Her sketch, my tattoo

I finally got my very first tattoo. On the left side of my back, you can now see a doodle of people and a dog with a squiggly rectangle boxing them in. The lines vibrate with simplicity; the positioning and distance of the stick figures reveal a lot about the artist’s feelings toward her significant others.

The original plan was to seek out sketches of artists, Pablo Picasso and Antonio Saura. A forgotten Spanish Civil War anarchist painter, Saura is a personal favorite because of his politics and his profound reinterpretation of Don Quixote, while Pablo Picasso, well, is picasso.

Here are examples of Saura’s sketches:

Another tattoo concept I entertained was one that is science-based. This idea came about after viewing cool tattoos of avid science fans and professionals. I would’ve wanted something that’s a homage of sorts to the years of working with rhesus macaques and, in the past, tarsiers and long-tailed macaques. I’m clueless as to what the design would have been, but I figure that the idea should be similar to this:

After several years of backtracking, I finally settled for something more personal–a stick figure drawing by my daughter, Gabriela Lualhati. We went to Harisumi Tattoo Parlor in Condado and met with Blen, the artist, to have the tattoo done. When we arrived there, Blen didn’t start right away. He talked to my daughter first and allowed her to improve the sketch before running the needle on my back.

Talking to a tattoo artist is a big deal for my daughter, since she loves to draw and paint. Her kindergarten teacher said that although Gabriela is creative and a bit advanced for her class, she has problems with shyness and sensitivity. In part, my decision to get a tattoo from one of her sketches is driven by the desire to boost her self-confidence, to coax her out of her timid self, and to show the world that her drawings are beautiful and great.

I know that I will not pass as some badass Sons of Anarchy type with a stick figure tattoo like this, but I know it’s worth the pain and the skin.

Harisumi Tattoo Parlor

Blen at Work

Gabi and her work


How Lolo Pedro Swatted a Toratora and Died

While browsing the internet, I chanced on a science news article on the genetic susceptibility to schizophrenia among Han Chinese. The Nature article revealed  two independent studies that identified “sections of the human genome that, when deleted, can elevate the risk of developing schizophrenia by up to 15 times compared with the general population.” I won’t go into the details of the article because, aside from my lack of expertise on the subject matter, the popular version of the two articles is good enough for non-technical readers like myself.

This blog article however will share a cultural correlate to the science news article. While mental diseases are biological, these are expressed in specific cultural and historical circumstances. I take the medical anthropologist’s cue therefore of differentiating disease, which is biological, from illnesses, a cultural concept. It is within this light that I share my maternal relatives’ reckoning with pagkabuang (roughly translated as insanity). All behaviors or mental states that deviate from the “normal” is considered buang in Cebuano. Psychological illnesses, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorders, dementia, etc, are all subsumed under this general word category.

The family lore goes that at least one member, usually male, of every generation will succumb to a mental illness. I don’t know if there’s a biological basis to this story or whether a professional diagnosis was availed of (except for one), but as far as my mother is concerned, our “schizophrenia” simply runs in the blood–no need to question it, you just keep the grip on what’s real and what’s not and you won’t lose it. This story has been used as a warning to all my relatives to not overdo things or do drugs, because “we got craziness in our blood,” one slip and off we go to Lalaland.  Like us, my mother’s generation too had been told time and again to fear this supposed “genetic tendency” and thus must learn to negotiate life’s challenges with calm and ease. I believe this is not simply an old wives’ tale that older relatives concocted to keep us in check. Aside from the logical fact that they could’ve just scared us off with the usual monsters and the roasting pits of hell, my maternal relatives saw how a grandfather, an uncle, and two cousins were blighted by this illness.

The origin of the “schizophrenia” myth started with the unusual death of my mother’s maternal grandfather who was shot by Japanese soldiers in the dying days of World War II. When the villagers heard that the soldiers were on patrol, they fled to their mountain hideout except for Lolo Pedro. The soldiers spotted Lolo Pedro on top of a coconut tree cursing at toratora or zero fighter aircrafts flying overhead. He also brought with him a long stick to swat at these flying jetfighters, flaying at them everytime they passed by the coconut tree. He was an easy target for the patrolling soldiers. They trained their rifles towards Lolo Pedro, placed him in their rifles’ crosshairs, squeezed their triggers, and took the crazed man down from the tree.

You see, the tiny island of Po’o at that time was right smack in the middle of the largest naval battle in world history, The Battle of Leyte Gulf. This was the naval war when Allied forces first witnessed Japanese toratora planes diving straight at enemy warships and gunboats. The Allied Forces however routinely defeated the Japanese forces in less than a week. For older island residents, the impact of this war was such that time and history were only divided into three episodes: before the war (wala pay gera), during the war (panahon sa gera), and after the war (pistaym). Personal events, like birthdays, are remembered more along this organizing principle of time than the actual dates.

The war was a shock to many island residents. From a sleepy fishing village, the place had been converted into a battle zone. The villagers were rounded up and their movement monitored and restricted. Many were subjected to abuses. Rumors reached that children were flung to the air and then stabbed with bayonets. Some of those who escaped the encampment were pursued and killed. A relative of mine, who was then a child, escaped a gruesome death when she pretended to be dead after getting stabbed with a bayonet. With her guts spilling out of her abdomen, adult relatives sneaked the child out of the island on a canoe. They traveled a full day to the neighboring island of Leyte where she was nursed back to health.

