The Filipinos fighting the monsters of Kaliwa Dam

First a dam was constructed near her village. Then the military occupied her area. An indigenous mother wonders if she can ever go home again.

The Dumagat-Remontado indigenous folks used to live in harmony with nature — growing vegetables and livestock while caring for the land and forest. However, with the construction of Kaliwa Dam, they are now threatened with displacement from their ancestral home, to be relocated to a land strange to them. Due to the loss of livelihood that resulted from the deforestation, children in these areas sometimes had to stop their education to help out their parents.

The Kaliwa Dam is a monster born out of the coupling of Duterte’s “Build, Build, Build” ethos with Xi Jinping’s Belt & Road Initiative. Besides displacing an estimated 1,465 families of the Dumagat-Remontado indigenous peoples, the Dam also has notable environmental impact on the area. According to environmentalist protesters, Sierra Madre, the largest remaining rainforests of the Philippines, will be greatly impacted, threatening the survival of the endangered species there. Despite the protests from all across Filipino civil society and indigenous communities, the dam is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2026.

The Filipinos fighting the monsters of Kaliwa Dam (2021)

An indigenous mother — “katutubong nanay” — reminisces about the forest that used to be her home, in the days before the construction of Kaliwa Dam. Her land is now guarded by the military while she dreams of the day she and her people will be able to “grow, dance, and sing freely… here in our home.” This illustrated story shows how local communities are impacted when development does not take heed of their voices and denies their Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). The tale may be specific to the Philippines, but the heartbreak and suffering felt by the community is an all too common story about China’s Belt & Road Initiative projects in the region. 

This illustrated story is commissioned by Innovation for Change – East Asia. It is part of the project ‘Stories of the Impact of China’s BRI’, which features eight stories about communities who are severely impacted by projects that fall under China’s BRI or other Chinese-led development. For each story, we brought together a local community partner and an artist/storyteller. The local community partner did the research and analysis of the issues at stake for their community. After that, the artist/storyteller, with the guidance of a story curator, turned the research into a story. Featuring stories from Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam, this project aims to show the range of adverse impacts brought on by developments that do not listen to the concerns of the affected communities. In amplifying their voices, we hope they can be heard.



Art & Story by Aldy

Research by Local Community Partner (The name of the local community partner is withheld for their security)


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