By JIGGER JERUSALEM
LONG before the Spaniards came, the coastal areas of northern Mindanao have already been an active trade route traversed by foreign merchants who had dealings with the natives. There is also evidence that human activities in this part of the country have been going on long before the Fall of the Roman Empire or the birth of Christianity and Islam, said the head of the University of the Philippines-Diliman’s Archeological Studies Program.
A recent archeological discovery in a Misamis Oriental town suggested that the early inhabitants of Alubijid town in Misamis Oriental used to have a dynamic interaction with their neighbors from faraway lands in what is today known as Southeast Asia.
Leee Anthony Neri, chief of the Archeological Studies Program at the University of the Philippines -Diliman, said this based on some of the objects found at the excavation site called “Ilihan Hill,” a mound of limestone overlooking Alubijid town’s shoreline in Barangay Poblacion.
A still-intact bowl and other prehistoric items that were excavated point to an evidence that there was already a community that had lived there for millennia that exchanged goods with travelers from distant shores, Neri said.
“We found stone tools made of obsidian and chert, earthenware sherds, some with intricate designs associated with the Sa-Huynh-Kalanay pottery from Vietnam, and tradeware ceramics associated with the Yuan Dynasty, Ming Dynasty and Kitchen Qing,” Neri said.
The chips from the crude tools made of obsidian and chert could be traced back to the Neolithic period, around 3,000 BC, while the tradeware ceramics from China were from the late Ming Dynasty circa 15th century, he said.
These objects from separate ages, Neri said, were buried and forgotten as time passed, but because the site is on top of a limestone, the sediment is not thick, making it easier for the archeologists to quickly find the artifacts.
“The only problem is that the site has been continuously plowed. This destroyed the artifacts, especially potteries,” he said.
The UP archeological team also dug up what its members ascertained to be a part of a church, which Neri said could be the site of the first religious structure in Alubijid that the Recollect priests built in 1865.
The second and the most recent church, still standing today, was built by the Jesuits in 1890.
Neri said they also found a “jorno” (kiln) used by the townspeople to make bricks for the construction of the church.
All these finds, Neri said, prove that Alubijid has been occupied by settlers as early as 3,000 BC up to the coming of the Spaniards.
Because of these discoveries, he said, it is important that the excavation areas and other potential sites be protected.
“We strongly recommend for the protection of the site,” said Neri, adding that it would be the town’s own cultural heritage that must be kept.
Alubijid Mayor Alvin Labis said the municipal government may ask the owner of the land where the excavation was conducted to donate or sell the property.
“We hope the site will not be disturbed. We fear that after the archeological team has left, gold hunters will dig there, resulting in reckless excavation of the area and destroying the remaining artifacts,” Labis said.
He said the Alubidjidnons are happy of the rich history of their town.
Alubijid Vice Mayor Emmanuel Jamis said it is important that the site be protected, adding the municipal council must pass a legislation for its preservation.