Coconut Fiber Dress. My grandfather didn’t quite sew something as grandiose as this, but yes you got the point of him sewing clothes from coconut fibers.

Those who escaped the Japanese garrison fled to mountain hideouts. While there, they lived a semblance of a normal life, far from the reach of the occupying forces. My late maternal grandfather, a Chinese immigrant tailor (whose timberland-owning family scampered out of China because of the Nationalist Revolution of Sun Yat Sen–yet another interesting story to pursue!), remembered sewing clothes from coconut fibers for the refugees (see photo on the side to give you an idea). The violence spiraled that whenever there was a chance for retribution, the island residents grabbed every opportunity for revenge–Japanese soldiers, who survived the naval battle and found themselves beached on the island, were routinely attacked and killed.

If you’ve been to the island of Po’o, you would not imagine that this place had once witnessed so much bloodshed. Your day starts with a rooster’s call and ends with the warmth of bahalina down your throat. Yet World War II was a crazy time. And, apparently, we still feel the insanity of war in our “genes.”

Time Travelling has moved to a new home…

Hello readers,

After a month long deliberation, I decided to move time travelling to a new home, anthropology corner. The decision to move was spurred by a friend who helped defray the costs for building my own blog site. While the move is cumbersome, considering I have invested more than a year of effort for time travelling, I see this change as an opportunity to learn new skills–especially in website management. Of course, I do not know anything as of yet–errrr…. what’s a plug-in?–but I know I’ll get there once I get settled in my new home.

anthropology corner will still be discussing about anthropology, travel, primates, and personal stories about Puerto Rico and the Philippines. I wish you’ll follow me there too. For starters, here is the first post of anthropology corner about the Arecibo petroglyphs.



Click here to visit anthropology corner



Tarsiers For Sale and then some!

The selling of tarsiers is still happening in the Philippines despite the numerous laws and administrative orders banning this practice. I chanced on a seller over at sulit.com.ph, a popular online market site, advertising the sale of a pair of tarsiers for PhP9,000.00/USD 205.20. Apparently, the seller has already sold three pairs of tarsiers as per his comment on the online ad he posted: “Sold 1 pair to LEI of Antipolo. Sold 2 Pairs to Keen of Forbes park. These people can afford to take care of these lovely pets. They showed me the place where they will keep and nest them.”

In the Philippines, Tarsius syrichta is considered as a “specially protected faunal species” through Proclamation 1030 released by the President Ramos administration in 1997. The proclamation prohibits the hunting, killing, wounding, taking away, or possession of tarsiers and the destruction of its habitat. It also encouraged the establishment of sanctuaries “to preserve and protect the species.” In 2001, the Republic Act No. 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act was passed to conserve the country’s remaining wildlife resources and their habitats, including the tarsiers. Several other ordinances were enacted at the provincial and town levels to stem the capture and live trade of tarsiers.

The apparent disconnect between state policies and the actual practice points at the need to rethink the conservation strategies for this primate. As I understand, the dominant conservation framework remains to be ecotourism, which is aimed at increasing revenues for the ‘community’ and, at the same time, conserving ‘nature.’ But with reports still coming about the sale of tarsiers, it would be worthwhile to investigate whether this framework has instead led to more species endangerment. Elsewhere, ecotourism has “accelerated the endangering of the survival of fragile and endemic species” (Honey, 2008)–most likely true also in the Philippines.

Alternatively, it would be interesting to investigate how ‘ecotourism’ is interpreted locally. A cursory visit to various tourist sites in the Philippines will show that ‘wildlife’ tourism is one of the country’s main tourist draw. In fact, some viewing stations display “wildlife” (with DENR permits) to encourage tourists to visit their place for a fee. In Albur, Bohol, for example, one of the tourist stops is a “mini-zoo” of various endemic and migratory animals. Thus, if the cages for birds, flying lemurs, grass owls, and macaques of this town are indications of what ecotourism is at the local level, then there is indeed an urgent need to understand more the dynamics of tourism, conservation, local community, and the environment.

Here are some photos from the viewing station in Albur, Bohol (photos courtesy of Lori Fields)

Juvenile long-tailed macaque (photo courtesy of Lori Fields)
Flying Lemur (photo courtesy of Lori Fields)


Let me also share this section of our paper (with Carla Escabi–Time Travelling’s other “us“) on the early days of hunting for tarsiers in Corella, Bohol:

The 1980’s saw some changes in the hunting techniques of the Corellanos. Hunters developed a new set of hunting techniques for tarsiers. Dogs (ayam) were trained to hunt (pangayam) for tarsiers. The dogs pick up the scent of a tarsier and chase it. As a response, the tarsier climbs to the highest reaches of the branches. The hunter then follows the dogs’ barks and captures the tarsier with a net or with a piece of cloth, usually a shirt. Often the tarsier dies, especially if the plant that it is clinging to is within the reach of a dog. Yet the use of dogs for hunting tarsiers is not widespread in Corella. Neither have specialized traps been developed for tarsiers. Corellanos saw tarsier traps only when scientists came and used mesh nets to capture them. Interestingly, Dagosto et al. (2003: 249) solicited the help of “trained guides with hunting dogs” in their study of tarsiers in Mount Pangasugan on the island of Leyte.

