Tag Archives: UP


It’s been a rather busy start of the year so forgive me if I haven’t been as active as I wanted to. I am going to keep this blog. I have no thoughts of giving this up whatsoever, but I won’t be very active in the blogosphere for a couple of weeks.

These months, however, have been very interesting. I’m proud to announce that the University of the Philippines Diliman, the uni where I graduates, was awarded Center of Excellence by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED. Here’s the document that proves it:

It’s also the first time of the university I’m a part of to host a massive conference comprising prestigious speakers from all over the country. The conference is about K-12 and Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education — both were implemented just recently. It was hard work for most of us and I would have really wanted to just sit down and listen to the talks. Alas, I was juggling several work loads.

I also had the chance to visit the ancestral land of the T’boli in Lake Sebu. We took our speakers there for R&R. The T’boli are very noteworthy. They’re very strong and they’ve kept their identity through the ages even with many threats in their surroundings. Their pride as a group is immense. I guess this raging pride tightens their hold to their culture and ancestry and binds them together as one. Given the chance, I’d love to conduct fieldwork in the area.

Other than that it’s been work, work, work for me. I did say I want to post every other day but with unexpected events I won’t be able to do that. However, I will try to post and interact as much as I can.

The Field Experience

By Kert

The Archaeologist’s guns (Image via assemblage.group.shef.ac.uk)

There’s always something charming about archaeological sites. Perhaps it’s the history of the place, or the deep cultural meanings and values enveloping that certain space. Or perhaps it’s the idea of being able to uncover the long-forgotten stories and the lives of past peoples frozen in that piece of land. There are so many reasons why Archaeology is an interesting subject and why it is so addictive to join archaeological excavations.

This year I was given the chance (which I am very thankful for) to be once again a member of an archaeological team investigating a site in Southern Luzon. I’ve been a part of the team for five consecutive seasons and there’s always something interesting to find each year. The site is very rich with archaeological material and the field still continues on.

The archaeology of the place is very exciting. It is just a few yards away from the beach (a very strategic place not only for the past peoples but also for us excavators). It is a burial site around a thousand or so years old. We found more than 60 burial jars – primary and secondary – and a handful of extended burials. These burials are topped by various forms of covering – cairns, slabs and grooved markers. Some jars also have tridacnae markers on top of them. Shell midden and pots are also present in the area, which may suggest that there are areas for offerings in the site. The jar burial culture of the site coincides with the burial procedures across the country and many parts of Southeast Asia and also early Japan (where they used two jars placed together mouth-to-mouth as burial). Several grave goods are also associated with the burials such as beads (one jar has more than 300 beads), shells and blades. One of the students from  our Australian counterpart wrote about the mortuary practices exemplified in the site but I have yet to read her research.

Aside from the archaeology, the fieldwork (not just this fieldwork, but every other fieldwork) is also interesting for its group dynamics. Everyday in the field is routine speckled by bits of fun and so many opportunities to learn not just about the site but also about the people around. In the field, you also learn about life and humanity. It sounds like a cliche but it’s true. The history and the material culture of the site are the main focus in an archaeological dig, but there are also many dimensions to it. The fieldwork is not a hollow space. It is a social space with different dynamics going on between people — between the locals and the members alike.

The fieldwork is not “reality” for the excavators and even for the locals. For the excavators, the field isn’t daily life. It is so much different and for many, it requires so much adjustments. It’s an alien environment surrounded by unfamiliar things.

Of course, the fieldwork is an opportunity to meet new people and even meet new friends from the locals and even from the team itself. Where I joined, there were familiar faces but there were also a lot of new people. Thankfully, my social skills are getting better and I became friends with many of them.

However, since it’s an alien environment, we only get to interact amongst ourselves. Imagine three weeks interacting with the same people and without escape. Much like being in Big Brother. Of course, tensions would arise and it’s usually about the pettiest things one could imagine. Different personalities get mashed in one space. Everything, every sensation, every emotion is heightened in the field as people become vulnerable from being detached from their real lives for some time.

Amidst the goings-on in the field, some of these new faces end up as good friends. I’ve gained a lot of amazing friends from the field — friends who have been there for me and helped me during my low moments, friends who have accepted me for who I am. These friendships last for a lifetime. I never saw some of the good friends I gained after the field (which makes me sad), but we still continue to be friends until now. And for those who come back, it is always a breath of fresh air to see them again.

As for the locals, the field season is the time when foreign people (even Filipinos from the team are foreign in the area) enter their lives. For some, life goes on and they are apathetic to the excavation. But for most locals, these new people are everywhere — walking in the beach, swimming in the sea, riding their boats, meeting them face-to-face on the roads, buying stuff from their stores. For three weeks, these foreign people enter their lives. And these locals also get involved in what these weird foreign people are doing. They visit, become curious, ask around and even help out in the archaeological activities. It’s always great to meet a curious local who’s interested to learn about what’s going on in the site and how it is connected with his/her past.

After three weeks, these foreign people leave. There is an abrupt disjunction to all the commotion that was stirred. For many of them, there is sadness in not seeing the people they’ve become accustomed in seeing everyday for three weeks. Every year, I see a couple of locals cry when we leave. We are sad too for we’ve become friends with many of them. Much more than being locals or more than being informants, they’ve become our buddies and they let us enter their lives.

A person must know how to tread in the field. One is never on his/her own so it’s not fair to only think about one’s self. Again, the field is not just about the archaeology but also about the community around. After a day’s worth of digging, one must face the people who make up an essential part of the field.

Lastly, I’d like to point out than an archaeological dig is more than just digging in the sandbox. It is also more exciting than an Indiana Jones film (in terms of archaeology, the people and experience). It is a mishmash of scientific and social encounters. There’s always something new to learn every season.

