This progress report covers the present archaeological investigation
of the Huluga sites in the Barrio of Tagwanao undertaken between January
and May 1975. The fieldwork was under the auspices of the Department of
Philippine Studies and with the assistance of the Archaeological Society
of Xavier University.
Previous investigations had been done in this region. In
1970, the National Museum personnel explored the area wherein a complex
of caves were discovered and excavated thereafter. Material culture such
as pottery, beads, stone tools, and human physical remains were recovered.
Then in 1972 again, the National Museum made a partial investigation of
the open site in which several trenches and pits were opened. Material
culture were collected from the surface which consisted of obsidian flakes
and chips, chert flakes, potsherds, and some porcelain sherds. No detailed
report has been filed with Xavier University except for some scanty hopes
and a brief summary of the fieldwork. No analysis of the materials has
After 1972 no further work has been made until this year
1975, when Fr. Francisco Demetrio, Chairman of the Department of Philippine
Studies (formerly Folklore Department) invited the writer to train some
students in archaeological field methods in January and February. A series
of lectures was delivered to the students who were members of the Archaeological
Society, after which they were brought to the site to be initiated in
their first fieldwork. In January we explored the areas around Huluga
specifically the open sites, and surveyed the upper region of the Tagwanao
plateau on the eastern banks of the Cagayan River, including Tagwanao
caves. These were all devoid of materials. Caves have been reported in
Gisok which is two kilometers south of Huluga. Of the three caves, only
one contained a few materials (potsherds) and skeletal remains. According
to an informant, the cave was disturbed by Guano collectors. Within the
Huluga area, a small rock hole used as burial was also found by a resident
of the area. This was surveyed and excavated. A much detailed report on
this site will be delved on separately.
We concentrated on the intensive exploration of the open
site which had been suspected to have been a pre-Hispanic settlement of
the early inhabitants of Cagayan de Oro. Due to the frequent inclement
weather excavation was hampered and sometimes had to be postponed. There
is much to be done here for the place is significant historically and
archaeologically speaking. The work accomplished so far is a mere iota
of a bigger project and should be pursued when weather permits and funds
The results of the investigation might clear up some historical
queries on the early settlers of Cagayan de Oro. It is positively an archaeological
site, but as to its chronological standing, it is still vague since we
have not discovered any dateable organic remains; hence it is yet premature
to pose any information.
II. Area of Explored Sites
Huluga lies on the eastern side of the Cagayan River which
is part of a limestone promontory rising above the river 200 ft. high.
Accumulation of silt and sediments through inundation and alluvial deposits
formed a narrow stretch of flood plain below. To the eastern portion are
rolling hills which gradually rise to higher plateaus. Vegetation on the
lower areas are lushier and more wooded while the terraces are covered
with tall cogon grass and intermittent cluster of smaller trees.
The Huluga area is part of the Sitio of Tagwanao which is
8 kilometers south of Cagayan de Oro City and 2 kilometers east of Barrio
Balulang. The cave sites discovered by the National Museum, burial holes
or crypt, and the open site lie on the eastern side of the Cagayan river
just at the tip of Puntod island -- a river island with a settlement and
plantation. The area is part of the geological complex of Eastern Misamis
and Bukidnon which is rolling plateau region formed by flat lying to gently
dipping enter-bedded pyroclastic, basalt fluviatile conglomerate sandstone.
Limestone also overlies the volcanics but in more isolated patches.
The nearest water source is the river where the people
use for daily chores like washing and bathing. There are some springs
and creeks that people use for drinking and washing also.
III. The Sites and Methods of Exploration
This report will only touch on the sites that are currently
investigated and had been investigated this year.
A. Huluga Open Site: The site is about
more than 80 ft. high above the ground and one can overlook the river
and the surrounding areas; from below it looks like a natural fortress.
The site has an area of 50 meters north to south and 40 meters from the
western edge of the precipe to the eastern slope. Cogon grass covers
much of the area with big shade trees (balete) on both the northern and
southern flanks; tree saplings are sparsely distributed throughout the
The soil is compact clay loam silt of
dark brown color which becomes very hard when sun-baked and soft and muddy
when wet. Pebbles and cobbles of limestone and other conglomerate stones
are distributed throughout the area. Towards the eastern slopes, there
are some limestone outcroppings, exposed by erosion.
In spite of the earlier work done here,
there are still numerous artifacts found - obsidian flakes, chert flakes
(mostly wastes), potsherds, and porcelain sherds. These were collected
Rechecking the bearings of the earlier
excavation made by the National Museum in 1972, we can determine the exact
location of the former pits and trenches. Using the same point of reference,
we have layed out 2 exploratory trenches in T form in the middle of the
site. Trench A which is layed in the east - west direction is 5 meters
long and 1 meter wide; Trench B in north - south direction is 4 meters
long and 1 meter wide. Using arbitrary level of 20 centimeters intervals,
trench A was dug first. Excavation was always interrupted by rain and
was quite muddy to work and screen the dirt. When the soil is sun-baked
it was difficult excavate. Since we were only exploring on weekends, the
progress of work was slow.
During the summer, the weather was likewise
erratic and with the students on vacation, very few willing hands assisted;
so far we have gone down only to 25 centimeters.
Nevertheless, we were able to recover more obsidian flakes
(some were worked), potsherds, one glass bead, and chert flakes. It is
rather difficult to discern any stratigraphic sequence up to this point.
But as we might continue to work here after the rainy season, we hope
to accomplish more.
ADDENDUM: More recently, a farmer-tenant who has been squatting
in this area since 1947, tilled the soil and planted corn. The land is
privately owned by the Neri family of Cagayan de Oro. Thus the site is
eventually disturbed -- no work can be done as long as the land is in
B. Gisok Caves: Gisok is about 2 kilometers southeast
of Huluga. Caves are part of the same geological structure of the Cagayan
formation. They are lower than the Huluga caves and located along the
river and in low cliffs. Vegetation is lush and balete trees grow close
to the cave entrances. The area has a complex of caves -- 3 in number of
which 2 are devoid of material culture. Guano miners had claimed these
2 caves. During the war and informant related that the guerrillas used
these for shelter and hideout. The other smaller cave is a rock shelter
but littered with pieces of skeletal remains associated with potsherds.
The cave had been greatly disturbed by guano miners and treasure seekers.
We made a small test pit in 2 areas but nothing was found. This cave was
apparently used as a burial place perhaps by the early natives -- i.e.,
Bukidnons or Higa-aynons.
The analysis and interpretation of the sites and their
material culture and skeletal remains will be included in the final report
of this fieldwork. Nevertheless, I strongly suggest that there should
be a continuous exploration of the Huluga area and that area towards the
western side of the river. If caves have been found to have been used
as burials by the early inhabitants, then there should have been early
settlements near above or below the places of internment.
Huluga open site was a settlement - were they responsible
for the cave burials? If so, who were they and when did they live? Up
to this point, there are more numerous problems posed for us to analyze
and seek answers. The chronological history of Cagayan de Oro and Misamis
Oriental as a whole is not really well-understood unless we could place
the cultural sequences in the perspective.
Photo added August 3, 2023.