Corella hunters pursue tarsiers using their “knowledge of the forest.” They notice that a tarsier is “near” through its smell and calls. One informant describes the tarsier’s smell as having a stench akin to that of a bat. Recounting his experience in catching tarsier, he relates:

One needs to approach a tarsier in a certain manner. I silently get closer to it, one step at a time. When the tarsier is not looking in my direction, I make one little step. Watching the tarsier from the sides of my eyes and keeping my head down helps, because the tarsier will not feel intimidated by this body position. Once I am near to where the tarsier is grasping, I try to read its movements. Knowing these is important, and especially how its body is positioned, because these will indicate to you the prospective twig or branch that it might jump to. You can grab the tarsier then and there or, if not, you can force it to jump to the prospective twig and then sway the twig so that the tarsier cannot reach it. Once it falls to the ground, it can easily be captured.

Another informant says:

If I find a tarsier infant, all I do is wait for the mother to come. The mother usually tries to make you follow her so that you will get her instead of the infant. And when you do follow her, you will lose sight of her as she heads for the bushes. I discovered that the mother usually comes back once the threat is gone. So one time I grabbed the infant and put it under my shirt to make it relax. It is the beating of the heart that calms it. Suddenly the mother jumped onto my back, searching for her baby. I took pity on them and just left them in the wild.

Tarsier hunting in Corella in the 1980’s came about as a response to three factors: a) external demand for live tarsiers, b) external demand for tarsiers for taxidermy (embalsamu), and c) the practice of keeping tarsiers to show to or lure tourists. Tarsiers have become visible in the money market as a commodity. Spielmann and Eder (1994: 318), writing about the hunter-gatherers, made sense when they said:

…if hunter-gatherers are intensifying hunting to participate in an exchange system, the organization of the hunt and/or species targeted for the hunt will probably change from the pre-trade situation. The ethnographic record contains numerous references to differences in hunter-gatherer hunting techniques and technology that are attributed to the demands of exchange [emphases ours].

The live tarsier trade for export in the Philippines started on October 17, 1850 with Amsterdam as the receiving destination. Fitch-Snyder (2003: 278-282) recorded that a total of 130 tarsiers from 1850 to 1986 were exported from the Philippines (see her table on p. 279) with the United States, Europe, and Japan as top importers. Thirty-nine percent were exported from August 1981 to November 21, 1986. Most of these tarsiers ended up in universities, zoos, and museums. Although the number of tarsiers that reached a target destination was relatively low, this may not represent the actual quantity of tarsiers exported. According to Cowlishaw and Dunbar (2000: 263-264), “There is a substantial additional loss associated with mortality during capture, storage, and transport, and this may ultimately be the greatest source of population loss.”

Our fieldwork in Corella supports Fitch-Snyder’s data that there was an increase in captured tarsiers in the 1980’s. In this period, Corella hunters specialized in tarsiers because of the orders of buyers from Tagbilaran, the provincial capital of Bohol, who in turn were commissioned by middlemen from outside the province. Petshop owners as far away as Manila bought Bohol tarsiers. Hunters were informed that some tarsiers were going to Cebu. Nong Lito participated in the capture of 15 live tarsiers for a certain Louis Weaver, travelling on the inaugural flight of an airline company bound for Chicago (around 1985). They were intended, he was told, for Chicago zoos and universities elsewhere in the United States. Patricia Wright, a primatologist, also “obtained and imported…tarsiers for breeding and for research purposes after surveying the Philippine Island of Bohol in 1985” (Fitch-Snyder 2003: 281).

A hunter recalled that hunting of tarsiers was profitable at that time for a single tarsier could fetch P50-P200 and orders sometimes reached more than 50 tarsiers. One of my informants remarked that the tarsier trade was so lucrative in contrast to farming that many hunters ceased to farm their lands and devoted their time instead to hunting tarsiers. “With farming, you have to wait for four months (referring to the harvest) before you can get your money. With tarsier hunting, you get your monetary rewards immediately,” he said. Thus for some Corellanos, the 1980’s heralded a shift to the commercial hunting of tarsiers.

But hunting Tarsius syrichta for the market also happened prior to the 1980’s. The earliest record of supplying tarsiers for buyers outside of Bohol is in 1930 when Professor Hegner from Johns Hopkins University obtained an anatomical specimen from the province (Fulton 1939). Back then, early tarsier researchers were confronted with the difficulty of locating tarsiers. Recording his exasperation, Fulton (1939: 566-567) remarked:

…nearly a week was wasted on trips through the inland jungles in search of a specimen…Nearly every native of whom we inquired had either seen a ‘maomag’ a few days earlier or knew of someone who had seen one. One day the trail seemed hot and a report came through that a native in a neighboring town was keeping one as a pet, but when we arrived we found only a dead and partly ant-eaten specimen…Others were reported at distant ends of the island, but we seemed always to arrive just after the animal had escaped, or after the neighbor’s dog had eaten it; and after many a frantic chase through the jungle of this incredibly hot and humid island, I was obliged eventually to fly back to Manila without having seen a living Tarsius.

Fulton eventually was able to procure some 30 tarsiers through a local hunter, Jorge Lumantao of Tagbilaran. In Corella, Cañete (2003: 187) records that “the collection of live tarsiers originated when Japanese sailors on vessels making stopovers at Bohol…began exchanging transistor radios for live tarsiers with the locals.”

