Skip to main content »

Conrado Balweg: Father of the Cordillera Administrative Region

Conrado Balweg fought for the self-determination of the people of the Cordillera which led to the creation of the Cordillera Administrative Region.

Late Sen. Agapito "Butz" Aquino and CPLA leader Fr. Conrado Balweg lay down arms and "talk peace". Cordillera Voice

Conrado Balweg was a former Filipino Catholic priest and rebel who was the founder of the Cordillera People's Liberation Army, a militant group which advocated autonomy for the Cordillera region in the Philippines. He was also known by the nom-de-guerre "Ka Ambo".

Conrado was born in 1944 to a poor peasant family in the Cordilleras Mountains. The family belongs to Tingguian, a tribal minority often referred to as "people from the mountains", primitive and inexperienced. Many people believe that the tribe is in headhunting and animism. To escape the branding, Conrado and his siblings were sent to mission schools. His parents chose the career of a priest for Conrado.

Conrado attended a priestly school of the international order of Steyler missionaries, the "Societas Verbi Divini" (SVD). From this, he heard the teachings of Marxism and the Liberation Theology.

Lectures on Liberation Theology had a great influence on him. According to the teachings of Liberation Theology, the church should focus its attention on social work especially on poor and discriminated people. Some supporters of the Liberation Theology are sympathetic to socialist, also models of communist society.

However, the Roman Catholic Church does not conform to the teachings of Liberation Theology. Pope Paul II insists that the Church should do social work but "the conception of Christ as a political, as a revolutionary or a person who participates in subversive activities is incompatible with church catechism." Those opposed to the teachings of Rome especially for theologians, priests and nuns admitted the possibility of excommunication.

In 1974, at the height of Martial Law, Conrado was ordained and became the first priest from the Tingguian tribe. Before becoming a seminarian, he devoted his time to social work. While serving as a priest in barangay Sal-Lapadan, he called for structural reforms. He protested against multinational timber companies invading and disagreed with the historic claim of indigenous ownership due to lack of documents. He accused the Marcos government of being corrupt and out of control.

In 1979, Conrado threw away his Bible and carried a gun as he joined the Cordillera People's Army, the NPA in his region. He was named "Ka Ambo" and became the "Robin Hood of the Cordilleras," a local idol. As an NPA member, he was part of the Lumbaya Company. At that time he was excommunicated by the Roman Catholic Church.

Late Sen. Agapito "Butz" Aquino and CPLA leader Fr. Conrado Balweg lay down arms and "talk peace".

Conrado spoke in his CPA teachings about the need to use counter-violence against leaders and large landowners. He maintained that "guns will not win the war, but the justness of the cause will ... we have the support of the masses."

"Guns will not win the war, but the justness of the cause will ... we have the support of the masses." - Conrado Balweg

He admitted in a newspaper interview that his group killed 46 government soldiers and six armed forces informers in 29 collisions with the armed forces. Because of his admission, the Marcos government put a price on his head and ordered his capture - dead or alive.

During the course of his struggle, Conrado denounced the CPA / NPA as a totalitarian organization, acting against the interests of the Igorots and ruled by city dwellers in the lowland. He formed his own group Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army (CPLA) with fellow priest, Bruno Ortega.

The two groups fought each other, accusing each other of crimes and torturing people. It was a fight between the brothers because the CPA was led by Jovencio, Conrado's brother.

Former President of the Philippines Corazon Aquino and Conrado Balweg at the "Sipat" or peace pact in 1986.

Under his leadership, the CPLA made a "sipat" or ceasefire with the Philippine government at the Mt. Data Hotel, in Bauko, Mountain Province on September 13, 1986. The agreement between the two sides was called the 1986 Mount Data Peace Accord.

In 1987, a biographical film of Conrado's life was released.

In 1999, Conrado was murdered.

Members of the Chadli Molintas Cordillera Region Command of the New People's Army killed Balweg at his residence in Malibcong, Abra in the early morning of December 31, 1999. The unit was led by his brother Juvencio, who denied firing the shots that fatally wounded Balweg. The New People's Army issued a statement that they killed Balweg for alleged "crimes against the Cordilleran people and the Revolutionary Movement".

Another NPA member, Procorpio Tauro also known as "Pyro" and "Ka Lito", was found by the Philippine police to be directly responsible for killing Balweg. Tauro, along with Balweg's brother and other NPA members were present when the killing occurred.

Balweg was married to Corazon Cortel. Upon Balweg's death in 1999, Cortel became the Chief of Staff of the CPLA. Cortel died at Camp Upi in Gamu, Isabela in March 10, 2008 leaving behind five children.

Conrado Balweg family photo

Jordan, one of Balweg's children, was a CPLA member who was integrated into the Philippine Army in 2012.

Father Conrado Balweg fought for the self-determination of the people of the Cordillera which led to the creation of the Cordillera Administrative Region.


Sharing is caring, kailian!

We do hope you find something great in this story. If you find this helpful, please do share it with the people you care about.

Igorotage is a platform for people to share their thoughts and ideas. The views expressed on Igorotage are the opinions of the individual users, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Igorotage.


Sign in to share your thoughts. No account yet?

What to learn next?

You might also like to read more related articles filed under History — or jump to a random article!

History Surprise me

SLU Grad Tops LET Despite Father's Passing

Sofia Kristianne De Jesus Surat topped the March 2023 LET with a rating of 90.40%, even after her father passed away.

May 22 · 2 min read

Timichegtunnel in Belgium Named After an Igorot

The Timichegtunnel in Ghent, Belgium, is a tunnel named after Timicheg, an Igorot man from the Philippines who died during the 1913 World's Fair.

Fri at 09:34am · 7 min read

Top 69 Igorot Last Names in the Cordillera

Discover the Top 69 Igorot Last Names in the Cordillera Administrative Region Unveiling origins, meanings, and cultural significance.

Fri at 01:14am · 8 min read

Cordillera Administrative Region: A Cultural and Natural Marvel

Explore the Cordillera Administrative Region's breathtaking landscapes, diverse cultures, and rich heritage.

Sep 16 · 22 min read

Was Carlos P. Romulo Right When He Said Igorot Is Not Filipino?

Understanding the context behind Carlos P. Romulo's statement that "the Igorot is not Filipino" and its implications for Filipino identity.

Sep 9 · 21 min read

Maura's Story Isn't Just About Her; It's About Us, the Igorot People

If, in time, Maura's story is proven true, dismissing it would be a disservice to her and us.

Sep 9 · 2 min read

Smithsonian Vows Repatriation Amidst Indigenous Remains Controversy

Smithsonian apologizes, vows indigenous remains' repatriation; Pinoy researcher rejects, alleging deception

Sep 3 · 3 min read

Igorot Maura may NOT be a Real Person: 1904 St. Louis World's Fair

Maura, the Igorot woman from Suyoc, may have been exhibited at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, but there is no evidence to support her existence.

Sep 2 · 14 min read

The Ifugao Bulul: A Sacred Sculpture of the Ifugao People

Discover the rich history and cultural importance of Ifugao Bululs. Explore their symbolism and role in Ifugao society.

Sep 2 · 22 min read

65-Year-Old Nurse Lola Veronica: Baguio's First Female Taxi Driver

The inspiring story of Lola Veronica, the 65-year-old nurse breaking barriers as Baguio City's first female taxi driver.

Sep 1 · 2 min read
Join the tribe

Proud Igorot?

Igorotage is the first and only Igorot community on the web. We're sorry but if you are an Igorot and not a member of Igorotage, what are you doing!?

Join Igorotage About us