Ucab’s song of struggle

The Shengnget/Nashville Vaga Band sings 'Nabaknang a Daga' in the cultural night on April 23. (Photo by D. Ayroso/Bulatlat.com)
The Shengnget/Nashville Vaga Band sings ‘Nabaknang a Daga’ in the cultural night on April 23. (Photo by D. Ayroso/Bulatlat.com)

Dios ti agbabantay, Dios ti tumultulong
Ti daytoy a bantay lugar naianakan
Inta’y nakasursuruan iti na Kristiyanoan
Ugali a napateg iti kaamaan

By KATHRINA MANUEL
Bulatlat.com

See related story: Telling stories to carry on the struggle in Cordillera

ITOGON, BENGUET — In the early evening of April 23, a small gathering in Ucab village here was treated to a special performance by the Shengnget/Nashville Vaga Band, which is not an ordinary band. It was not your usual gathering either, for it was the cultural, solidarity night of the Cordillera Day celebrations.

The song, “Nabaknang a Daga” (Bountiful land) is what makes it all special, as it tells the story of the indigenous Ibalois and Kankana-eys in Ucab and other Itogon villages and their struggle against the open-pit mines in the 90s.

Bulatlat.com found the same song on the internet titled “Napateg a kinabaknang” (Invaluable resources) and performed by Shengnget.

Different renditions of the song were performed in the April 23 program during the day, by the elders of Ucab, and by the grown children who were members of the Anti-Open-Pit Mining Kids (AOPMK). The final rendition came in the evening, more upbeat, and complete with electric guitars and drums, by Shengnget.

In 1990, Pastor Judith Aniceto of the United Church of Christ of the Philippines composed the song at the height of the campaign against Benguet Corporation Inc. (BCI), which wanted to displace Itogon residents as it expanded its open-pit mining operations.

“In the past you can mine, you can farm anywhere you want, Aniceto told Bulatlat.com in an interview.

As the song goes, the place used to have such beauty because of the bountiful land, but this was destroyed by the mines, which cut down the trees and depleted the water, and even led to conflict among the people.

The BCI had been in Itogon since 1900s. But before that, the indigenous peoples have engaged in small-scale mining for hundreds of years.

As the people resisted and formed barricades to stop the mining operations, the company tried to split their ranks, by bribing tribal chiefs and village officials, and by bringing in soldiers who set up detachment in the villages.

Aniceto said the children of the AOPMK performed the song in various protests and occasions in Benguet, and was even taught in schools and churches. It also won an award in the 1992 Gantimpalang Ani literary competition by the Gapas Foundation.

In 1996, the people’s campaign eventually stopped the open-pit mining operations in Itogon, except in the Antamok Vein in Loakan village, where a gaping hole remains today.

“This song was composed to remind the young generation what happened in the past and what action they must continue,” Aniceto said. The song calls on the people to unite and fight for their rights.

She said, “We do not want to lose the song, so we have to teach it from generation to generation to remind them of the struggle.”

Anti-open pit mining. The elders and younger generation of Ucab village, Itogon. (Photo by D. Ayroso/Bulatlat.com)
Anti-open pit mining. The elders and younger generation of Ucab village, Itogon. (Photo by D. Ayroso/Bulatlat.com)

Nabaknang a Daga/Napateg a Kinabaknang

Napintas a lugar
Ucab/Itogon/Benguet ti nagan na
Nabaknang a daga adu’t balitok na
Napintas ti apit kadagiti um-uma
Bendisyon ti Apo kadata’y nga annakna.

CHORUS:
Dios ti agbabantay, Dios ti tumultulong
Ti daytoy a bantay lugar naianakan
Inta’y nakasursuruan iti na Kristiyanoan
Ugali a napateg iti kaamaan

Kitaem man kabsat ti mapaspasamak,
Banbantay nadadael
Mulmula napukawen
Uray dagiti danum naawan da metten
Gapu ti open pit
Awanen ti pagyanan

Sadino ti papanan dagiti tatao,
Nadadael a lugar ap-apalan iti kaaduan
Gapu ti open pit lumugar ag-ap-apa, ag-aama, ag-iina, agtitinik-ol da

Bumangon ka kabsat,
Agmamaysa tayo,
Tapnu ilaban ta’y ti kalintegan tayo
Denggen yo ti asug dagiti tatao
O agtignay tayo,
Agtitinulong tayo.

(With a report from Dee Ayroso) ()

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