Taking tarsiers from the wild also occurred on neighboring islands. In Samar, for example, Cabrera (1923:91) noted that “natives sometimes carried tarsiers for sale.” Cook, a retired U.S. army captain, found it easy to procure tarsiers in Davao. He bought 15 tarsiers for $1.20 each from the locals. He said that the tarsiers were “captured in daytime, but only one was caught in a tree. This was a half grown specimen, seen in a small tree just after dawn, and secured by cutting down the tree. One was seen on the tip of a stalk of tibgao, a tall and strong grass, and caught while making a flying leap. Others were captured in vines, hemp plantings, and in underbrush…” (Cook 1939:173).

La Perla Street Art

La Perla is a community right by the historic structures of Viejo San Juan. The houses sit in a slope sandwiched between the raging Atlantic Ocean and the centuries-old cobblestone road leading to El Morro, a Spanish-era fortress. Together with a friend, we coursed through the narrow streets and took pictures of the graffiti and mural painted on the walls. I took the liberty to take pictures for posterity’s sake, before these street scenes get painted over.

La Perla

What remains of Casa de los Peluches, a building across La Perla

Surfboards Somewhere in Old San Juan

Siempre Maria Bike in Old San Juan

Street artists painted murals and graffiti on the walls and houses. Here below are some of their obras:












At the end of the road is the Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery. In this cemetery, Reba Stewart’s tomb has become a pilgrimage site of sorts for tourists, artists, and pagans because of its unusual design. Some Puerto Ricans call her tomb, La Tumba de la Bruja or the Tomb of the Witch. Reba Stewart was an American-born artist who had spent time studying Taino art and symbols. The fortress at the back is El Morro, one of the oldest Spanish fortresses in the world. For  more info about Reba Stewart and the popular belief surrounding her, please click here and here.

Reba Stewart’s Tomb

Local kids posing with the tomb

Wilfredo Ronquillo on the Development of Philippine Archaeology (2001)

I came across an article by Wilfredo Ronquillo, National Scientist of the Philippines awardee, about the development of archaeology in the country. Although the article is rather dated, it is very instructive in locating the major theoretical trends and important personages in the growth of Philippine archaeology. Since the publication of this article (2001), major advances have been made in understanding the Paleolithic scene of the country. This is best exemplified by Armando Mijares’ report of a 67,000 year old human remains in Callao Cave in Tuguegarao City, Cagayan. The future of Philippine archaeology is bright.

SOURCE: Ronquillo, Wilfredo. 2001. Philippines in Encyclopedia of Archaeology: History and Discoveries. (ed.) Murray, Tim.  Tim Murray: Santa Barbara, California.

The Philippines, lying at the eastern margin of mainland Asia, has been a crossroad for the movements of peoples and ideas from the mainland to the Pacific islands since prehistoric times. Manila likewise has been the key entrepôt of maritime trade and commerce, notably during the almost 250 years (from 1564 to 1815) when the Manila galleons sailed the Pacific Ocean between Manila and Mexico.

Philippine archaeological resources, both on land and under water, are abundant and phenomenal. Archaeological sites range from the earliest indirect evidence for the presence of man in Cagayan Valley, northern Luzon, during the Middle Pleistocene to sixteenth-century dugout wooden coffin burials in northeastern Mindanao. Recent archaeological finds in the country also indicate the existence of complex societies in the northern, central, and southern Philippines, the latter dating as early as the ninth century A.D.

Important archaeological discoveries also include a flotilla of plank-built and edge-pegged wooden boats found in a waterlogged environment that range in date from the fourth to the thirteenth centuries a.d. Throughout Southeast Asia and, indeed, the world at this time, only in the Philippines are such prehistoric boats known to exist.

The history of archaeology in the Philippines elucidates the rich and varied archaeological wealth of the country, as well as the pivotal roles that pioneering individuals played in the evolution, history, and growth of archaeology in the country.

For convenience, this updated history is presented in periods that parallel the political administrations of the archipelago from the sixteenth century to the present: the Spanish Period (1521-1898); the American Period (1898-1946); the post-World War II era and the 1950s; the l960s; the 1970s; the 1980s; and the 1990s to the present. Space limitations allow the inclusion of only the most important archaeological discoveries since the 1960s.

The Spanish Period (1521-1898)

Although Ferdinand Magellan reached the Philippines on March 16, 1521, Spanish colonization of the archipelago did not begin in earnest until 1565. The Spanish explorers and colonizers noted the variety of Philippine cultures and languages. The early Spanish chroniclers of Philippine society and culture were generally members of religious orders; they primarily wrote ethnographic reports intended for Spain’s ruling monarch or their own religious superiors.

The early Spanish writings were mostly descriptive in character, depicting, in varying details, the physical appearances and lifeways of the Filipinos as observed by the writers. At a later time a great deal of linguistic studies were conducted and subsequently published together with the ethnographic reports.

Several chroniclers reported on archaeological discoveries, including Antonio de Morga, the vice-governor general of the Philippines in the seventeenth century who, in his Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas, noted ancient artifacts found by farmers in Luzon.

The only recorded important archaeological reconnaisance undertaken in the archipelago during the Spanish period was conducted in 1881 by Alfred Marche, a French archaeologist who systematically explored the central Philippines and discovered numerous sites. He collected varied archaeological specimens, mainly porcelains and stonewares recovered primarily from burial caves. The majority of his collections are now kept at the Musée de l’Homme in Paris. Marche’s exploration activities at Marinduque Island became “the most successful Philippine archaeological expedition recorded from Spanish times” (Beyer 1947, 260).

