TWHS: Petroglyphs and Petrographs of the Philippines

After a loooong drive from Banaue and the Rice Terraces World Heritage Site, we arrived back in Manila with just enough time to spare to seek out one last site on the Philippines’ Tentative List, near Angono a couple hours southeast:

Petroglyphs and Petrographs of the Philippines

Petroglyphs and Petrographs of the Philippines

 

These petroglyphs are of animate figures interpreted as representing juveniles or infants on a rock face in a rock shelter. The shelter is located southeast of the city of Manila, three kilometers from the town of Angono, and some 235 meters above sea level.  The shelter if formed by quaternary volcanics, located on the eastern limb of an anticline. The cave faces 305 degrees west and measures 632. 84 meters, 4.68 meters in height and 8.2 meters in depth. The cave was formed at the close of the Pleistocene, early part of the Holocene, at a period when the quaternary alluvium was not yet extensive.

The petroglyphs occupy 25 meters of the rockwall with a height of 3.7 meters from the floor level. The engravings are executed into all the available space on the wall with no orientation nor association with one another. There are no relationships in scale and size, and no baseline.

The engravings are made on the tuff layer of the wall with “v” and “u” cross sections, depending on the sizes of the images, the largest of which is 63 centimeters. There is no attempt at making relieves. The general typology of the images is a rounded head on a narrow neck, rectangular body with a lower taper, linear flexed limb with three digits each. There is a total of 127 still discernable figures. There are non-cognitive incisions. There are 51 distinct types.

The engravings are not decorative but are symbolic representations, executed by different individuals using a single mental template, apparently with the same cultural persuasion.  Associated with healing and sympathetic magic.

The dating of the petroglyphs is probably late Neolithic Age. Only highly fragmented low-fired pottery was recovered, a number of Paleolithic cobble and flaked tools, and Neolithic Age polished adzes. The Philippine Neolithic ranges from 6000 BC to 2000 BC…

You have to be watching very carefully to catch the turnoff, as there’s simply a gravel parking lot and a small sign; but when you look closer you’ll see there’s a tunnel underneath the ridge the road follows, and on the other side you’ll find the overhang pictured above, and under it:

Petroglyphs and Petrographs of the Philippines

 

And when you get up close, why yes the overhang is covered in carvings:

Petroglyphs and Petrographs of the Philippines

We didn’t count them individually, but 127 seems about the right number, they extend for a good ways along the cliff:

Petroglyphs and Petrographs of the Philippines

You’ll have to bring your foreknowledge of art appreciation with you, as the exhibits on site are, well, completely pictured above. That’s the nifty thing about this site ticking quest of ours: One day we’re trudging across mountaintops and regarding miles wide vistas of rice terraces —

— the next day we’re tucked up under an outcropping by a golf course peering to make out foot high scratches in the rock!

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p dir=”ltr”>So whilst this might not be the most epic sight to be had in the Philippines, it is literally the most historic, and it’s convenient to Manila too, something different to spend a few hours visiting!

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Alex Curylo

Alex

I go places.

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