The Chico River is considered the umbilical cord or River of Life for the Kalingas ethnic group in northern Luzon island, Philippines. Its headwaters emanate from Mt. Data and span the whole of Central Kalinga.
The Chico River is one of the longest rivers in the Philippines running along mountainsides of centuries-old rice terraces, rustic villages and lush green foliage. The length of the river from Tinglayan to Tabuk (approx. 72 kilometers) takes about six to eight hours of rafting time depending on water levels.
The Chico River has a rich political and cultural history in the Kalingas and has united the whole of the Cordilleras in opposition to development aggression. In the early 1970s the Marcos regime has planned one of the biggest hydroelectric dams in Southeast Asia and chose the Chico River as the site drawing protests from the Kalingas who successfully opposed the project.
The opposition to the hydroelectric dam dramatized the struggle of the indigenous people in the Philippines to be free from development aggression and for self determination. To the Kalingas the river was popularly called “Kayakayam” which means crawl. The Spanish colonizers called it Chico Rio to differentiate it from the “Rio Grande” in Cagayan province.
Today the Chico River is one of the Philippines’ premier white-water rafting destination. But ethnic tribes still struggle against mining proposals and other destructive environmental projects.
Mabuhay ang Chico River!