Sunday, August 01, 2004

'Apo' Bill Longacre: A Friend to Filipinos

published at BusinessWorldOnline

MANILA, PHILIPPINES | Monday, August 2, 2004

'Apo' Bill Longacre: A Friend to Filipinos

Ph.D. Candidate in Anthropology
University of Arizona

Last 13 December 2003, 40 years after receiving his doctorate in anthropology from the University of Chicago and after being invited by the late eminent Emil J. Haury to teach archaeology at the University of Arizona (U. of A) Department of Anthropology; a roast and scholarship fundraiser was held for Dr. William "Bill" A. Longacre at the historic Manning House in Tucson, Arizona.

The successful launch of the W.A. Longacre Scholarship Fund for anthropology students at the same university honors Bill Longacre, who retired in June 2004 after a very accomplished career in the field of archaeology and anthropological education.

Many of the top archaeologists and anthropologists from all over the United States such as Raymond Thompson, Ezra Zubrow, P. Bion-Griffin, Norman Yoffee, Bill Rathje, John Olsen, Alan Sullivan, Patty Jo Watson, Margaret Nelson, Steven Kuhn, and others paid homage while roasting him that night.

Members of the Filipino-American Students Association (FASA) at the University of Arizona also provided a selection of Philippine ethnic dances to the delight of Bill Longacre and the guests.

Bill Longacre, Uncle Willie to generations of students at the U. of A, Tito Bill or Apo Bill to his students at the University of the Philippines, Diliman, in Kalinga, Sorsogon, Ilocos, and Dumaguete, among other locations in the Philippines, is one of the foremost archaeologists, not only in the United States, but in the world.

His accomplishments are legendary and span the theoretical and philosophical debates in archaeology in the 1950s, New Archaeology in the 1960s and 70s, and ethnoarchaeology in the 1980s, where his pottery research in Kalinga provided much fertile ground for the crystallization of the new theoretical field.

Bill started his academic career the day after getting his doctorate, when the U. of A hired him to teach and direct the long-established and highly regarded Grasshopper Field School in Arizona for the next 13 years. His work as Field School Director resulted in numerous publications including student dissertations and theses.

In one pueblo (town) ruin called the Carter Ranch Site, Longacre and his colleagues conducted one of the first case studies of "New Archaeology," wherein the distribution of painted pottery decoration was studied to learn more about the social organization of the pueblo residents.

Longacre with Paul Martin and his colleagues argued that pottery decoration could infer what gender made the pots, how pottery making skills were passed on through the generations, whether marriage was exogamous or not and so on, in other words, were micro-traditions in pottery decorations reflecting learning frameworks in a society (Longacre 1991)

When other archaeologists began to critique the theoretical foundations of New Archaeology, Bill initiated fieldwork in the Province of Kalinga; northern Philippines in 1973 to further explore the relations between material culture and human behavior. Bill recognized that the archaeological record may not directly reflect where and how pottery was made, used, and discarded.

Studying a present society that had a pottery production and use tradition could provide the desired information. The upland barangays (villages) of Dangtalan and Dalupa, Municipality of Pasil in Kalinga provided the ideal study sites, and the long-term Kalinga Ethnoarchaeological Project (KEP) was borne after a 1973 initial scoping trip.

Research continues to this date with many Filipino, American, and Asian archaeologists and graduate students studying and producing articles, books, theses, and dissertations on how indigenous peoples manufacture, use, and trade pottery in ways that resemble prehistoric societies.

Pottery studies provide many facets of the relationships between "variation in material culture and variation in behavior and organization" (Longacre 1991).

Specific areas studied by Longacre, his colleagues, and students include a strong link between age of potter and degree of complexity of pottery decoration, use-life of different types pf pots (larger pots survive longer than younger pots) as a dating tool, vessel breakage characteristics, refuse disposal behaviors, the phenomena of the switch to metal pots, craft specialization, even basketry production, and the implications of ecological and economic factors on pottery production, use, and distribution.

