Sunday, October 2, 2011

Angono Petroglyphs in Binangonan

What are petroglyphs? They are pictogram images or symbols created by removing part of a rock surface by incising, picking, carving, and abrading. In other words, rock carvings. Petroglyphs are found world-wide, and are often associated with prehistoric people.

The word comes from the Greek words petro meaning "stone", and glyphein meaning "to carve". The oldest petroglyphs are found in Azerbaijan and Ukraine, carved between 10,000 to 12,000 years ago.

Not many Filipinos are aware that we also have post-Stone Age petroglyphs, situated in the boundary of Angono and Binangonan in Rizal province. Our national artist from Angono, Carlos "Botong" Francisco, had accidentally seen it on March 1965 while resting in a rock shelter in the company of boy scouts.

Above photo with turtle and lizard pictograms is a portion of the Angono petroglyphs. Below are other rock carvings believed to be depicting a healing ritual of the early people, where a human figure is surrounded by shamans and other people.

The Angono petroglyphs are the oldest known artwork in the country, believed to be carved by early settlers in our archipelago, belonging to either Austronesian (Malay) or Melanesian (Aeta/Negrito) group of people.

There are 127 human and animal figures engraved on the rockwall dating back to 3000 B.C., after carbon dating was conducted by authorities to verify their authenticity. These inscriptions clearly show stylized human figures, turtles, frogs and other designs that may have depicted other interesting figures, but erosion through hundreds of years may have destroyed some of it.

In 1973 by virtue of Presidential Decree No. 260, the petroglyph was declared as a national cultural treasure by the Philippine government. During that time, a team led by the National Museum of the Philippines started archaeological site conservation and site development of the petroglyphs in which a mini-museum, viewdeck and stone path among others were constructed.

The preservation and development of the Angono Petroglyphs is a collective effort of the National Museum of the Philippines (NMP), the Department of Tourism, World Monuments Fund, and the American Express.

To see the petroglyphs, I took my wife and siblings to a side trip in the highlands of Binangonan, prior to seeing our relatives in the area. We entered the East Ridge golf course, near the Thunderbird Resort, as shown on the map below.

Then, the guard directed us to the site of the man-made tunnel, which we have to negotiate in semi-darkness. As its been raining and with aftermath of typhoon Quiel, the path is muddy and quite slippery. 

After about 300m walk, we finally saw the "hidden" welcome sign and museum, where we have to pay minimal fees as shown on the second photo below.

The museum also displays a few artifacts gathered from other towns of Rizal, as well as a display of the early settlers' writings from Palawan. They include remains of prehistoric animals, ancient potteries, fossilized wood, and a black stone found on the rock wall's cave, believed to be a tool used by the ancient rock carvers.

Then visitors can easily climb the stairs that lead to the rock wall shelter, where the petroglyphs may be seen from a fenced viewdeck. Unfortunately when the area was not yet protected, some unconscientious modern-day Filipinos have vandalized the right lower portion of the petroglyphs, failing to realize the historical significance of the rock wall carvings.

According to the NMP guy who assisted us, a person has to crawl to fit inside the caves, which are less than 5m deep. Meaning, the caves could have only served as tool closets, and perhaps as temporary shelter during heavy storms.

Below are some photos of the viewdeck and the museum from the top.

Then a short walk back to the tunnel again. 

Angono being the birthplace of many national artists and painters, as well as the site of our oldest petroglyphs, truly deserves the title of "Arts Capital of the Philippines".

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1 comment:

  1. Nothing short of amazing! Sadly, I have not seen it yet but will make sure to check it our when we're back in Pinas :)