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sinalakIn 2004, while conducting a regular archaeological excavation at Dewil Valley, Dr. Jun Cayron, a member of Palawan Island Paleo-History Project, found a turtle-shaped jar in Sinalakan Karst. Dewil Valley is located in New Ibajay, El Nido, Palawan and home to the most important archaeological site in Northern Palawan at present, Ille Cave. This discovery was very significant since led us to a new understanding on how early settlers of Dewil view their environment.

Just Recently, the group discovered in the same cave 2alleged legs of the said jar. Because of this, Dr. Victor Paz, the head of the said project, suggested that it was not a turtle but a bird. Dr. Helen Lewis, the co-leader of the group disagreed with him. She insisted that it was a turtle. Aside from this, Dr. Cayron discovered lots of turtles in another cave of the same karst. This finding supported the idea of Dr. Lewis.

Though, this debate is still dividing the view of the archaeologists until now, one thing is already certain: El Nido has now another unique artifact. [Arvin L. Acosta, LGU]

Taong 2010 nang magkaroon ng field school sa Sibaltan ang mga estudyante ng arkeyologo na mula sa University of Washington [UW]. Pinangunahan ng University of the Philippines – Archaeological Studies Program [UP-ASP] ang paghuhukay  at nagpadala rin ng mga kinatawan ang mga pamantasan sa Timog-Silang Asya at Korea. Matapos nilang matuklasan ang pamayanang nabuhay noong 500-1,500 na taon ang nakararaan, naglagay sila ng espasyo para sa Sibaltan Community Museum sa loob ng Barangay Hall.

Pagtapos ng dalawang taon, bumalik ang isang kinatawan ng UW, Si Lace Thornberg, para magsagawa ng workshop para palawigin ang Museong Bayan. Nais ni Lace na magkaroon ng tatlong uri ng exhibit sa museo: arkeolohikal, kultural and ekolohikal. Katulong ni Lace ang Municipal Tourism Office at ang grupong “Kamiyan” sa nasabing proyekto. Ang Kamiyan [Kalikasan ay Alagaan, Mahalin at Ingatan, Yaman natin YAN] ay ang grupong itinatag upang alagaan ang Marine Protected Area [MPA] ng Sibaltan.

Sa kasalukuyan, nasa ika-apat na workshops na ang mga mamamayan ng Sibaltan. Nagsimula ang unang workshop noong Abril 8, 2012 at ang huli ay noong Mayo 13. Nakatakda na rin ang dokumentaryo ng mga traditional na awit at tradisyunal na paraan ng panggagamot sa May 16.

Masaya ang mga taga-Sibaltan sa pag-kalap ng mga kuwento at kasaysayan ng lugar. Ngayon ay unti-unti nilang natatanto ang halaga ng mga ordinaryong bagay na ginagawa na kasalukuyan at nakaraan. At bandang huli, inaasahang sila na rin ang magkukusang panatilihin ang kulturang kinagisnan upang paunlarin ang industriyang turismo sa lugar at upang maipamana ang kulturang yaman sa sunod na henerasyon.

El Nido was first spotted on archaeology’s radar in 1922 when Carl Guthe of the University of Michigan made an enthnographic and archaeological survey in Palawan. This was followed in 1965, when Dr. Robert Fox discovered the “Yawning Jar”  of Leta-Leta Cave in Lagen Island. After 33 years of silence, El Nido archaeology started to take shape when Dr. Victor Paz, head of University of the Philippines-Archaeological Studies Program[UP-ASP], led annual excavations that started in 1998 at Dewil Valley. Solheim Foundation and the National Museum worked hand in hand to make it happen. Partner universities from France, Italy, Greece, Belgium, Ireland and Azerbaijan sent experts and graduate students to the said project.

The efforts led to the discovery of Sinalakan Turtle, 7,000-9,000 year-old cremation sites, 12,000-14,000 year-old cultural deposits and the remains a pantera tigris. In 2005, Ille Rockshelter in Dewil Valley started to attract more tourists, mostly adventurers and students. Seeing the tourism potential of the area, the Local Government Unit [LGU] bought a hectare of land beside the base camp for the proposed site museum.

