Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts
Volume 3, Number 21 June 29 - July 5, 2003 Quezon City, Philippines
Archaelogists Clash in Cagayan de Oro:
a classic case of developers clashing with environmentalists, historians and
archaelogists who are intent on preserving the country's cultural heritage. In
Cagayan de Oro City, the mayor says historical landmarks should sacrifice in
favor of infrastructure development. Some Cagayanons think otherwise and they're
asking officials of the National Museum and the National Historical Commission
HERBIE S. GOMEZ
DE ORO CITY - Environmentalists and residents of Quezon City are not alone in
opposing MMDA chair Bayani Fernando's move to remove trees that he says obstruct
traffic. In Cagayan de Oro City in southern Philippines, a project that city
officials say is designed to ease traffic congestion is making local historians,
anthropologists and environmentalists furious.
far as Cagayan de Oro Mayor Vicente Emano is concerned, however, nobody can stop
his government from constructing the road - set to be inaugurated this August.
He insists that people prefer "development" over the preservation of
road and bridge construction has bulldozed parts of a historical site that dates
back to 377 AD or even earlier and those opposed to the project say the
construction not only desecrates the country's historical heritage but is also
of the National Museum in Manila have also been asked to intervene.
area in contention is the famous Huluga Site in sitio (sub-village) Taguanao,
Barangay (village) Indahag in this city. A private contractor commissioned by
city hall, UKC Builders, is building the P500-million road leading to a bridge
that will connect Taguanao to Barangay Balulang.
of those opposed to the project, Erlinda Burton, accused UKC of destroying
significant parts of Huluga. Burton, Ph.D. and director of Xavier University's
Research Institute for Mindanao Culture (Rimcu), said the desecration means a
loss of part of the country's heritage and could hurt tourism.
(the site) is invaluable," she said, as she lashed out at city hall for
sacrificing Cagayan de Oro's heritage for infrastructure development. She also
said she and her group felt betrayed by Mayor Emano who had assured them that
UKC would build the road 2,000 meters away from Huluga.
pakialam (it's indifferent) - the local government is not interested in
preserving heritage,'' Burton added.
Montalvan II, formerly of city hall's Cultural and Historical Commission, also
criticized the mayor for what has happened to the Huluga site.
very frustrating... It's very difficult to work with Emano,'' Montalvan said.
Years ago, he left the commission over what he said is the mayor's lack of
concern for the city's heritage.
who has formed a group called Heritage Conservation Advocates (HCA) that is
keeping watch on the Taguanao-Balulang road and bridge project, also hurled
brick-bats at Emano for not consulting archaeological experts before
a recent paper, Montalvan said the worst pummeling being done by the road
builder is on the Huluga "open site" which, he warned, continued to
yield archaeological artifacts. He cited a National Museum recommendation that
the entire Huluga should be off-limits to any engineering project because
underneath it could be valuable relics and other evidences of prehistoric or
ancient Cagayan culture.
the Huluga site has yielded proofs that pre-historic Cagayanons were most likely
engaged in trading around 377 AD or even during the late Neolithic period. In
the early 1970s, skeletal remains were found in one of the two Huluga caves
along with shards of pottery. Experts said these had either been buried along
with the dead or used as burial jars.
beads, a native spoon, a pendant, a bracelet, stone tools, an ax tip and pieces
of iron were also unearthed inside the cave. Dug up in the cave adjacent to the
first were also ancient metal tools and household utensils suggesting, according
to the late Jesuit priest and historian Francisco Demetrio, that it "might
have been a habitation site, and that the people buried their dead next
from the National Museum were reportedly convinced that the caves were used by
early Cagayanons from the late Neolithic to the Iron Age.
first cave also yielded skeletal remains believed to be that of an aborigine who
lived in Cagayan de Oro around 377 AD, an information confirmed in an earlier
interview with Dr. Burton. A skull found along with the skeletal remains, said
museum anthropologist Jesus Peralta, belonged to a woman in her early '30s. The
skull has since been kept inside the Museo de Oro at Xavier University.
"open site" where a road is being built by UKC has been yielding
fragments of pottery and obsidian flakes on the surface - proof that "man
is ancient in Cagayan de Oro." The obsidian flakes - considered one of its
kind in the country - are believed to have come from weapons or stone tools used
by early Cagayanons who lived during the late Neolithic period. That the
obsidian flakes were found to be of foreign origin bolstered the hypothesis of
social scientists that Cagayan de Oro's early settlers were not barbaric because
they, obviously, were into trading.
"open site" is located some seven feet above the river and directly
north of the hill on the higher elevation and the caves.
damage caused by the ongoing construction is irreparable, local experts said.
"There is nothing we can do now," said Burton who led a team of local
experts to assess the damages last June 23.
the same, Burton and Montalvan said city hall can be held liable for violating a
law that bans construction work or any activity that destroys historical and
archaeological landmarks such as Huluga.
the road contractor is undaunted by accusations that a crime has been committed.
Johnny Uy, UKC Builders chief executive officer, said his company merely
followed city hall's plan. "We (UKC) cannot just work on the project
without looking at the program of work because some of the areas there are owned
by private individuals. We don't want to be boloed by the private land
owners," said Uy.
said the city engineer's office has been supervising the construction of the
road and bridge. "We're just the contractor," he said. "Before we
bulldoze, we ask the city engineer's office. We just follow instructions."
Bingona, city engineer, also insisted that the caves were left untouched.
caves, however, are only part of the entire Huluga archaeological site while
bulldozing was done on the "open site," near the caves, where an
ancient village is believed to have existed.
Emano maintained that city hall did the right thing in flattening out portions
of the archaeological site. "Para nako, mas importante man unta ang tulay
kay mao man g'yud ni ang mapuslan sa katawhan" (As far as I'm concerned,
the bridge is more important because people will find it useful),said Emano.
"Pasaylu-on lang ako nila. Alang kanako mas bililhon kaayo ang tulay kay sa
gi-ingon nila nga heritage nga na-damage"(I hope they forgive me. But for
me, the bridge is more important than heritage).
also said protests over the damages to the Huluga ''open site'' would not delay
or stop the construction. ''The construction must go on.''
questioned the timing of the protests, saying the group led by anthropologist
Burton should have raised a howl during the mayorship of Pablo Magtajas. It was
the Magtajas administration that laid out plans for the construction of the 3rd
bridge, he said, asking''Why are they protesting only now when the project is
Bingona, the city engineer, said local officials were aware of the importance of the Huluga site and that city hall was doing its share in preserving the city's heritage. Bulatlat.com