History Beneath the Earth

Oct 12, 2012 by

In the coming weeks, my students in Humanities from the University of the Philippines Visayas will be our featured writers/researchers for the topics they have prepared as part of their Course Output. It is my pleasure to share their well-written stories about the different towns/places in Iloilo. 

For centuries, ancient history has been handed down by our ancestors for generations after generations. These foretold stories of brave heroes and legends have captured the minds of children.  However, do these myths and folklore could really tell our real account of olden times or is it just a fallacy of tales?

Twenty-nine kilometers from Iloilo City lays the humble town of Guimbal. With its rich culture and the famous Bantayan Festival, no written history of this town had been discovered. Folklores and mythical stories of the older generations were just verbally transmitted without evidence verifying it. Its deemed history may be influenced by politics and personal interest.

What the Guimbalanons don’t know about their town is that its’ history is gradually being discovered. It started on the day during early 90’s when a lowly farmer struck a porcelain jar while he is plowing the field. Mr. Samson Gilo Jr., the owner of the lot, decided to have an excavation on the place and it was found out that a lot more artifacts and even human remains were buried there.  It was then when they finally realized that the area was a pre-Spanish burial site. Based on the artifacts like the vases, jars, bracelets, plates and bowls that were unearthed reflects the Ming dynasty civilization and Chinese symbols and figures.

Binanwaan, a barangay in Guimbal where the burial site was discovered, derived its name from the karay-a word “Binanwahan” which means “where the town was built”. According to our informants, Binanwaan is a place where Malays settled and built a town provided that the place is surrounded by rivers which makes it an ideal place for living. This could be the reason why the burial site on Mr. Gilo’s lot exists. Also, based on the excavation, the Chinese relics prove that Chinese merchants have reached the place and did their trade business. This also justifies the belief that ancient people carry with them their possessions in their death. This history was vindicated as proven by the excavation on the site.

A mysterious incident happened when Mr. Gilo decided to bring all those artifacts in his house. Everyone on their house felt weird and their dogs howled all night. Also, Mr. Samson Gilo Jr. said he couldn’t sleep and felt fretful for days after he placed all those artifacts under his bed. The family believed that maybe the spirits on those relics were disturbed on the excavation. However, those anxious feelings ended when they finally sold those artifacts that were believed from ancient China.

Likewise, another burial site was discovered in Barangay Bongol San Miguel, Guimbal. Loads of artifacts such as jars, fishbone bracelets, plates, spears and cigarette pipes were excavated from the site. The locals who live near the area believe that those artifacts were also the “paba-on” of the ancestors. The bone remains that were also dugout have long femurs so it was believed that those remains were not from the local natives or “negritos” but from other races. From this, it can be concluded that even before Malays came to Guimbal, many other races have invaded the town and settled on the area.

This conclusion was also supported by the article of Willis E. Sibley, an archeologist who excavated the ancient graves in Bongol San Miguel. Still many other graves have not been uncovered, but in the areas of present cultivation human bones come to the surface with buried artifacts, a fragmented cranium, some facial bones, rib and arm bones and even a full skeleton were found. According to an article of Mrs. Athea V. Landar, a local researcher, the surface finds included (1) a complete early Ming or late Yuan bowl, (2) about 30%  of a heavy green monochrome plates, heavily glazed and about 24.5 cm or (9 5/8”) in diameter when whole, possibly of the fifteenth century; (3) fragments of two pieces pottery, probably of Sawankhalok manufacture placing them in the twelfth to fifteenth century time range, (4) small bits of bowl covers (marked by unglazed interiors and an edge which appears to be part of an in fitting bowl cover). All these excavated materials are now with the Anthropological Division of Philippine National Museum. Presently, the site is an agricultural lot (Regalado and Quintin, 1973).

It is sad that only a handful of folks know about the discovery of the ancient graveyards. Nevertheless, it seemed the authorities didn’t give much attention to it. Mr. Samson Gilo Jr. disclosed that it is possible that a number of artifacts and relics still lay in the site until now. The fact that they only excavated the small area they own, it is really possible that a large number of remains still exist underneath the neighboring lots in the site. Moreover, these graveyards can be a valuable tool in finally recording the true history of the town with concrete evidences. These graveyards may be a small step, but it’s a step anyway. If only authorities took notice and interest to them and make a move in discovering more from it, this small step can become a big leap to a richer and more reliable historical record of Guimbal.

Ancient Graveyard in Bongol San Miguel, Guimbal Iloilo.

Pre-Spanish Graveyard in Binanwaan, Guimbal, Iloilo

Chinese Artifacts from Bongol San Miguel Ancient Graveyard

Chinese Artifacts from Bongol San Miguel Ancient Graveyard

Chinese Artifacts from Bongol San Miguel Ancient Graveyard


  1. Eugene Jamerlan

    Hello! I am with the heritage council of Iloilo (ICCHCC). The round boxes with the lid decorated with a finial are Sawankhalok covered boxes with a black underglaze most probably done in the Sisatchanelai kilns in Thailand of a short-lived kiln production (14th to 15th century). According to Ming-Jung Kim, curator of the Asian Arts and Design Exhibit of the Powerhouse Museum in Brisbane, Australia (November 2009)the design of the covered round boxes followed the form of Indian stone and metal Buddhist reliquaries. These are part of the export trade Thailand was involved with in the Philippines and Indonesia.

  2. admin

    Sir Eugene, thank you for dropping by and leaving such precious notes on these artifacts. We hope to collaborate with the ICCHCC soon and see how we can be of help on the virtual platform. More power and God bless!

  3. Athea V. Landar

    Nice to read this article. Hope this could help future researchers and of course the people of Guimbal, Iloilo to know more about their heritage. Kudos to the admin.

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