On May 15, 2009, Dr. Victor Paz, Dr. Helen Lewis, a representative from the University of Dublin, and Arvin Acosta, Tourism Officer of El Nido, explored potential archaeological sites in Sibaltan, namely, Guinleng Open Site, Tapanan Open Site, Santa Monica Natural Keep and the Elementary School’s Open Site. The team agreed to have a base camp at the Elementary School’s Open Site and another excavation at Tapanan Open Site. The proposed expansion sites will serve as test pits for students from the University of Washington and from South East Asian universities.

Sibaltan Test Pit Project will practice a different system of storing archaeological finds. Artifacts and ecofacts that are not needed in laboratory tests will be stored and displayed in the Barangay Hall of Sibaltan instead of  Solheim’s house in Calitang. The said storage will serve as a small community-managed museum.

On December 12, 2009, a meeting between Dr. Victor Paz, Arvin Acosta and Raul Maximo of Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff [PCSDS] was held in Lally and Abet Cottages. They discussed how UP-ASP, the LGU and PCSD will work together to realize the proposed expansion. UP-ASP hopes to discover more about El Nido’s pre-history, the LGU anticipates more livehood for the community while PCSDS keeps an eye to preserve the place’s eco-system. Nevertheless, they are all exited to make the project happen in 2010. [Arvin Acosta, LGU]

In 1965, Dr. Robert B. Fox discovered a unique artifact in Leta-Leta Cave at Lagen Island, El Nido, Philippines. This artifact is an earthen jar that resembles a yawning man. This is the reason why archaeologists called it “The Yawning Jar.” The said treasure in now under the care of the Philippine National Museum.

Estimated to have existed in 265 BC, the ancient piece deserves the same respect and prestige enjoyed by the Manunggul Jar, who now sits as icon of Philippine archaeology. Unfortunately, the said artifact remained hidden inside the four corners of the museum for four decades.

However, recent discoveries at Ille Cave prompted El Nido Municipal Tourism Office to push the Yawning Jar to the forefront of the municipality’s tourism industry. Being the symbol of El Nido’s rich archaeological finds, the yawning art piece hopes to lure visitors to Leta-Leta Cave, Ille Rockshelter and Sibaltan Open Site.

The meaning behind that yawn is still a puzzle for the experts. There is a hypothesis that it was accidentally deformed and the potter decided to mold it into a yawning face. Still the yawn remained a mystery. Perhaps, it asks for a bountiful harvest. And, I hope it’s not a symbol of a sleepy ancient tribe. [Arvin L. Acosta, LGU]

Sa Dewil Valley, New Ibajay, El Nido, Palawan matatagpuan ang kuweba ng Ille, Istar at Makangit. Sa mga nabanggit, ang kweba ng Ille ang pinakamahalagang archaeological site El nido. Dito makikita ang:

  1. Mga labi ng tao na nagkaka-idad ng 12,000 taon.
  2. Mga bakas ng cremation 7,000-9,000 taon na ang nakalipas. Ito’y tinatayang pinakamatanda sa Timog-Silangang Asya.
  3. Mga labi ng tigre na kauna-unahang natagpuan sa Pilipinas. Nagpapatunay ito na may lupang nag-ugnay sa Palawan at Borneo daan libong taon na nakalipas.

Ang paghuhukay arkeyolohikal sa Dewil Valley ay nagsimula noong 1998 sa pagsusumikap ni Dr. Wilhelm Solheim. Ito ay ginagawa taon-taon hanngang ngayon tuwing buwan ng Abril at Mayo. Pinangungunahan ni Dr. Victor Paz ng University of the Philippines-Archaeological Studies Program [UP-ASP] ang nasabing paghuhukay. Kasama rin nila si Dr. Helen Lewis ng University of Dublin at iba pang mga arkeyologo mula sa iba’t ibang unibersidad sa labas ng bansa.

Karagdagang atraksyon ang Dewil Valley sa El Nido. Isa ito sa mga pinupuntahan ng mga turista maliban sa magagandang isla, dalampasigan, taraw, talon, hotspring at gubat. [Arvin L. Acosta, LGU, Photo Credits: UP-ASP]

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