The 30-year old Kalinga research project (and still ongoing) has been used, referred to, and formed the basis for other research projects of an ethnoarchaeological nature. In fact, the Arizona State Museum has an extensive collection of Philippine materials and has permanently allotted a portion of its exhibition area to the Kalinga project, even though the museum's focus is primarily on the cultures of the Native Americans.

This Sigma Xi scholar's work at Grasshopper and Kalinga has been widely acclaimed. In 1971, while a visiting professor at Yale University, he was named Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Palo Alto, California. Later on, he was an Adjunct Professor for nearly a decade at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where several of his students now teach. He served as the Head of the Department of Anthropology at the U. of A from 1989 to 1998 and raised over a million dollars for scholarships. He was named the Fried A. Riecker Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and held the Chair until June 2004.

In 1994, he and former U. of A graduate student Patricia Crown were awarded the first Excellence in Ceramic Research given by the Society for American Archaeology. He was elected an Honorary Member of the American Ceramic Society in 1997. He was, until his retirement, the Director of Graduate Studies of the department. Tucson's Mayor recently awarded him a plaque of appreciation for scholarly excellence.

He was appointed visiting professor in the University of the Philippines, Diliman in the early 1980s, where he taught archaeology during the 1st semester of every year. In 1994, he also taught at Silliman University, Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental (Central Visayas). Many of the anthropologists/ archaeologists, including the author, have benefited from his lectures, comments, and advices.

His research in Kalinga has brought the place worldwide renown. The Kalinga Ethnoarchaeological Project (KEP) is a familiar refrain when ethnoarchaeological issues and studies are discussed. Because of Bill, there is a new generation of archaeologists who have made their names through their work in Kalinga, Sorsogon, and Ilocos Sur, such as James Skibo, Miriam Stark, Marc Neuport, Margaret Beck, Matt Hill, Ramon Silvestre, K. Quimpo, among others.

Not one to brag, but known only to his close friends and students, Bill is someone who has been generous not only with his knowledge, but with his time, and resources. He has financially supported countless American and Asian students, as well as Filipino students, both at the U. of A. and at UP. He is known to lobby and write letters of support for the student visas of Filipino students at the US embassy, to the point of accompanying them to the consul interview (and ask for scholarship donations from the consuls themselves!).

At the U. of A, his office is a virtual hangout of his students, including a handful of Asian and Filipino graduate students who have access to numerous book shelves of anthropological and archaeological books and papers. Every year when he returns to the Philippines, he does not fail to bring and donate boxes of books and resources for the UP Anthropology Department library, while purchasing Filipiniana books for the Arizona State Museum library (which is inside the U. of A. campus).

In the late '90s, after many years of lecturing at UP for free, the then enlightened Department chair insisted that Bill be paid a salary for his lectures no matter that it was a pittance for someone of his stature. Bill promptly used his UP salary to treat the faculty and staff and buy equipment, materials and books for the department. In fact, he donated one anthropology fieldschool's printer and computer.

In Kalinga, Bill used his own funds to help finance the schooling of Kalinga youth, provided research employment, financed the construction of various local infrastructure projects, brought in countless boxes of medicines, and help support the local economy in many ways. His graduate students have emulated his generosity in their own ways. Bill has been generous to a fault and never took offense when his generosity was abused.

Never one to lose his scruples, legend has it that one day in his Kalinga abode, some communist rebels came and demanded money from him. He haggled down the PhP100,000 demand to several thousands and with a cool demeanor, demanded a written receipt prior to "payment" as he had to liquidate the amount to the funding agency.

In retirement, Bill will be spending more time in the Philippines hopefully to continue his 1st semester courses at UP and to supervise some of his U. of A students who will be doing field research in the country.

Word has it though, that Apo Bill is being given the bureaucratic run around at UP. This would be a shame and tragedy if the free and sincere services of this world-class archaeologist and educator will not be availed of by UP. It is about time that UP, and the educational and anthropological communities in the Philippines, recognize his invaluable contribution to the field of archaeology in general and Philippine archaeology in particular.

Mabuhay ka, Apo Bill, at maraming, maraming salamat!