An Archaeological Connection to CDO’s Past

Located in the sitio of Taguanao, Barangay Indahag, Huluga has long been an important archaeological site for Cagayan de Oro. Ever since the area was first explored in 1970, many historic finds have been unearthed. Among these artifacts were human skeletal remains that, according to dating techniques, date back to 350 AD.

It was the highly-esteemed Dr. Jesus T. Peralta who subsequently made reports about the study, while the field anthropologist sent by the National Museum at the time, Dr. Erlinda M. Burton, stayed behind in Cagayan de Oro to continue making scholarly studies of Mindanao’s local culture.

Today, local historians and archaeologists continue to monitor the Huluga area. In the excavations of 2001, some findings were analyzed and concluded to have been used as stone tools in prehistoric times.

The Problem

In 1999, the local government that was headed by then City Mayor Vicente Y. Emano started pursuing plans of creating another bridge to span across the Cagayan River, from Taguanao to Upper Balulang. However, the problem was this proposed bridge would totally demolish the very site of the Huluga Caves. Apparently, this meant that city officials were either ignorant of the importance of Huluga or they willingly followed the plan of building a large scale infrastructure without proper consultation.

The dismay over the deliberate destruction of the archaeological site was even more heightened when on August 5, 2003, Dr. Burton, who eventually became a professor at Xavier University, discovered a depository filled with prehistoric remains at the bottom of Obsidian Hill in Huluga. And at that time, damage had already been caused by the Emano administration’s road project

For this reason, archaeologists representing the Archaeological Studies Program of the University of the Philippines and the National Museum appeared at the site to examine the damage brought by the mayor’s road project. The arrival of these archaeologists, however, grabbed the attention of Dr. Burton. So she decided to write to the National Museum, asking for permission to dig at the newly found depository. She explained that her students would help in the excavation, so the project would not cost the government even a single cent.

Strangely enough, it wasn’t until three months later that Dr. Burton received a reply when government service rule clearly stated that letters shall be answered in 15 days. Plus, the lot owner Wilson Cabaluna, a city Tourism Office employee, refused to cooperate with Dr. Burton in preserving the archaeological find. Thus, to Burton’s dismay, the destruction of the depository continued and no one could do anything about it.

Rigged Findings

In late 2004, a team from the Archaeological Studies Program led by Dr. Victor Paz conducted an excavation at the Huluga area without informing Dr. Burton. Later on, this said team held a press conference where they announced that the Huluga Open Site is a “habitation, but unlikely a settlement.” This seemed an unlikely conclusion because they formed the press conference even before their colleagues in Manila and local scientists could check their findings.

A few months later, the Archaeological Studies Program team published a report of the dig and reportedly said that there was no depository filled with prehistoric remains found in Huluga. The team apparently ignored the fossils and artifacts found by the Heritage Conservation Advocates (HCA) in 2003. Among these relics is a whale harpoon that had counterparts found in Siquijor, Bohol and Cebu.

There were several other artifacts found way before the Archaeological Studies Program dug up the site. Everything smelled, but some things were certain, one of which was that the leader of this archaeology team had a family member who worked for the City Planning Office, which happened to be under the administration of Emano.

Significance of Huluga

Huluga is believed to have been prehistoric Cagayan de Oro, and according to written historical documents, was called “Himologan.” When the Augustinian Recollect friars came to the city during the Spanish era, they persuaded the natives of Himologan to move to the area where Cagayan de Oro stands today. So, in 1626, these natives moved to the town site, which is now the area around St. Augustine Cathedral.

Therefore, Huluga is the hallowed grounds that once used to be the dwelling place of the first Cagayan de Oro inhabitants.

-by Gillian Abonitalla-

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