Bishop Jun of Tabuk in Kalinga got a letter from one of his parishioners that changed his life. This woman had recently lost her son to tribal violence. She wished to pray for her son’s murderer and to express her desire to publicly forgive him. This radical act of reconciliation was the start of the Bishop’s vision for the Ka-ili-yan Peacebuilding Institute (KPI).
I was invited to facilitate an introductory workshop on Conflict Transformation and Alternative Dispute Resolution earlier this month as part of KPI’s ongoing work at peacebuilding in the mountainous areas of northern Luzon, Philippines. In the workshop were military and police commanders, persons from the church and government, and some elders who are the holders of the traditional peace pacts called Bodong.
The Bodong is a traditional capacity for peace that is often underestimated by outsiders in its ability to address current violence often based on inter-tribal vendettas. In a planning meeting after the KPI, peace pact holders were adamant that where there were tribal peace pacts, there was no problem with ongoing violence.
While these peace pacts take time and resources to negotiate between the numerous tribes in Northern Luzon, they are a durable way to address violence. I was shown a map indicating that there were nearly 200 different pacts between various tribes. As many as 5 carabao (water buffalo) need to be slaughtered to seal the pact, multiplied times the nearly 200 pacts translates to a lot of money. Yet what are the alternatives? What is the cost of one helicopter or feeding one battalion of soldiers both of which are far less effective in “peacekeeping” than an indigenously owned peace pact. Local tradition and wisdom once again proves to be the best resource.