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The Historical and Cultural Omission
By Elson T. Elizaga
Huluga being quarried in 2007
The Huluga archaeological site in 2007.

The main reason I voted for Oscar Moreno, as I explained in a previous column, was his promise that he would be the opposite of his political opponent Vicente Emano, who destroyed a huge portion of the Huluga archaeological site in 2003.

But as it turned out, until today, nothing substantial has been done to protect, preserve, and further study this Philippine heritage site and similar others. Moreno doesn’t mention it at all in any of his public statements. There are no planned excavations despite the discovery of 52 ancient bones and potteries in that area, on top of other findings since the 70s.

Perhaps, this neglect is not entirely Moreno’s fault. The major agency assigned to protect our cultural heritage is the Historical and Cultural Commission (HISCCOM). Unfortunately, HISCCOM is managed by people appointed by and loyal to Emano.

So, no one from HISCCOM complained whenever Emano would do anything culturally destructive. Like when Emano designed an illegal city seal, planted coronavirus lamps in divisoria and in Gaston Park, build toilets near the monuments of Andres Bonifacio and Jose Rizal, and planned of selling the historical executive building of city hall. And when Emano bought a misleading report about Huluga for P450,000, HISCCOM didn’t double-check if the conclusion of this report was valid.1

Later, Constantino Jaraula became mayor, and Jaraula allowed quarrying in Huluga. Jaraula also destroyed the historical, arc amphitheater and replaced it with a runway in front of the Philippine Airlines office. But HISCCOM was silent.

HISCCOM deserves a revamp. Mayors come and go but the membership of HISCCOM has changed only slightly since 2003 -- a period of 10 years -- when Emano destroyed Huluga.

Consistently present in HISCCOM are Sandy Bas and Agnes Paulita Roa. There is no schooled historian, anthropologist, museologist and sociologist in HISCCOM. In 2010, Roa was described as an archaeologist in a news article written by her niece. This is not true. The registrar of the University of the Philippines-Diliman stated in a reply to my email that Roa is still a student.

When Moreno was elected mayor, there was hope of having the members of HISCCOM replaced, but the new administration found out that Emano had reappointed Roa and her companions to HISCCOM in January 2013, a few months before the election.2 Their tenure ends in 2016. The members have threatened to sue Moreno before the Ombudsman if he insisted on removing them.

This year, Emano’s councilors made a political stunt by requesting Emano to serve as consultant with an annual honorarium of only one peso.  They didn’t mention that city hall spends about P14,000 a month for HISCCOM.3 Multiply this amount, from the year Huluga was destroyed, and you’ll get a pretty good idea how much public money has been wasted so far. End


1 In 2004, a team from the Archaeological Studies Program (ASP) of the University of the Philippines-Diliman went to Huluga and other archaeological sites in Cagayan de Oro. It claimed to be doing a comprehensive science research, but ignored an ancient trash site in the area. It also did not examine the fossils and artifacts found in Huluga before their arrival. The team was paid P450,000 diverted from a poverty alleviation fund in the city planning office. The mother of one of the ASP archaeologists involved in the "research" was an employee of this office.

2 Stated in executive order 039-2013.

3 The honorarium has been revised several times, but executive order 037-2010 states that the chairperson receives P12,000 monthly, while each of the four members receives P1,000 per session, "but not to exceed four (4) sessions per month." The fifth member, a government employee, receives P500 per session, "but not to exceed four (4) sessions per month."

Published May 5, 2014. Updated September 8, 2014. © 2014 Elson T. Elizaga.


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