Ifugao, where it will be received by the members of the Ifugao official delegation in Lamut town, to be capped by a tree-growing activity at the Panudpudan District Hospital.

Mayam-o urged all Cordillerans to join the Unity Gong Relay in their respective localities and show their oneness in seeking autonomy for the region. Pamela Mariz Geminiano/PNA-northboundasia.com