The Huluga controversy continues

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21 August 2007 (MindaNews) – Elson T. Elizaga of the Heritage Conservation Advocates writes his account of the events surrounding the destruction of the Huluga Open Site in Cagayan de Oro, Philippines, and HCA’s bone (pun intended) with the National Museum of the Philippines.

Elson T. Elizaga

One important lesson I got from a news reporting class in Silliman University came from Dr. Crispin Maslog. He said that if you want to study a man, you take the contents of his wastebasket.

This advice is popular in other sciences, such as forensics, zoology, and archaeology. Put “midden important in archaeology” in and you’ll find numerous references. Even if you insert “not” in the phrase, the result will be the same. One website is It says, “It might sound a little silly, but archaeologists can find out a lot about people by looking through their trash.” In 2006, trash middens in Alaska have changed a popular belief about Inupiat Eskimos.

Trash is encyclopedia.

On August 5, 2003, an archaeologist couldn’t contain her excitement when she found shells, animal bones, and earthenware sherds at the bottom of Obsidian Hill in Huluga. “Oh, we’ve found a midden, a kitchen midden!” Dr. Erlinda Burton exclaimed. Her companions were the wife and daughter of Atty. Maning Ravanera and myself.

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Cagayan de Oro update 2: Responses from archaeological team and city


16 August 2007 (From the Cagayan de Oro City Information Office and The Inquirer) – There’s another side to Cagayan de Oro story, it seems. In another story about the Huluga Open Site, the archaeology team from the University of the Philippines who investigated the site in 2004 was criticised for producing a “mock report” when Cagayan de Oro City commissioned an investigation into the site. Published here is the offending article from the Philippine Inquirer, and responses by the University of the Philippines Archeology Studies Program and the Cagayan De Oro Historical and Cultural Commission.

Cagayan de Oro’s lost treasure

Statement of the Members of the University of the Philippines-Archaeological Studies Program, Cagayan de Oro Project

Statement of the Members of the Historical and Cultural Commission Cagayan de Oro City

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Cagayan de Oro update 1: Quarrying stops

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15 August 2007 (The Inquirer) – A follow-up to an earlier story about how quarrying at a hill site in Cagayan de Oro, Philippines was destroying archaeological material there. It seems that lobbyists have succesfully effected a halt in the quarrying works. However, there’s more to the story as we chall see later…

Cagayan de Oro, DoT eye stop to Huluga quarrying
By Maria Cecilia Rodriguez

The city government and the Department of Tourism regional office here expressed support for the preservation of the Huluga open site as a cultural and heritage site, which could lead to a permanent halt to the quarrying there.

In a dialogue with preservation advocates, Mayor Constantino Jaraula said he would personally ask the private landowners to stop the quarry.

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History Lost in Cagayan de Oro

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21 September 2006 (Minda News) – A commentary by Heritage Conservation Advocates (HCA) in the Philippines about the state of archaeological looting there. Incidentally, I’ve been to Cagayan de Oro as a kid, where I was staying with some family friends at the Del Monte pineapple processing factory.

COMMENTARY: History Lost in Cagayan de Oro

Archaeological looting in the Philippines is quite common: Three hundred years of Spanish rule and 40 years of American occupation have created a population largely apathetic to its roots. Widespread poverty and stories about alleged treasures buried by Japanese soldiers during the Second World War have prodded many people to take anything of perceived value from caves and other sites.

This condition has made archaeological work in the Philippines frustrating. Archaeology to most people is a vague occupation, and archaeologists are sometimes suspected as treasure hunters. Their presence in an area may cause looting instead of protection of fossils and relics. When archaeologists leave a site after hours of painstakingly slow scraping, they might find in the morning that their carefully made plot has turned into an ugly, gaping hole.