By Jujemay G. Awit
Sun.Star Staff Reporter
EVIDENCE of pre-Spanish trade and industry in Cebu were found in Boljoon town, right in front of the Nuestra Senora Virgen del Patrocinio Parish Church.
Different kinds of artifacts and nine burials were found at the third archaeological excavation by the Department of Sociology and Anthropology of the University of San Carlos.
The recent excavation, done over a period of one month, was 60 to 70 centimeters deep.
Among those recovered was a large bent gold earring found at the right ear of a male skeleton. The tube earring is said to date back from the 14th to 16th century.
A skeleton of a presumably female adolescent also had a gold ring on a finger, although only half of it was recovered.
Excavation leader Jojo Bersales said this is the second time in the archaeological history of the Philippines that artifacts were recovered in Boljoon. The first time was during the first phase of excavation last year where a 2.4-meter gold chain was recovered.
The oldest recovery, although still up for debate, is a light olive-colored container placed immediately below the feet of a burial.
Bersales said arguments on the origin of the jar include that of the Yuan Dynasty between 1280 and 1367. Others would say it was from the Ming Dynasty or in 1644.
If the former is to be believed, this is proof that trade and commerce in southern Cebu was already booming before the Spaniards’ first arrived in 1521.
Bersales also noted that what was missing in the recovery was a hint of fisherfolk living in the area, considering that the town is near the beach. There were no net sinkers or shells lining the grave.
This indicates that the skeletons were from people involved in trading or bartering.
“This may have been due to cotton planting and cotton raw material production, an industry which was reported by early 1600 missionaries concerning southern Cebu,” Bersales said.
The USC team also recovered a powder box and some beads, which have a hint of India and China in them.
The excavation was also the first time that a ceramic bowl with Chinese characters on it was recovered in the Philippines.
A bowl with a leaf on it was among the artifacts recovered. It also had some Chinese characters that translate to “a leaf means a new wish.”
Other items recovered were: dishes, with one found to have covered a skull; a spear; a water jar with silver beads; some Spanish period square nails; iron slugs; and some medallions.
The artifacts dug with the burials indicate that those recovered were non-Christian burials. The medallions were not directly connected with the skeletons.
The USC group concluded that the area was a settlement site since between 1550 and 1650, people were believed to bury their dead under their houses.
While the recovered items are property of the State, Bersales said the Archdiocese has jurisdiction over the items recovered in front of the Boljoon church, which has been declared a National Cultural Treasure.
If parish priest Milton Medida had his way, he would want to preserve the burials and the artifacts where they were found, probably through gas casings.
But he said the decision is up to Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal.
Bersales, though, said that the burials will be covered again while the artifacts will be sent to Manila. Then the Municipality of Boljoon and the Cebu Archdiocese will talk about how to keep the items safe.
Medida said the people of Boljoon want to display the items in the museum, but there were suggestions that only replicas should be displayed for security purposes.
Boljoon Mayor Deogenes Derama was surprised with the treasures in his town.
“Daghan man diay nindot sa ilalom. It could really help our tourism industry and our museum,” he said.
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