Note: Photos will follow tomorrow.

Anatomy of a Massacre: A Review

Anatomy of a Massacre Poster

By Kert

I had the chance to attend the Anatomy of a Massacre talk, which is in accordance to the International Day to End Impunity. The speakers were Ed Lingao from the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) and Cristina Palabay from End Impunity Alliance. I was very much interested to go to this talk (sometimes talks are more interesting than university courses) and hear what they have to say on the Maguindanao Massacre. I am a child of Mindanao, and every inch of my being is deeply connected to it. And in many ways, the Maguindanao Massacre has affected me so much.

For a backgrounder on the Maguindanao Massacre, click here.

Ed Lingao started with a video that showed how powerful the Ampatuans are even after the Maguindanao Massacre was publicized. Many of the Ampatuans related to the massacre are now in jail waiting to be convicted. But while they are resting their butts inside the prison, 10 of them still managed to run during the last elections in 2010 and 8 of them actually won. 42 Ampatuans were elected around the Philippines — most of which ran for positions in Shariff Agwak, the fort of the Ampatuans.

The Ampatuan is a politically and economically powerful family with properties all over the country, money stashed everywhere (they’re not very fond of banks, so go look for moolah in their vaults) and a firm grip on Maguindanao. Their lawyer, Fortun, says otherwise. He said he didn’t ASK the exact monetary value of the Ampatuans under his care so he’s not so sure how rich they are, but I just think he was too afraid to ask.

They have a firm hold of the entire Maguindanao province — one of the most impoverished provinces in the country, with most residents not having enough to eat or enough means to support themselves. But take note that this is one of the areas which is heavily funded by our government. Last 2010, 3.42 Billion from the Filipinos’ hard-earned taxes were allotted to Maguindanao. And yet, there is no slight development in the situation of the people. They are still hungry, children can’t afford to go to school, not enough social services. Hey! Some of their employees don’t even get paid for a time! Imagine working almost for free.

And as the people go hungry, the Ampatuans are able to expand their properties, acquire high-tech guns and ammunition, and fund a private army composed of vigilantes hired by the government. Hey!  They are even rich enough to hire Fortun (and maybe Fortun should consider that). And they even have a mosque inside one of their houses! Regular people, eh Fortun?

So what drives these horrific people to still be in power?

First and foremost, our own government. They are kept in power because they keep the higher-ups in power. 1.3 Million voters — that  is really something to think about when you’re running for president.

As Sir Ed Lingao said, the Filipino citizens are also responsible for people such as the Ampatuans to stay in power. They are there because we voted for them to be there. They are there because we forget that their purpose is to serve our communities — and this service is not a charity-work or privilege for them to give. They are there because we turn a blind eye to the horrendous things they do — or we accept their actions as if to say, “It’s okay that he killed my neighbor. He gave me money so he should be a good guy and I’ll vote for him” or “Ms. so and so is so great because she gave us a TV and so I’ll forget that she got my brother stabbed”. We don’t hold them accountable for their actions. So my fellow countrymen, the next time you vote please consider this: your vote, your politician, your responsibility. And since s/he is your responsibility, you must hold her accountable for every crap s/he does.

Ms. Cristina Palabay commented that many of the massacres around the Philippines are state-perpetuated. Many of them are supported or even initiated by the government officials. In the Jabidah Massacre, 200 soldiers from Sulu were killed as instructed by Marcos for abandoning their mission to capture Sabah. 7 farmers were killed and 27 had gun shots in the Hacienda Luisita Massacre in 2004 because they were fighting (with stones and sticks against the heavy armaments of the police and the military) for their right to own the lands that they have tilled across the years — which is, by the way, is rightfully theirs because Hacienda Luisita was bought by the Cojuangcos (related to the Aquinos) using government money with the promise to give these lands to the farmers after several years. As the Cojuangcos stay in the economic echelons of the country, and the Aquinos stay in their political seats, they keep an iron hand on these lands. So hard is their grip that they’d cast the first shot at the bare farmers.

To know more about the crap of the Aquino-Cojuangcos, click here.

When the most revered mother-hen Aquino — Cory Aquino — was in power, 13 unarmed farmers were shot in Mendiola during a rally. In the regime of Cory’s son — Noynoy Aquino — there are already 65 victims of extrajudicial killings. So that’s what he was been busy with for the past year. Instead of doing true and good reforms, he gets people killed. Oh, but he also awarded the tree in front of his house! What an action man he is (*sarcasm*).

The political situation in the Philippines sounds like a shogunate (not exactly, but I’m trying to do an allegory here) with warlords, private armies and enslaved people. A lot of innocent people have been killed since the American colonization because they were fighting for their rights — rights that clash with the greediness of rich people. Conflict of interest, as Marx said (oh shit! I’m gonna be marked as a communist *sarcasm*). In Arroyo’s term alone, around 1,200 were victims of extrajudicial killings — and she even hunted down, with her pet Jovito Palparan, students, farmers, ordinary people.

The military gets top one in the National Budget and still they get the people killed . Lest they forget, their salaries and benefits come from the people who work and pay taxes which go to the National Budget. And these hounds don’t really protect the people (which should be their job), but put them in danger instead. And by the way, with the tons of massacres in the country, none of those responsible have been convicted. Makes you feel safe, doesn’t it? (*sarcasm*)

For my last call: End Impunity! Do not let these people kill more people.

And a few quotes from Sir Ed Lingao:

“Journalism is about change”.

“Filipinos have fallen in love with revolutions. But real change comes from one’s self”.