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Dr. Erlinda Montillo Burton: teacher, mother, friend
By Elson T. Elizaga, January 7, 2020. Published earlier in Mindanao Gold Star Daily. Updated October 13, 2023.
Dr. Erlinda Burton in an archaeological site

Dr. Erlinda Montillo Burton (fifth from left) with assistant curator of Museo de Oro, Lourd Ostique (sixth), and students and friends during an archaeological surface scan at Xavier Estates, where the team found ancient clay pottery sherds and obsidian flakes.


A few months before Dr. Erlinda M. Burton died, a friend said she had changed. She was older and weak after having undergone surgery for breast cancer. Then I received a happy greeting from her in Messenger. She wrote it would be nice to have a gathering with a common friend who was leaving in September. But I failed to see her. So, I harbor today a painful sense of regret.

To many people whose lives she had touched, she was an influential teacher, a friend, and a caring mother. She visited me when I was confined in a hospital – the only teacher in my life to give me such honor.

Dr. Erlinda M. Burton attends a wedding on Obsidian HillShe was partly interested in my ailment because of her knowledge in psychology and medical anthropology. After 10 minutes of my responding to her series of questions about my condition, she gave me a startling diagnosis, which gave me an invaluable feeling of meaning, a discovery of my place in a map.

Certainly, I’m not the only person she had given a strong and useful insight, self-knowledge even. She told a tribal leader to be proud of his identity, and to assert his voice wherever he goes.

She has the ability to tell someone who they are, and convince them she is right, in a gentle but firm manner. When she knows your interests, she would introduce you to other people of kindred spirit, so that an interactive community is formed, here and there.

When someone defies civility, she would say something that would make the person realize their place in society. “You are a liar,” she confronted a lawyer. And when a team of archaeologists from the University of the Philippines made a research about the Huluga archaeological site without inviting her to join them, without consulting her, she accused them of violating archaeological ethics. She also criticized their report by saying the researchers didn’t know the definition of two elementary concepts: “habitation” and “settlement”.

I suspected ma’am Linda was merely hurt when the UP archaeologists excluded her from their research about a subject she was familiar with, that she took things personally. But when I searched online, I discovered she was right. Archaeological ethics adopted by several organizations worldwide demand teamwork among archaeologists with common interests.

On the definition of settlement and habitation, I consulted Dr. Barbara Ann Kipfer, a lexicographer and archaeologist with 30 years’ experience in writing and editing dictionaries, thesauri, and other word books, and I found out that ma’am Linda was right and the UP archaeologists were wrong.

I also asked Dr. Sebastian Stride if small archaeological sites are worth studying. He replied that in our quest for knowledge of the past, scattered occupations are also important, sometimes more important than big cities.  Stride had spent four years living in Uzbekistan and has been working in Central Asia since 1995. He teaches Central Asian History and Archaeology at Barcelona University.

Possibly the most destructive act of the UP archaeologists was to declare that Mount Canatuan in Siocon, Zamboanga de Norte “is not sacred” because it has no monuments. This pronouncement encouraged a Canadian mining company to continue exploiting Canatuan, although they realized their mistake later and apologized.

I consulted the Indo-Eurasian Yahoogroup about the UP declaration and received a long response from Dr. Francesco Brighenti, Dr. Benjamin Fleming and Dr. Trudy S. Kawami. Let me paraphrase their findings: Some places worldwide don’t have monuments precisely because those who worship them do not want to build anything there.

Their opinion supports the single sentence from ma’am Linda, who was an agnostic and whose grandfather was a Tingguian headhunter: “It is the people who decide what is sacred to them, not the archaeologists.”

Goodbye, ma’m Linda. You will never be forgotten. Your courage, love, and fire have brought us together, wherever we are. End

Dr. Erlinda Montillo Burton
2005 Curriculum Vitae
Dr. Erlinda Montillo-Burton
BIRTHDAY November 30, 1944
BIRTHPLACE Tacloban City, Leyte, Philippines
CIVIL STATUS Widow, no children
HOME Block 16, Lot 3, Acacia St., Calaanan, Canitoan, 9000 Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines. Phone: (08822) 729938
OFFICE Research Institute for Mindanao Culture, Xavier University, 9000 Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines. Phone: (08822) 728227
1978-1983 Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Anthropology (Medical), University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

Dissertation: The Impact of Modern Medical Intervention on the Medical System of the Agusan Manobo, Philippines
1965-1968 Master of Arts in Anthropology, specializing in Archaeology; Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, USA