An Austrian, professor Ferdinand Blumentritt, also published a series of articles about the Philippines and its people around this time. Cursory exploration of caves and open archaeological sites were undertaken in several areas in the Philippines between 1860 and 1881, including those by the German traveler Feodor Jagor in 1860 and J. Montano and Paul Rey between 1879 and 1881.

The American Period (1898-1946)

The Philippines were occupied by the United States in 1898, and the U.S. administration of the archipelago began a year later. President William McKinley created the Taft Commission in 1900 in an attempt to craft proper legislation for the Philippines. The commission, in turn, established the Bureau of Non-Christian Tribes. This bureau, which changed names through the years, was placed under different institutions and was eventually abolished.

In 1901 the first government museum was created, designated as the Insular Museum of Ethnology, Natural History, and Commerce, and was placed under the Bureau of Non-Christian Tribes. In the course of its existence the museum went through various changes, but it was never abolished. Today, it isa government bureau within the Department of Education, Culture, and Sports and is now officially called the National Museum.

Considered the founder of Philippine archaeology, Henry Otley Beyer (1883-1966), an American from Iowa, arrived in Manila in 1905 to join the civil service. His pioneering works resulted in much of what was known about Philippine prehistory. Three years with the Philippine Bureau of Education found him among the Ifugao of northern Luzon, serving as a schoolteacher and documenting their lifeways. In 1914 he founded the Department of Anthropology at the University of the Philippines, and his first writing on Philippine archaeology came out in 1921. As head of the anthropology department, Beyer studied the racial and cultural history of the country.

From 1922 to 1925 Carl Guthe from the University of Michigan led an archaeological expedition to the central Philippines. Guthe was the first trained archaeologist to work in the archipelago, and his exploration activities focused on the collection of ceramics in the hope that these materials would shed light on the early maritime trade between the Philippines and mainland Southeast Asia. He identified 542 archaeological sites and collected more than 30 cubic tons of archaeological specimens, which are now are kept at the University Museum of the University of Michigan.

Early 1926 saw Beyer’s first involvement in field archaeology, via the accidental discovery of major prehistoric sites at Novaliches during the construction of a dam for the water supply of Manila. Beyer’s ensuing investigation was to be the start of the Rizal-Bulacan Archaeological Survey. By the middle of 1930 excavation activities had also reached Bulacan Province, and in five years of work a total of 120 sites had been identified, with the collection of almost half a million specimens.

Personnel of the National Museum conducted surveys and excavations during the 1930s. In 1934 Ricardo E. Galang, the first Filipino-trained archaeologist, spent two months excavating fourteenth- to fifteenth-century sites at Calatagan, Batangas. In 1938 he investigated a jar burial at San Narciso, Quezon. He recorded a total of six jar burial and midden sites in the area and recovered associated materials of shell bracelets, beads, and ceramics.

In 1938 Generoso Maceda, another staff member of the National Museum, identified a jar burial site in Pilar, Sorsogon Province, in southern Luzon. Twenty-four jars containing artifacts were excavated in three sites (Evangelista 1962, 21). In 1940 Olov Janse, a Swedish-American archaeologist with support from Harvard University, conducted archaeological excavations in the Calatagan sites. Working in three sites, he excavated a total of sixty-six graves, the results of which were published in the annual report of the Smithsonian Institution (Janse 1946).

There was a complete cessation of archaeological activities during the Japanese occupation of the archipelago (1941-1945). Beyer, who was under conditional internment, was assisted by Tadao Kano, a Japanese civilian assigned to protect museums in the Philippines. The Japanese allowed Beyer to continue working at the museum of the University of the Philippines and at the Institute of Ethnology and Archaeology, which enabled him to pursue his research writing and complete the final sections of his major postwar publications (Evangelista 1962; Jocano 1975; Solheim 1981).

Post-World War II and the 1950s

An increased interest in the beginnings of Philippine society and culture developed in the years after World War II, and archaeology as a course was included in the curriculum at the University of the Philippines. Beyer’s research writings during the war years resulted in two important publications, his “Outline Review of Philippine Archaeology by Islands and Provinces” and his Philippine and East Asian Archaeology, and Its Relation to the Origin of the Pacific Islands Population (Beyer 1947, 1948). These major works are invaluable as references for archaeologists working in the Philippines to this date.

Archaeological exploration and excavation activities resumed in the l950s, led by two Americans, Wilhelm G. Solheim II and Robert B. Fox. Both were pivotal in arousing the interest of a number of Filipinos to pursue careers in archaeology. With an M.A. in anthropology from the University of California, Solheim published his first work on Philippine prehistory and archaeology in 1951. He conducted archaeological excavations from 1951 to 1953 in Masbate Island with two Filipino students, Alfredo E. Evangelista and E. Arsenio Manuel. Archaeological data generated from the excavations there were collated with the archaeological materials from the Guthe collection recovered in the 1920s from the central Philippines, resulting in The Archaeology of the Central Philippines: A Study Chiefly of the Iron Age and Its Relationships (Solheim 1964).

Fox (1918-1985) wrote avidly and extensively about Philippine ethnology, archaeology, and natural history from the late 1940s until 1973. He stayed in the Philippines after his service with the U.S. Navy during the war. With B.A. and M.A. degrees in anthropology, Fox was active in Philippine ethnography before focusing his attention on the archipelago’s prehistory.

