Heritage Conservation Advocates
First of two parts
Primer on Huluga
By Elson T. Elizaga, Heritage Conservation Advocates*
Sketch of Huluga by Nonoy Estarte, Museo de Oro, Xavier University

The ancient settlement of Cagayan was built on a promontory. Sketch by Nonoy Estarte, Museo de Oro, Xavier University.

What is Huluga? Huluga is a promontory overlooking Cagayan River. It's in sitio Taguanao, barangay Indahag, near Lawndale Spring -- eight kilometers from St. Augustine Cathedral.

A promontory is a "high ridge of land or rock jutting out into a body of water."

Is it composed only of caves? No. Huluga is composed of two areas: Open Site and caves. The prehistoric inhabitants of Huluga used the Open Site for their village, which was fortified. The caves were used mainly as burial ground.

To visualize the difference between the two, place your hand on a table. Your hand represents the caves, and the vast table area is the Huluga Open Site, where the people constructed their village.

Were artifacts found in the Huluga Open Site? Photo of copper 8 Maravedis.Yes, even today. In June 2003, we made surface examination and discovered, potsherds, obsidian flakes, a whale harpoon, pieces of Ming and Ching Dynasty porcelain, a piece of tektite, and a Spanish coin minted between 1788 and 1808.

How large is the Open Site? About two hectares, but it could be wider if artifacts show up nearby. The Huluga Open Site and other archaeological sites in Cagayan de Oro and vicinities need to undergo more research. There are other possible sites that might give us surprises.Photo of shells retrieved from Huluga midden.

In August 2003, for instance, we discovered a midden -- an ancient garbage heap -- rich with animal bones, potsherds, river shells, and one piece of rusted metal, possibly a part of a whale harpoon. This area is in the Open Site.

Photo of Huluga female skull.Were artifacts found in the caves? Yes. One major find was a female cranium -- dated 350 AD -- with associated material culture such as boat-shaped coffin, broken pieces of earthenware, stone and metal tools, wild boar tusks, among others.

Does the National Museum consider Huluga as having cultural and archaeological significance? Yes. In 1991, the National Museum assigned accession numbers X-91-Q2 to the Huluga Open Site and X-91-R2 to the caves. These numbers indicate that the areas and their artifacts are invaluable Philippine heritage. The National Museum also assigned accession numbers to other archaeological sites in Cagayan de Oro and vicinities that year.


Is there a law that guarantees protection of Huluga? Yes: Republic Act No. 4846 as amended by the Presidential Decree 374. The former is called The Cultural Properties Preservation and Protection Act. There is also a law on caves. Construction projects that can adversely affect cultural sites like Huluga are required to have an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC).

What is the condition of Huluga today? A large part of the Huluga Open Site has been destroyed, to give way to the Taguanao-Balulang road-and-bridge project of the city government.
Photo of the Open Site. Clicking this image will bring you to large photo in homepage.The split Huluga Open Site, which used to be the venue of an ancient settlement. Click the image to see more photos.

How large is the damage of the Huluga Open Site? Roughly 60 to 80 percent of the area. Hills have been overturned. Artifacts could be lost or destroyed in the process.

What about the caves? The caves are spared, but they remain unprotected. Since they are near the bridge, they face further disturbance when more people migrate in Huluga and construct houses and buildings there. Several years earlier, researchers from the National Museum found indications of looting in the caves.

[Webmaster, September 2007: The caves and vicinity are occupied by Fernando Quililan, former director of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)-Region 10. Despite a law prohibiting private ownership of archaeological sites, Quililan has put up a resort called Blue Waters in this area.]

When did you know that a bridge would be made in Huluga? In 1999, when the administration of mayor Vicente Y. Emano expressed plans to demolish the Huluga Open Site and caves, to give way to the P635-million road-and-bridge project.

What was the response of people concerned with Huluga? Antonio J. Montalván II told Councilor Maryanne Enteria about the project. Enteria was the head of the Tourism Committee and Montalván was a member of the Historical and Cultural Commission.

What did Enteria do? She organized a team to survey the area of Huluga in June 1999. The team was composed of

  • Enteria herself
  • Dr. Erlinda Burton, an anthropologist at Xavier University
  • Representatives of the City Engineer's Office, City Planning and Development Office, City Tourism Office, and
  • Montalván.

What was the finding of the team? The Huluga Open Site and caves could be destroyed by the project.

What was the recommended solution? Burton recommended that no heavy construction be made within a radius of 2,000 meters in Huluga because "there are other sites close to the Open Site, which would also be destroyed."

What was Enteria's response? She recommended the diversion of the bridge project to Emano that morning. Later, in the afternoon of the same day, Enteria said Emano had promised to divert the construction.

Were there other actions made to protect Huluga? Yes. Montalván wrote a draft resolution, and submitted it to the City Council.

Did the City Council approve the resolution? Yes. The Council, chaired by acting vice-mayor President D. Elipe, approved Resolution 4433-99 on September 28, 1999. Elipe signed the Resolution. But until today, there is no city ordinance protecting Huluga. [This resolution contains an error: It says the artifacts found in Huluga "dates back to 1,600 B.C." The correct date is 350 A.D.]

Was the construction diverted? No.

What evidence indicated the construction was not diverted? In June or July 2001, Montalván went to the Open Site and discovered that the bridge project contractor had built a bunkhouse and had marked some trees with Photo of obsidian flake."X". A resident of that area, Reynaldo Bacarro, explained that the "X" mark meant that the trees would be cut down. The contractor was White Horse Development and Construction, Inc. A few days later, Montalván visited the area again, with Burton and Froilan Gallardo of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Did you report this matter to the government agencies? Yes. We invited several heads of government agencies to a meeting on July 12, 2001 at the Conference Room, Fourth Floor of the Social Science Center, Xavier University. The purpose was to discuss ways to preserve Huluga.

Who attended the meeting? From our group, it was Burton, Montalván, and Luis E. Ostique of Museo de Oro, Xavier University. From the government and private offices, 16 representatives attended.

  • Engr. Jorie Bingona, City Engineer's Office
  • Dir. Fernando P. Quililan, Department of Environment and Natural Resource (DENR)-Region 10
  • Alex D. Jimenez, Environmental Management Bureau (EMB)-Region 10
  • Engr. Estevan F. Agdagdag, White Horse Trading Development & Construction
  • Thaddeus A. Bautista, Historical and Cultural Commission, City Hall
  • Dir. Dorothy Jean Pabayo, Department of Tourism (DOT)-Region 10
  • Dir. Cynthia Viajar Abanil, Cagayan de Oro-Iligan Corridor Special Development Project
  • Marilyn G. Baldo, Department of Tourism (DOT)-Region 10
  • Ignacio Borja, Oro Tampuda Foundation
  • Erlinda A. Noval, City Planning and Development Office (CPDO)
  • Estrella F. Sagaral, City General Services Office
  • Nestor M. Banuag, Jr., KKP Office, Xavier University
  • Marcelino Panis, Jr., Museo de Oro, Xavier University
  • Rona Joan E. Lipke, History Society, Xavier University
  • Mitz Tapungot, Jr., Misamis Oriental Waste Management Association (MOWMA)
  • Atty. Roy Raagas

What was agreed during the meeting? Huluga should be preserved. [To page 2]

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

Published by the Heritage Conservation Advocates, Cagayan de Oro, Philippines, July 11, 2003. Updated December 17, 2019 with a link to the Cagayan de Oro City Council resolution on Huluga and list of of government officials who attended the meeting on July 12, 2001. An old 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.
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