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Neglecting Our Ancient City
A letter to the mayor of Norfolk
By Elson T. Elizaga

Dear mayor Paul D. Fraim,

I’m a writer born in Cagayan de Oro, Philippines and I’m happy that Norfolk and Cagayan de Oro officials will sign a cooperative sister city agreement on June 18, 2008. I hope this will help recognize, protect and preserve our cultural heritage.

Unknown to many outside our country, Cagayan de Oro heritage sites and objects suffer from years of government-sponsored desecration. In 2003, former mayor Vicente Yap Emano destroyed a huge portion of the Huluga archaeological settlement site to give way to a P500-million road-and-bridge project, despite widespread protests. Spanish records and the large number of fossils and artifacts in this area indicate that this place is a prehistoric village occupied by about 500 people -- an ancient "city" of Cagayan de Oro.

In 2007, mayor Constantino Jaraula assured the HCA and several journalists that he would protect and preserve Huluga. But until now, he has not done anything about this site. Mayor Jaraula spends great effort to forge a relationship with Norfolk, which is on the other side of the globe, but ignores the land of our ancestors, which is only eight kilometers away from City Hall. I do not see this behavior as meaningful to Gen. Douglas MacArthur who chose to be buried in Norfolk because of his mother's ancestral ties to the city.

I hope the cooperative sister city agreement between Norfolk and Cagayan de Oro will help protect and preserve our heritage according to law, not only for commerce and tourism, but for science, education, and the enrichment of the cultural life of our people.


Elson T. Elizaga
Heritage Conservation Advocates

Cagayan de Oro Socio-Economic Profile

Photographer and co-proprietor
Nazca Designs

POSTSCRIPT: Copies of this email were also sent on June 18, 2008 to to the Norfolk Sister City Association, the Norfolk City Council and Pilot Online. On June 27, 2008, mayor Fraim's office sent a reply:

"Dear Mr. Elizaga: On behalf of Mayor Fraim, thank you for your email regarding the twinning of Cagayan de Oro and the City of Norfolk, Virginia. The historic linkage between our communities via General Douglas MacArthur and the characteristics our cities share in common cause us to look forward to enjoying a warm relationship with Cagayan de Oro and its citizens. Sincerely. Breck Daughtrey Clerk to the Council Norfolk, VA."

On November 6, 2007 Dr. Erlinda M. Burton sent a letter to mayor Jaraula about the quarrying in Huluga. On May 9, 2008, a month before Jaraula and his party went to Norfolk, Atty. Raquel Limbaco also sent a letter to mayor Jaraula about the need to protect and preserve Huluga. Unlike Fraim, however, neither Jaraula or his staff have replied to these letters.

Elson T. Elizaga is a writer, photographer, and secretary of the Heritage Conservation Advocates (HCA). This article shouldn’t be copied without permission from the author.

Copyright © Elson T. Elizaga