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The archaeological sites of Alubijid and Cagayan de Oro

By Elson T. Elizaga. Published May 15, 2019. Updated May 31, 2019. Added "Archaeological Impact Assessment" on paragraph nine on November 10, 2019.


I envy the people of Alubijid. They have an archaeological site declared as an ancient settlement by archaeologist Leee Anthony Neri, and the mayor of Alubijid1 has expressed plans to have the lot purchased by the local government so that it can be preserved and protected.

The archaeological settlement site is in Calumat. I have not been to the place, but online reports state humans had lived there in 3,000 BC. Rappler and Gold Star Daily have published photos of a clay pottery sherd and a stone tool. Obsidian flakes, and a bowl apparently from what is now Vietnam, have also been discovered on a hill with a 360-degree view.

There is also a hill in the Huluga archaeological site in Cagayan de Oro with a similar feature. I called it Stegodon Hill
2 because a resident claimed someone found elephant tusks in the area. I named another one Obsidian Hill because of the proliferation of this volcanic glass, but in this same place, we have also found clay pottery sherds with incised designs similar to those in Alubijid. We also collected Chinese pottery sherds, chert flakes, a metal tip of a whale harpoon, and a Spanish Maravedis coin. Many years earlier, a team from Xavier University had discovered caves in Huluga containing human bones, beads, and tools.

Atty. Manuel Ravanera

Atty. Manuel "Maning" Ravanera (left) speaks during the hearing on the damaged Huluga archaeological site. Right is Sabdullah Abubacar, director of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of Region 10. Abubacar found out that the road-and-bridge project that cut through the Huluga archaeological site had an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC), but it had no Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Archaeological Impact Assessment (AIA).

During one of our visits to Huluga around 2004, I found an unusual stone later described by the late Dr. Erlinda Burton as a meteorite. I wondered from what region in space it came from, and how it found its way along a grassy footpath, and eventually in my palm.

These were not all. Huluga has an ancient garbage site, a midden, containing animal bones, including that of a wild boar, and shells. In 2009, as I mentioned in my previous column, prehistoric human bones belonging to 52 women, men, and a child were discovered in a grave site in Huluga, proving that Huluga is an archaeological settlement.

Even before the discovery of the grave, Burton had recommended the preservation of Huluga, convinced that it is a settlement site (like Calumat). She, her assistant Lourd Ostique and I even went to Camp Evangelista (4th Infantry Division) to request Maj. Gen. Cristolito Balaoing to put guards in Huluga. Burton wanted a two-kilometer radius in Huluga protected. I believe she also wrote to the National Museum about this idea.

Atty. Manuel Ravanera

Lourd Ostique, Maj. Gen. Cristolito Balaoing, and Dr. Erlinda M. Burton.

But no one from the government heeded her advice. Despite protests from the Heritage Conservation Advocates (HCA), which she was president, former mayor Vicente Emano ordered his contractor UKC Builders, Inc. to bulldoze Obsidian Hill to give way to a road-and-bridge project. (One of the owners of the hill is councilor Edna Dahino.)

The city historical and cultural commission, the group that is supposed to be concerned about Huluga and other heritage sites, did not lift a finger to stop this desecration. One of its members, Nanette Roa, who has the gall to run for councilor today, said Huluga was not damaged at all, despite the scattering of pottery sherds on the road. Later, she said Huluga was only a "camp-like" area. She was quoting a dubious archaeological report by a team from the Archaeological Studies Program (ASP).

With the help of Atty. Manuel Ravanera, HCA filed an administrative case against Emano and UKC before the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of Region 10. EMB found out that Emano's project had an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) without an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Archaeological Impact Assessment (AIA).

On August 15, 2003, Sabdullah Abubacar, the director of EMB-Region 10 at that time, issued a 13-page decision containing three orders to Emano: Pay P50,000 to the government for violating ECC Condition No. 3; Request the National Museum to perform rescue or salvage archaeology in Huluga; Place markers in Huluga. [See final EMB decision dated September 16, 2003.]

But Emano never complied to these orders. He died on May 7, 2019, the same day several news sites, including Rappler, published the archaeological discovery in Alubijid.

Cagayan de Oro is rich in cultural history, indeed. The tragedy is its government -- not a team of foreign mercenaries -- laid siege on its own heritage site. Two members of native founding families also participated in this attack, and even now have not done anything to preserve and protect the land of their ancestors. End

1 Mayor Alvin Labis ran for vice-mayor in the 2019 midterm election.

2 Fossil remains of a Stegodon found in Laguindingan, Misamis Oriental are on display in Museo de Oro, Xavier University.

Elson T. Elizaga is the former secretary of the defunct Heritage Conservation Advocates.

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