Major fieldwork in the 1950s was undertaken through the National Museum under the direction of Fox, working with Evangelista and several other members of the museum staff. In 1956 Fox and Evangelista excavated the Sorsogon Province of southern Luzon. A jar burial/stone-tool assemblage was encountered; the sites range in date from 2900 to 2000 b.p.

The most extensive archaeological project in the middle of the 1950s was the Calatagan, Batangas, Archaeological Project south of Manila led by Fox. Over 500 pre-Spanish graves were excavated in a number of burial sites, resulting in the recovery of thousands of trade ceramics-Chinese and Siamese porcelains and stonewares of the late-fourteenth to early-sixteenth centuries a.d. Extended primary burials were revealed as well as secondary burials in jars, with some graves exhibiting evidence of teeth filing and ornamentations. It is unfortunate that the 1950s excavations at Calatagan would witness the start of widespread pothunting activities, which continue to this day.

The 1960s

Fox led major archaeological activities for the National Museum from 1962 to 1966 in a number of caves along the west coast of Palawan, known collectively as the Tabon Caves. Work in this area resulted in the discovery of late-Pleistocene human fossil remains and associated stone implements.

Going back to over 30,000 years ago, six successive periods of prehistoric occupation were found. The C-14 dates available for the Tabon Caves range from 30,500±1100 b.p. and 9250±250 b.p. At nearby Manunggul Cave an earthenware burial jar was found with incised and hematite-painted designs about the shoulder and cover (the latter having a ship-of-the-dead motif dating from 890 to 710 b.c.); it is now one of the country’s National Cultural Treasures.

The preliminary results of the archaeological work at the Tabon Caves were published by Fox in 1970. This work included information on human bone fragments that, although recovered from a disturbed area of the caves, have been dated from 22,000 to 24,000 years ago-still the earliest evidence for Homo sapiens in the Philippines.

In 1966 significant archaeological sites were discovered right in the city of Manila. Known as the Santa Ana Sites, they exhibited both habitations and burials that “date more than 400 years before the arrival of the Spaniards in Manila” (Fox and Legaspi 1977, 1). The main burial site excavated was originally an archaeological mound on which the present Santa Ana Church was built, and the associated tradeware ceramics recovered from the burials date from the late eleventh to the fourteenth centuries a.d.

In 1967 cursory underwater archaeological activities were undertaken by the National Museum and the Times-Mirror-Taliba, a now-defunct newspaper outfit, in Albay, 500 kilometers south of Manila. Believed to be a Spanish galleon, the ship was found 40 to 65 meters below the surface. In addition to two large designs. C-14 dating of shells recovered from this site resulted in dates ranging from 8000 to 6500 b.p.

Shell adzes were also noted from Duyong Cave, Palawan, in the Ryukus Islands, and on other Pacific islands.

The 1970s

The 1970s saw a profusion of archaeological research undertaken by both Filipino and foreign archaeologists. The elephant fossil sites in Cagayan Valley, northern Luzon, which had previously been reported, were explored and excavated in the 1970s by the National Museum. Led by Fox, the research uncovered hundreds of fossilized remains of mammals such as elephants, stegodon, rhinoceros, crocodile, giant tortoise, pig, and deer, as well as flaked and cobblestone tools (Fox and Peralta 1972).

The first three large mammals in this group are now extinct in the Philippines. Encumbered by geological problems in the open sites of Cagayan Valley, Richard Shutler Jr., then with the University of Iowa, was crucial in sending to the country a succession of geologists and geomorphologists from Iowa State University. Led by Carl Vondra in 1977, these researchers defined the Plio-Pleistocene terrestrial sequence in the Cagayan Valley basin, demonstrating the in situ association of artifacts and Pleistocene fauna, the age of artifacts, and the Plio-Pleistocene environments in the valley. Geological research has since solved the majority of the problems of the Pleistocene geology of the area, but the debate over the age of the artifacts still continues.

In 1972 Solheim and A. M. Legaspi led an archaeological survey of coastal southeastern Mindanao, a joint project of the National Museum and the University of Hawaii (Solheim, Legaspi, and Neri 1979). The Talikod rock-shelter sites, where flaked shell and stone tools were recovered, are the earliest sites recorded from the survey, with dates ranging from 7620 ±120 b.p. and 3950±90 b.p.

Two ethno-archaeology studies were undertaken in the 1970s. The first was conducted by Bion and Agnes Griffin among the Agta Negritos in the Sierra Madre range of northeastern Luzon from 1974 to 1976. With the goal of providing models for adjustments to hunting and gathering in wet and seasonal environments, the researchers hoped that the results of the study might be utilized for an archaeological understanding of hunters in tropical settings.

William Longacre of the University of Arizona directed an ethno-archaeological study in pottery-making villages in Kalinga Apayao, northern Luzon. Designed to provide data directly relevant to archaeological methods for inferring patterns of behavior and organization of peoples who lived in the past, the project, now in its third decade, has revealed significant insights into the manufacture, distribution, uses, breakages, and discarding of ceramics and how these and other material culture relate to human behavior.

From 1977 to 1978 archaeological surveys and limited excavations were undertaken in Iloilo Province, Panay, in the central Philippines. Australian archaeologists from the Victoria Archaeological Survey, led by Peter Coutts, focused their research on the establishment of a regional sequence, on the study of tradeware ceramics on Panay Island, on the recording of local pottery-making traditions and their trading networks, and on the collection of osteological materials for comparative studies.

