Heritage Conservation Advocates
Second of two parts
Primer on Huluga
By Elson T. Elizaga, Heritage Conservation Advocates*
Photo of what appears to be animal bones at the midden site.Animal bones and teeth recently found at the midden. The largest bone (top) is about 3 inches and has several linear cut marks.

What action was made to ensure the preservation of Huluga? On July 16, 2001, Burton, Bingona, Bacarro and Jan Ray Colonia went to Huluga. There, Burton identified the area that should be preserved. This area was the Open Site and caves. Colonia is a teacher at Xavier University, and Bingona's nephew.

What was decided during that visit? Bingona assured Burton that the Huluga Open Site and caves would be preserved. Also, Burton and Bingona agreed that the 2000-meter radius originally recommended by Burton in 1999 need not be strictly followed as long as the bridge-and-road project is diverted so as to preserve the Huluga Open Site and caves.

Did the mayor issue any statement on Huluga after that visit? Yes. In an article by Butch Enerio of the national newspaper Today (July 17, 2001) Emano is quoted as saying, "I give you my assurance that no historical or archaeological site will be destroyed as we implement the infrastructure projects, because I myself am very concerned about these sites."

Was this promised fulfilled? No, because the contractor continued to work at the Open Site.

What was your response? Montalván called for a meeting of friends concerned about Huluga, and from this gathering the Heritage Conservation Advocates (HCA) was organized. On September 8, 2001, we issued a Manifesto of Protest to Mayor Vicente Y. Emano Against the Planned Destruction of Huluga. The Manifesto, drafted by Montalván, was signed by several individuals representing different groups. The National Museum also wrote a letter to the mayor, urging him to protect the heritage site. The media published reports about the issue.

What was contained in the Manifesto of Protest? A description of the problem, and the following proposals:

  • Postpone the construction of the bridge and road.
  • Consult the National Museum regarding the placement of the planned bridge and road so that the construction will not destroy the Huluga Site.
  • Consult the National Museum in the production of a map showing the revised location of planned bridge and road.
  • Publish the revised map in our local papers so that the public may know the circumstances and consequences of the project.

Where these proposals implemented? No.

Were there other recommendations by your group? Burton, when consulted by the DOT, suggested that the village of Huluga be reconstructed for education and tourism.

What was the result of your protest? The EMB and DENR issued a cease-and-desist order to stop the project in 2001.

Was the project stopped? Apparently, only for about a year. On June 7, 2003, we discovered to our horror that a huge portion of the Open Site was already demolished. A road now cuts through it, leading to a bridge that is still being constructed.

Photo of bridge.

Why did you not know about the construction earlier? There was no news about it, no announcement from city hall. When we went to Huluga on June 7, in response to a text message, we didn't even see a billboard describing the project. The whole activity was done secretly and quickly.

Does the project have an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC)?
Yes, but its authors violated several legal provisions and requirements. For instance, they did not consult the National Museum and local anthropologists like Burton. The claimed ECC has no Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Archaeological Impact Assessment (AIA). There are other anomalies about it.


Are you going to file legal charges? Yes. On July 16, 2003, six members of the HCA filed a case against Emano and the contractor UKC Builders before the DENR. Atty. Manuel R. Ravanera gave pro bono assistance by writing the complaint and subsequent rebuttal. The HCA requested the DENR to issue a cease-and-desist order to stop the ongoing bridge-and-road project.

Atty. Manuel "Maning" Ravanera
Left: Atty. Manuel "Maning" Ravanera reads the complaint filed by the Heritage Conservation Advocates (HCA) against mayor Vicente Y. Emano and UKC Builders, Inc. Right: Sabdullah Abubacar, director of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of Region 10.

What is the response of DENR? DENR gave the task to the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB). On August 18, 2003, EMB issued an order to stop construction work at the Open Site. But it didn't stop the entire project, which we consider illegal. On September 15, 2003, EMB fined the city government P50,000 for the damage of Huluga.

Have you asked help from other government agencies? We have communicated to several officials like the DENR Secretary Elisea Gozun, Senator Loren Legarda, and President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. We gave the President a large photo of the Huluga Open Site.

What are their responses? Gozun wrote a letter to DENR-Region 10, asking for an explanation. The President asked for more documents and talked with our lawyer in Manila. Legarda filed a resolution in the Senate to investigate the issue.



Do you have support from private groups?
Yes, mainly from archaeological organizations, including one in the US. Their support is in the form of issued statements which have been published in local papers. But the Oro Integrated Cooperative, Inc. funded our pamphlet, T-shirts, and banners which we used in a symposium at Xavier University.

Several groups and individuals have also expressed concern, encouragement, and interest to be educated about Huluga. The Cagayan de Oro Travel and Tours Association, and a Xavier University engineering group, requested us to accompany them to Huluga and provide them orientation. Capitol University requested us to hold a symposium, which we conducted on September 4.

Any other plans of the HCA? One of our immediate concerns is to do archaeological digging in the midden site, as soon as funds are available. We need help.Photo of whale harpoon, also found in Lomblen island, Indonesia.

For other projects, we shall reveal them as we move on. But generally, we are determined to remain vigilant to save what remains of our heritage, which is also the heritage of all humanity.

We must remember, we must know who we are. We have blossomed today not because we are separated from the past, but because we are connected to our roots. [Back to page 1]


UPDATE: In 2004, under intense criticism from various groups, Emano hired a team from the University of the Philippines-Archaeological Studies Program (UP-ASP) to declare the Huluga open site a "camp-like area".

This pronouncement contradicts the view of archaeologist Dr. Erlinda Burton, who maintains that the site is a settlement -- a place where people lived for a long time --because of the abundance of fossils and artifacts there. Burton is a respected archaeologist and president of the Heritage Conservation Advocates (HCA).

The UP-ASP team based its conclusion from excavations made on top of Obsidian Hill only. It did not study the artifacts and fossils found by the HCA, and did not coordinate with Burton, historians, and other stakeholders. It also declared that a midden near their excavations did not exist.

Emano gave the team P450, 000 to do the claimed research. The money was taken from a fund intended for poverty alleviation in the City Planning and Development Office (CPDO), where the mother of UP-ASP team leader and teacher Leee Anthony Neri was employed.

Huluga remains unprotected today. In 2007, it was subjected to quarrying. Congressman Rufus Rodriguez questioned the National Museum about this area. Mayor Constantino Jaraula told HCA in 2007 that he values Huluga. But no action has yet been taken to protect and preserve this invaluable Philippine heritage site. -- Elson T. Elizaga, secretary, HCA. Revised April 10, 2008.

The flat area used to be part of Obsidian Hill, which was quarried in 2007.

Obsidian Hill was quarried in 2007. The flat area used to be part of the hill -- the venue of a prehistoric settlement. Below the hill is the midden, which has been looted by Wilson Cabaluna, who served as guide to the National Museum in 2004 and is a city government employee. Sherds, shells, and animal bones were found in the midden.

See large photo.

*The main references of this article are Dr. Erlinda M. Burton, Antonio J. Montalván II, and Lourd Ostique.

Published by the Heritage Conservation Advocates, Cagayan de Oro, Philippines, July 11, 2003. Updated July 13, 2023 . An older PDF version of this primer is also available in two parts: page 1 (287kb) and page 2 (227kb). Best for printing on 8.5x13-inch paper. See also the Visayan version.
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