Callao Cave in Cagayan declared an ‘important cultural property’
MANILA, Philippines — A cultural marker will be unveiled at the Callao Cave complex in Peñablanca town, Cagayan province, on Thursday, officially recognizing the cave as an “important cultural property” of the country.
The National Museum of the Philippines will lead the unveiling of the marker, along with the team of scientists behind the excavation of the fossils of the Homo luzonensis, a previously unknown human species, from the cave.
While the museum has declared the Callao Cave as an important cultural property through an ordinance, the marker, along with the official declaration, has yet to be placed on site.
One of the limestone caves in Peñablanca, Callao Cave is a seven-chamber cave and is part of the town’s protected landscape and seascape.
Last year, it gained prominence after scientists confirmed the discovery of a new human species that lived between 50,000 and 67,000 years ago, from fossils dug up in the cave by a team led by Armand Salvador Mijares, a scientist from the University of the Philippines.
Mijares began his excavation at Callao Cave in 2003 and unearthed a breakthrough four years later, after digging up a foot bone that belonged to a human.
In the next few years, his team made up of Filipino, French and Australian archeologists would excavate 13 fossil bones and teeth, which turned out to be the remains of at least three individuals from this new species.
Mijares said the declaration for Callao Cave was only a “first step” in recognizing the importance of this complex in the country and in the region.
The highest category of cultural properties in the country, under the cultural heritage law, is the “national cultural treasure.”
“I want Callao to be in that level because Tabon Cave is at that level … I think [they] should be at par,” Mijares said.
Located in Palawan province, Tabon Cave was where the Manunggul Jar and the fossil of the Tabon Man, identified as a species of Homo sapiens, were excavated.
Mijares also expressed hope that the recognition of Callao Cave would allow for more protection and preservation of the cave system, where some areas are already drying up due to deforestation above the cave.
The absence of trees, he said, can lead to more rockfall and can result in the potential collapse of the cave, if its situation continues to worsen.
He said his team would begin excavating again in Callao on Feb. 10, in hopes of digging up more new discoveries.
“Hopefully, [our work] educates and invigorates that sense of nationality and pride of Filipinos,” Mijares said.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.