While the geologists were working out the problems at the open sites at Cagayan Valley, the National Museum archaeologists concentrated their research activities in Penablanca, about 15 kilometers east of the Pleistocene open sites. Led by Wilfredo Ronquillo and R. A. Santiago, exploration activities in the limestone area resulted in the recording of over 100 caves and rock shelters, eight of which have since been excavated. Basically aimed at elucidating the structure and distribution of the stone-tool industries in the area, the technological and functional analyses of the lithic flaked tools and debitage recovered from the excavations of Rabel Cave (ranging from 4900 to 3000 b.p.) indicated the generalized functions of the flake tools, which made them ideal for use as maintenance tools; the manufacture of the stone flaked tools involved a percussion method without core preparation.

In 1977 Barbara Thiel, then a graduate student at the University of Illinois, excavated two caves at Penablanca, Cagayan Province-Arku by the recovery of cordage of palm fibers. Their presence indicates that an older ship-building method was used. The Butuan archaeological assemblage points to a complex society in this area, indicated by craft specialization (such as wood, bone, and shell working, pottery manufacture, bead reworking, and metallurgy-specifically gold working) and the capability to participate in long-distance trade.

In 1979 an archaeological program led by Karl Hutterer of the University of Michigan started an interdisciplinary project focused on the prehistoric social and cultural development of a small geographical area in Negros Oriental. Known as the Bais Anthropological Project, the research, participated in by graduate students from Michigan, generated archaeological, ethnographic, biological, and geological data used to provide an overall understanding of prehistoric and present-day societies in Negros.

The 1980s

Archaeologists from the National Museum were busy during the 1980s. Although limited in manpower, the museum is the only institution that undertakes full-time archaeological research activities in the country. One of its priority activities is rescue archaeology, which involves the investigation of caves prior to the mining of bat droppings for use as fertilizer.

In 1981 archaeological exploration activities started at the limestone formation of Anda, in the island province of Bohol in the central Philippines. Designed to explicate the island adaptation of prehistoric man, this project, led by Santiago, resulted in the discovery of over 130 caves and rock shelters, the majority of which are archaeological sites. A number of caves exhibit wooden coffin burials as well as rich prehistoric habitation and burial sites.

Museum archaeologists were active in various areas in the country, such as Laurel, Batangas; Ma-ug, Prosperidad, Agusan del Norte; and Polillo Island, Quezon Province. Important archaeological data were generated from the continuation of the excavations at the Butuan sites in northeastern Mindanao, where primary extended burials indicate teeth filing and blackening.

Laura Junker, Hutterer’s former student and now a professor of anthropology at Vanderbilt University, did research in Tanjay, Negros Oriental, in the central Philippines. Concentrating on the operation of control over the distribution of prestige goods, tradewares, and earthenware ceramics, Junker used archaeological and ethnohistoric data to test the hypothesis that early Philippine chiefdoms’ participation in Southeast Asian luxury goods trade during the tenth to the sixteenth centuries a.d. was strongly linked to centralized control of a complex intraregional system of production, exchange, and resource mobilization.

In the 1980s numerous underwater archaeological sites were worked by the National Museum. The various shipwrecks found in Philippine territorial waters include Spanish, English, American, and Asian craft, usually with portions of the cargo still intact. The tradeware ceramics help date the ships and cargo. The associated archaeological materials have added new insights into the history of the trade from the ninth to the eighteenth centuries, as well as the nature of the trade and the societies that produced, bartered, and used the goods.

In the majority of cases the sites explored and excavated were worked as joint ventures with private entities. The shipwrecks studied include: one believed to be a merchant boat, found in 1982 on the southeast coast of Marinduque Island, about 150 kilometers south of Manila; a probable local watercraft found in 1983 at Puerto Galera, Mindoro Island; and a sixteenth-century wreck found in 1985 at the Royal Captain Shoal, a coral reef west of Palawan Island. The archaeological materials recovered from this site include porcelain plates, saucers, bowls, cups; boxes and box covers; blue-and-white, pear-shaped, terra-cotta bottles; jarlets; jars; over 200 beads; 33 identical gongs; and bronze, iron, and copper objects. The tradewares recovered from the wreck point to the Wan Li period (1573-1620).

It was also in 1985 when the Griffin, an East India Company vessel, was excavated northwest of Basilan Island in the southern Philippines. Along with numerous Chinese tradeware ceramics, the few metal objects found include iron ingots used as ballast, iron tools in the form of adzes, cannonballs, lead sheets used to line the wooden tea crates, lead musketballs, teapots, a Chinese coin of copper alloy, shoes and belt buckles of copper alloy and gilt bronze, and other objects used for daily life on board the ship.

In 1986 the exploration for the sunken galleon San José was started off the waters of Lubang Island, Mindoro Province. Only portions of the ship’s planks, numerous shards of blue-and-white chocolate cups, and fragments of bronze, iron, and copper materials were recovered.

The 1990s to the Present

Important archaeological discoveries were made in the 1990s. In 1991 earthenware potteries with covers exhibiting anthropomorphic motifs were excavated at Ayub Cave, Pinol, Maitum, Sarangani Province. Led by E. Z. Dizon, the analysis of the potteries, designed and formed like human figures with varied and distinct facial expressions, indicates that they were used as covers for multiple secondary burial jars. Typologically the jars and the associated materials found date to the Metal Age period in the Philippines, around 500 b.c. to 500 a.d.