Thesis: A Study of the Prehistoric Settlement Patterns of the Provo Area in Central Utah, USA
1963 to 1964 Thirty units of graduate work in Psychology, Philippine Women's University
1961 to 1963 Bachelor of Arts major in Psychology and Social Work, Philippine Women's University, Manila, Philippines
1960 to 1961 Associate in Arts, Philippine Christian College, Manila, Philippines
1959 to 1960 Liberal Arts, Silliman University, Dumaguete City
Date Activity Comment
2003 to 2005 Will be involved as co-investigator of the re-survey of farming communities in Southern Bukidnon For the International Food Policy, Research Institute, Washington D.C.
2002 to 2004 Conducting the Auditing (Inventory) of cultural resources of the indigenous communities in Northern Mindanao Project of UNESCO
April 2002 to Sep. 2002 Research and analysis of the social and cultural dimension of the strategic development planning for 10 municipalities in Bukidnon For the provincial government of Bukidnon
2001 to 2003 Historical and ethnographic research in Region 10, Northern Mindanao for the writing of the Ethnohistory of Mindanao Project of MINCODE, Davao City
2001 to 2002 Study on the use of adaptive collaborative management of forest in Basac, Lantapan, Bukidnon For the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)
Oct. 2000 to Dec. 2000 Evaluation of the mass treatment program conducted in schistosomiasis endemic areas in Caraga Region, Northern Mindanao  
1999 to 2000 Baseline survey on indicators of good governance in Davao del Norte For the Philippine Center for Policy Studies, University of the Philippines, School of Economics
1999 to 2000 Participatory action research among the street adolescents in Davao City For the TAMBAYAN Foundation Project
June 1999 to Dec. 1999
Ethnographic research on the Manobo and Banuaon communities of Agusan del Sur for the San Luis Lumad Comprehensive High School Algers Foundation
1996 to 1998 Coordinated Urban Research Consortium of Mindanao project on the Mindanao Wide Survey of the Urban Poor in Seven Cities Ford Foundation
1996 to 1997 Study on oral traditions of the indigenous communities in Bukidnon Supported by the French Embassy
May 1996 to Aug. 1996 Study on the concept of democracy and citizenship among NGOs in Cagayan de Oro City Agenda on Democracy and Citizenship

Third World Studies
Dec. 1995 to June 1996 Ethnohistorical research in the North central Mindanao area among the indigenous communities For the National Centre for Scientific Research, Provence, France
Sept 1995 to April 96 Case study on the environmental resource management and protection in the province of Zamboanga del Norte A Galing Pook Program Awardee

Ford Foundation
1994 to 1996 Phases 1 and 2 studies on the ethnological perspective of the Manupali Watershed, Lantapan, Bukidnon In collaboration with SANREM Biodiversity Workplan, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, USA
1994 to 1995 Conducted a study on the perceptions and attitudes of communities towards government environmental policies, development programs, and their occupancy in the Mt. Apo National Park For the Southern Mindanao Agricultural Programme (SMAP), Region 11, Davao City
1994 (Feb. to May) Conducted a study on the social soundness analysis of the Local Government Code on decentralization in Region 10 For the USAID
1993 to 1995 Process evaluation of the hilot training in Region 10. For the Maternal and Children Health Services, DOH  
1991 to 1992 Survey on the socio-economic condition of the 11 watershed project sites in Region 10 For the ACIPHIL-DENR
1990 to 1991 Study on women in the midst of armed conflict (impact on socio-economic, health and psychological state) For the Office of the Peace Commission
1989 to 1990 Process documentation research on upland development program in three Mindanao sites Project of the DENR
1987 to 1988 Research on the mode of farming system of tomato farmers in Claveria, Misamis Oriental

Participant to the study of small land tillers conducted by the Research Institute for Mindanao Culture
For the Philippine Center for Policy, University of the Philippines-Diliman
1985 (Sept. to Nov.) Study on the water contact patterns of the farmers in schistosomiasis-endemic areas in Surigao del Sur For the Department of Economics, University of the Philippines. Funded by WHO.
1984 to 1985 Anthropological study of two villages (fishing and farming) in Bohol on perceptions and attitudes toward Acute Respiratory Infection (ARI) and traditional healing in relation to ARI For RITM project
1984 to 1985 Evaluation research on the impact and effects of the barangay health workers on the health and welfare of the inhabitant of Agusan del Sur and Bukidnon provinces For NEDA-Region 10
1983 to 1984 Study on herbal contraceptive users in three provinces: Lanao del Sur, South Cotabato and Negros Oriental Funded by Population Center Foundation
1980 to 1981 Anthropological fieldwork among the Manobo of Sagrento, La Paz, Agusan del Sur. Focus and dissertation: The impact of modern medical intervention on their indigenous curative system  
1975 to 1977 Archaeological survey and excavation of the Huluga Site Complex, Cagayan de Oro

Archaeological investigation of the settlement and burial sites in Suatan, Butuan City

Excavation of Magting site, Camiguin Province; collected oral traditions of the Banuaon and Manobo of San Luis, Agusan del Sur
1970 to 1973 Supervised archaeological project for the National Museum: Cagayan Valley Paleolithic Site

Excavated early metal site in Lanna, Solana, Cagayan Valley
1967 (Feb. to June) Archaeological Field Training, Calico Archaeological Project, Yermo, California, under the directorship of the late Louis S. B. Leakey. End See the Calico Archaeological Site.
June 15, 2000 Datu Salangsang Award: Most Outstanding Kagayanon in the Field of Education. Given by the City of Cagayan de Oro.
1992 to 1993 Xavier University Outstanding Faculty Award
1978 to 1980 Ford Foundation Fellowship (Individual Grant)
1967 to 1968 B.Y.U. Teaching Assistantship
1966 to 1967 International Altrusa Award
1965 to 1967 Brigham Young University Graduate School Scholarship



1) Dr. Erlinda M. Burton did not resign from Xavier University in 1999. Burton continued her work in this institution, and fulfilled her duties in several organizations, such as the Cagayan de Oro Historical and Cultural Commission, until her passing in 2018.

2) An obituary of Dr. Erlinda M. Burton posted in the official Twitter of the National Museum states: "The late Dr Erlinda Burton, an anthropologist and museum director of the Museo de Oro, was known for her historical conservation advocacy. She figured prominently in the fight to save Huluga caves, believed to be the city's first human settlement ...."

Correction: Burton was a cultural anthropologist and archaeologist. She was the curator of Museo de Oro of Xavier University, and was known for her heritage conservation advocacy. She figured prominently in the fight to save the Huluga archaeological complex, believed to be the first human settlement of the city ...."


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