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WHERE TWO SEAS MEET:  Searching for Ancient Wisdom and the use of Virtual Archaeology

Among the highlights of the Oceanic and Southeast Asian Navigators (OCSEAN)* 2023 International Conference were the conversations and dialogues navigating the seas between science and metaphysics. But, wait, do I hear condescending voices doubting, arguing that one has to be enrolled in top University, abroad, and somewhere in the first world – and definitely with an equal degree to boot to afford to casually and candidly question a top scientist and manage to let out some honest response from him, without being patronized? True, but not always. Because OCSEAN 2023 made those conversations a possibility and real, happening in the thick of rainforest of Lamlifew, Malungon ancestral domain of the charming B’laan.

A high-and-hard science research presented, however, I would never forget I heard in Tboli ancestral town, from University of Kentucky anthropologist Dr. Hugo Reyes-Centeno of his use of X-ray Microtomography (X-ray Phase Contrast Tomography – XPCT). He explained how this complicated imaging computer machine successfully and unobtrusively unscrolled – actually, virtually unwrapped – the 1900 year-old charred remnants of Herculaneum Papyri, retrieved from the bed of Dead Sea after Mount Visuvius erupted. The delicate scroll cannot be pried by bare hands let alone be flattened to see what mystical writings they bore, and be made accessible to read. But X-ray and computer machines scanned and digitally reconstructed its contents. My thoughts raced and flew to the tampat (holy shrines) studied by Dr Benhar Tahil and relics of kitab (books) of the awliyah and perhaps extant siyulatan Sug (mystic literature) that might still be retrievable if at all such processes of exhumation are ever permissible by the ulama.

But what impressed me most is Dr. Hugo Reyes-Centeno’s optimism in the applicability of this technology as paleontological instrument to study the inner structures of ancient bones. One of his examples – and read carefully, this one is where searching for ancient spirituality will be exciting – is the examination of the inner ear anatomy of the Homo Luzonensis (last pleistocene human?). He revealed that the machine, operating just like our more familiar CT-scanner, scanned the coils of the inner ear of an ancient skull! And I could not contain my excitement that I had to know if his findings could possibly infer of probable differences of hearing capabilities between ancient human and us, modern homos? Yes, indeed, he said, there is such an indication of probability (many studies have been done). And so with this advance technology, could we possibly further discover — hypothetically assuming that ancient people were equipped with better hearing anatomy that made them capable of sensing frequencies of the “unseen” world of spirits and the creative divine command of ‘Kun. Faya Kun.’ (Be. And it is!) that prophets and awliya were not veiled from — and possibly ‘isolate’ if not reconstruct the frequency of sound of ‘ghaib’ (unseen world) and perhaps through some auditory manipulation by gadgets or devices allow us to communicate unhampered and without ever needing another human medium in the future? 

Remember, in his search of ilmuh laduni – the one true knowledge, Nabi Musa AS was instructed to go where the “Two Seas Meet” and there in this very junction, the dead fish jumped back to life…So who knows?. Hu Knows.

(Mucha-Shim Lahaman Quiling is Chief Executive Officer and Senior Researcher of Sulu Current Research Institute and Sharif Ul hashim Incorporated. She is also the secretary of the Sangguniang Bayan ng Jolo.  She taught at the Ateneo de Zamboanga University from 1991 to 2011 and the Mindanao State University-Tawi-Tawi College of Technology and Oceanography from 2014 to 2018. She is the founder of the Lumah Ma Dilaut schools for living tradition. She belongs to the clan of Panglima Saipudin from Laminusa, Siasi, Sulu on her maternal side and of the sharifin clan of Habib Hadji Jalani Halaman (Abdurahaman) of Pata and Silangkan, Sulu. 

*Sweden-based Dr. Maximillian Larena of Uppsala University and the Oceanic and Southeast Asian Navigators (OCSEAN) Philippines organized an international Conference on Language, Genes, Culture, History, and Community Heritage from June 4 to 12, 2023 in four different venues in three cities in Mindanao. The aim is to advance our understanding on human origins, history, and diversity in the Asia Pacific region using data from archaeology, anthropology, history, linguistics, and genomics. Hosts included the Davao Medical School Foundation and local government units of Tagum City and Tboli Municipality. The Sulu Current Research Institute-Sharif Ul Hashim Inc. from Sulu Archipelago was invited to speak in a session on Cultural Anthropology and Local History on June 7 where it presented a study on the ethnogenesis of the Sama of Sulu Archipelago through the local narratives of Sulu navigators and voyagers especially the mythical Seven Sages (Wali Pitu) who came on a ship called Lumpang Basih.

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