Mother Petra MACLIING
ASIA · Philippines
Protecting indigenous land culture
Over the course of a lifetime of activism for the Indigenous Peoples of the Philippines, Mother Petra Macliing (77) has never wavered in her understanding that the identity and life of Indigenous Peoples is intrinsically tied to the protection and conservation of the land. Given the honorific title of ‘Mother’ by her tribe, she is a living representation of the role of empowerment rural women play in protecting their land and culture.
Widowed, and the literal mother of eight children, Mother Petra was determined to keep her young family from destitution while preserving her ancestral lands through sustainable farming. Mother Petra became a leader within her rural community on natural farming techniques. Innovatively utilizing rice husks, a traditional waste product and food for edible regional snails, and the waste product from traditional pig farming, Mother Petra was able to naturally fertilize her fields. Slowly, Mother Petra is drawing her neighbors away from chemical fertilizers as they witness the high yields of her rice paddies.
Natural farming techniques are one side of the battle to preserve the Cordilleras region; the other involves guarding against the invasion of corporations and prospectors. In the 1970s, Mother Petra rallied the opposition movement to the four Chico Dams in conjunction with Kalinga and Bontoc leaders to prevent the displacement of her people. Bontoc Tribe lands are not just rich in culture and agriculture, but under the surface harbor the potential for a literal gold mine. In the 1980s, assisted and supported by other indigenous women in the region, Mother Petra successfully drove off gold prospectors using collective resistance action (removing tools from the miners), traditional indigenous beliefs (the taboo that it is bad luck to see mothers and grandmothers unclothed), and open, non-violent dialogues initiated and completed between indigenous women and mining engineers.
Mother Petra is a founding member of the Cordillera Peoples’ Alliance (CPA) for the defense of ancestral domains and self-determination, of the Kalinga-Bontoc Peace Pact Holders Association (KBPPHA), a federation of traditional tribal leaders, members of the Cordillera Elders Alliance (CEA), she created the community based organizations Mainit Ub-ubfo and the Maiinit Irrigators Association, and is a leader of the Montañosa Women’s Federation.