The year 1991 also marked the start of an archaeological survey for the Spanish warship San Diego, which sank off Fortune Island on December 14, 1600. A joint project of the National Museum and World Wide First, Inc., the excavation found the wreck at a depth of about 50 meters below the sea’s surface. Two seasons of underwater archaeological excavation were undertaken, resulting in the recovery of over 34,000 archaeological items, including tradeware porcelains and stonewares, earthenware vessels, metal artifacts, and various organic materials.

The archaeological materials recovered from the San Diego site include more than 500 blue-and-white Chinese ceramics in the form of plates, dishes, bottles, kendis (spouted water containers), and boxes that may be ascribed to the Ming dynasty, specifically to the Wan Li period; more than 750 Chinese, Thai, Burmese, and Spanish or Mexican stoneware jars; over seventy Philippine-made earthenware potteries influenced by European stylistic forms and types; parts of Japanese samurai swords; 14 bronze cannons of different types and sizes; parts of European muskets; stone and lead cannonballs; metal navigational instruments and implements; silver coins; 2 iron anchors; animal bones and the teeth of pigs and chickens; and seed and shell remains of prunes, chestnuts, and coconut.

Noteworthy among the metal finds are a navigational compass and a maritime astrolabe. Also retrieved from the site is a block of hardened resin that was noted in historical accounts to have been used for caulking and for making fire in stoves. A summary of the excavations and finds is presented in C. Valdes’s Saga of the San Diego, published in 1993.

In the northernmost islands of the Philippines, the Ijangs (megalithic structures situated in elevated hills, indicating evidence of fortification) were confirmed through archaeological explorations and limited excavations. Led by Dizon and Santiago, the cursory archaeological activities indicate that the structures closely resemble the castles reported from Okinawa and date to the twelfth century a.d. These recent finds may prove crucial in the understanding of the formation of sociopolitical complexities in the Philippines.

This concise history of archaeology in the Philippines records the fascinating story of the search for the prehistoric beginnings of the archipelago, which is inextricably linked with mainland Southeast Asia and the Pacific islands. Although it may seem that archaeological activities in the country are adequate, there are still countless archaeological sites in the country that need proper assessment, excavation, and management. Unfortunately, these important and nonrenewable components of the country’s cultural resources are also subject to plunder, nearsighted exploitation, and vandalism. Properly managed and protected, these archaeological resources have educational, recreational, and tourism potential. Without doubt, they are worth protecting for the enrichment and enjoyment of succeeding generations.

If not for this book, Christopher Columbus couldn’t have crossed the Atlantic

One of the books I am currently reading is Martin Dugard’s The Last Voyage of Columbus. In the light of today’s celebration, I want to share these excerpts from the book:

In the second century AD, Claudius Ptolemy, a scholar at Egypt’s Alexandria library, undertook his comprehensive study of the cosmos, Geography. Ptolemy evinced a certain arrogance, fortified by his immense knowledge. He once wrote a tome on mathematics with a lengthy title that he shortened to Almagest–the “Greatest.” He was just as zealous about propagating his world knowledge in Geography. Ptolemy ruminated over the text, exhaustively analyzing and rejecting many widely held theories about the earth in his attempts to make the book definitive. The final result was a work of genius that still influences mankind nineteen centuries later. It includes a world map, more than two dozen regional maps, and a comprehensive listing of the earth’s known cities by latitude and longitude. His world map was the first to be oriented north and showed a planet of three continents: Asia, Africa, and Europe.


Ptolemy’s map of the world, however, was also horribly flawed. The Atlantic and Indian oceans were too small. The Pacific was nonexistent. Asia was shown to be far broader than in actuality, covering more than half the world. The coast of China ran south and west until it connected with the African coast, totally enclosing the Indian Ocean. Grievous mistakes all, based on speculation and the deductions of “world” travelers. Ptolemy’s map, however, was accepted as fact.


When the Roman empire fell, the Alexandria library was looted, and its museum destroyed. In AD 391, a mob of Christian agitators, believing all things secular and intellectual to be evil, burned the library’s contents. Geography was among the books lost. A copy had been spirited away before the fire, which was a lucky break for later generations, for as Europe settled into the Dark Ages, cartography became a dead science. Ptolemy’s work was dismissed as pagan propaganda and then forgotten altogether. Once again it became popular for Europeans to believe that the world was flat. Most maps drawn during this time were speculative, more interested in showing pilgrims the way to Paradise than serving as an accurate outline of land and sea.


…..Meanwhile, Geography was quietly making its presence felt in the non-European world. Throughout the centuries Muslim Arabs had used it to produce their own detailed map of Africa and the Indian Ocean. In the fourteenth century, just as cartography began a European revival, a Benedictine monk came across a rogue copy of Geography while prowling through a used-book store in Constantinople. He purchased the book and took it back to Europe, where, despite the astonishing amounts of forgotten knowledge on its yellowed pages, it languished for another century. In 1478 it was rediscovered yet again and translated into Latin. Thanks to the birth of the printing press, it was finally disseminated throughout Europe…


…For mariners like Columbus, who had seen the dawn of maritime maps that showed the European coastline in minute detail, Geography’s long lost guide to the planet was a godsend. That its information dovetailed with Marco Polo’s accounts gave Geography the gravitas of biblical truth.