Haligi | Text by Gregg Alfonso Abbang and posters by Timothy James Vitales | NMP Archaeology Division

Haligi (Postholes)

In line with the celebration of Buwan ng Wikang Pambansa, the National Museum of the Philippines last week featured a Philippine word each week with its corresponding archaeological significance. Today, the National Museum are highlighting “haligi”, a word embedded in the Tagalog, Aklanon, Hiligaynon, and Cebuano languages.

The term “haligi” refers to pillar, post, column, or structural support. It belongs to the Austronesian language family and is closely derived from the Proto-Malayo-Polynesian word pronounced as /hadiRi/ meaning housepost.

In the Philippine languages, haligi translates to

  • harígi in Bikol,
  • adígi in Ilokano,
  • aríhi in Itawis,
  • arigi in Mansaka,
  • liley in Tirurayto,
  • arixi in Isneg
  • aregi in Dumaget

to name a few.

How are postholes  (haligi) formed?

After a sstructure’s abandonment, the remains of its posts will decay over time. The post’s organic components deteriorate or disintegrate, until becoming part of the surrounding sediments. What will eventually remain are just dark stains in the ground, which archaelogists examine in their excavations.

From an archaeological context, the haligi, usually in timber or stone, leaves a distinct trace in the form of postholes, which are valuable in studying prehistoric settlement outlines, patterns, or boundaries, as well as physical structures. The presence of postholes in rectangular, oval, circular, or straight arrangement indicates where an edifice once stood.

Postholes have been encountered in various archaeological sites in the country. The Batanes archaeological activities in 2003, led by Dr. Eusebio Dizon of the National Museum and Dr. Peter Bellwood of the Australian National University (ANU), uncovered terrace postholes at Savidug ijang (https://tinyurl.com/IjangsOfBatanes) in Sabtang Island. There were three recorded postholes, measuring around 20 cm across with a 30-cm depth, which could have accommodated timber columns, or the unique prismatic stones found in the area. Material evidence such as pottery and a glass bead located in one of the postholes were recovered from the site, suggesting human settlement in the past.

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