Homo Luzonensis

AS A MATTER OF FACT - Sara Soliven De Guzman - The Philippine Star

A report published on April 11 in the science journal Nature, with two senior authors, Florent Detroit of the Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris, and Armand Mijares of the Archeological Studies Program in UP Diliman announced the discovery of a new human species, Homo Luzonensis. This was found in Callao Cave, in Peñablanca, Cagayan and is said to date back some 50,000 years.

To backtrack, Roli Talampas of UP Asian Center shared this story. The skull cap remains of the “tabon man” found in Palawan was the oldest evidence of human residence in the Philippines until the “callao man” (which Mandy Mijares calls “Ubag”) came along from bone fragments of possibly three hominins, bipedal migrants from hypothesized origins that settled and/or passed away in Peñablanca, Cagayan province.

The tens of thousands of years of difference between the clearly homo sapiens “tabon man” and the hominin “Ubag” spells not only a spectacular scientific discovery but also a gigantic leap that may be causing Robert Fox who led the “tabon” cave team in the early 1960s to turn in his grave. As William Henry Scott once quipped that the “tabon man” dressed in Levi’s jeans may shop unnoticed in downtown Quiapo, the much older “Ubag” may be said to be nowadays worrying where to find trees to preserve an arboreal existence (especially for the young) that makes the third metatarsal bone shaped or figured for climbing, resulting in its convexity.

More than this, “Ubag” may possibly be the first unassailable evidence of migration via “maritime voyaging” that shows or requires higher cognitive capabilities than previously attributed to such evolutionary hominids or homos that left hardly a trace of stone tool technology.

With this, we may say that indeed archaeological studies in southeast Asia, if not in the world, has greatly benefited from the most recent finds in the Philippines.

Why “luzonensis”? “Ensis” is defined as “Latin adjectival suffix” denoting origin. Thus, common names of early fossil remains found in Asia from the erectus species have been appended the “ensis”, thus Peking man was sinanthropus pekinensis and Java man was homo erectus javanesis. Also tabon man was homo sapiens palawanesis.  “Ubag” (callao man) could be homo callaoensis, but homo luzonensis sounds better. Besides, the archaeological team that discovered Ubag reserved the right to name it, as did Johanson and Gray who named the young australopithecine girl found in Ethiopia “Lucy.” A 2016 online article “Hominin Taxonomy and Phylogeny: What’s In A Name?” in Nature Magazine may give more info to those interested.

This is history in the making. The world has its eyes on the Philippines.  Our country is once again on the map.  Congratulations to the University of the Philippines. It is the only university in our country with a program on Archeological Studies established in 1995 by Dr. Victor J. Paz. 

It’s about time the University under its dynamic president Danilo Concepcion turn this program into a School or Institution of Archeology noting the many unearthed treasures we have in our country. 

Kudos to all!

*      *      *

Yesterday was Palm Sunday. The day Jesus entered Jerusalem in triumph, riding on an ass, to be hailed by thousands who waved palms and threw flowers at his feet. Five days after, on Good Friday the same crowd was shouting, “Crucify him!” One clear demonstration of how fast people can change their minds, their loyalties, their beliefs.

It is the Holy Week. It is time for reflection and transformation. This week we should heed the call to holiness. Pope Francis in his book Gaudete et Exsultate said that to be holy does not require being a bishop, a priest or a religious. That is not the case. We are all called to be holy by living our lives with love and by bearing witness in everything we do, wherever we find ourselves. Are you called to the consecrated life? Be holy by living out your commitment with joy. Are you married? Be holy by loving and caring for your husband or wife, as Christ does for the Church. Do you work for a living? Be holy by laboring with integrity and skill in the service of your brothers and sisters. Are you a parent or grandparent? Be holy by patiently teaching the little ones how to follow Jesus. Are you in a position of authority? Be holy by working for the common good and renouncing personal gain.

He continues, “This holiness to which the Lord calls you will grow through small gestures. At times, life presents great challenges. Through them, the Lord calls us anew to a conversion that can make his grace more evident in our lives, “in order that we may share his holiness” (Heb 12:10). A Christian cannot think of his or her mission on earth without seeing it as a path to holiness, for “this is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thess 4:3). Each saint is a mission, planned by the Father to reflect, and embody, at a specific moment in history, a certain aspect of the Gospel. In the end, it is Christ who loves in us, for “holiness is nothing, other than charity lived to the full.” As a result, “the measure of our holiness stems from the stature that Christ achieves in us, to the extent that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we model our whole life on his.”

It is not healthy to love silence while fleeing interaction with others, to want peace and quiet while avoiding activity, to seek prayer while disdaining service. Everything can be accepted and integrated into our life in this world and become a part of our path to holiness. Anything done out of anxiety, pride or the need to impress others will not lead to holiness. The presence of constantly new gadgets, the excitement of travel and an endless array of consumer goods at times leave no room for God’s voice to be heard. We are overwhelmed by words, by superficial pleasures and by an increasing din, filled not by joy but rather by the discontent of those whose lives have lost meaning. 

Let’s have a more reflective holy week this time around. Our country needs a renewed spirit from its people. God please continue to bless and protect us!



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