Pre Colonial Period
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Pre Colonial Period

THE DIM CENTURIES prior to Magellan's arrival in 1521 were formerly unknown to historians. It is only in recent years that history's frontiers have been explored by both historians and archaeologists. By means of intensive researchers in ancient Asian records and by new archaeological discoveries at various sites in the Philippine prehistory.

First Man in the Philippines. According to recent archaeological findings, man is ancient in the Philippines. He first came about 2500,000 B.C. during the Ice Age or Middle Pleistocene Period, by way of the land bridges which linked the archipelago with Asia. He was a cousin of the "Java Man," "Peking Man," and other earliest men in Asia. Professor H. Otley Beyer, eminent American authority on Philippine archaeology and anthropology, called him the "Dawn Man", for he appeared in the Philippines at the dawn of time.. Brawny and thickly-haired, the "Dawn Man", had no knowledge of agriculture. He lived by means of gathering wild edible plants, by fishing, and hunting. It is probable that he reached the Philippines while hunting. At that time the boars, deer, giant and pygmy elephants, rhinoceros, and other Pleistocene animals roamed in the country. Fossil relics of these ancient animals have been found in Pangasinan and Cagayan Valley.

In the course of unrecorded time the "Dawn Man" vanished, without leaving a trace. Until the present time his skeletal remains or artifacts have not yet been discovered by archaeologists. So far the oldest human fossil found in the Philippines is the skull cap of a "Stone-Age Filipino", about 22,000 years old. This human skull cap was discovered by Dr. Robert B. Fox, American anthropologist of the National Museum, inside Tabon Cave Palawan, on May 28, 1962. This human relic was called the "Tabon Man".

The Coming of the Negritos. Ages after the disappearance of the "Dawn Man", the Negritos from the Asian mainland peopled the Philippines. They came about 25,000 years ago walking dry-shod through Malay Peninsula. Borneo, and the land bridges. Centuries after their arrival, the huge glaciers of ice melted and the increased volume of water raised the level of the seas and submerged the land bridges. The Philippines was thus cut off from the Asian mainland. The Negritos lived permanently in the archipelago and became the first inhabitants.

The Negritos are among the smallest peoples on earth. They are below five feet in height, with black skin, dark kinky hair round black eyes, and flat noses. Because of their black color and short stature, they were called Negritos (little black people) by the Spanish colonizers. In the Philippines they are known as Aeta, Ati, or Ita.

The Negritos were a primitive people with a culture belonging to the Old Stone Age (Paleolithic). They wandered in the forests and lived by hunting, fishing, and gathering wild fruits and roots. Their homes were temporary sheds made of jungle leaves and branches of trees. They wore little clothing. They had no community in life, hence they developed no government, writing, literature, arts, and sciences. They possessed the crudest kind of religion which was a belief in fetishes. They made fire by rubbing two dry sticks together to give them warmth. They had no pottery and never cooked their food. However, they were among they were among the world's best archers, being skilled in the use of the bow and arrow.

The Indonesians, First Sea-Immigrants. After the submergence of the land bridges, another Asian people migrated to the Philippines. They were the maritime Indonesians, who belonged to the Mongoloid race with Caucasian affinities. They came in boats, being the first immigrants to reach the Philippines by sea. Unlike the Negritos, they were a tall people, with height ranging from 5 feet 6 inches to 6 feet 2 inches.

It is said that two waves of Indonesia migration reached the Philippines. The first wave came about 3000 B.C.; the second wave about 1000 B.C. The Indonesians who came in the first migratory wave were tall in stature, slender in physique, and light in complexion. Those in the second migratory wave were shorter in height, bulkier in body, and darker in color.

The Indonesian culture was more advanced than that of the Negritos it belonged to the New Stone Age (Neolithic). The Indonesians lived in grass-covered homes with wooden frames, built above the ground or on top of trees. They practised dry agriculture and raised upland rice, taro (gabi), and other food crops. Their clothing was made from beaten bark and decorated with fine designs. They cooked their food in bamboo tubes, for they knew nothing of pottery. Their other occupations were hunting and fishing. Their implements consisted of polished stone axes, adzes, and chisels. For weapons, they had bows and arrows, spears, shields, and blowguns (sumpit). They had one domesticated animal - the dog.

Exodus of the Malays to the Pacific World. The seafaring Malays also navigated the vast stretches of the uncharted Pacific, discovering and colonizing new islands, as far south as Africa and Madagascar. Their unchronicled and unsung maritime exploits impressed the British Orientalist A.R. Cowen, who wrote: "The Malays indeed were the Phoenicians of the East, and apparently made even longer hauls than the Semitic mariners, their oceanic elbowroom giving them more scope than the coasts of the Mediterranean and the Red Sea."

The prehistoric Malays were the first discoveries and colonizers of the Pacific world. Long before the time of Columbus and Magellan, they were already expert navigators. Although they had no compass and other nautical devices, they made long voyages, steering their sailboats by the position of the stars at night and by the direction of the sea winds by day.

Malayan Immigration to the Philippines. In the course of their exodus to the Pacific world, the ancient Malays reached the Philippines. They came in three main migratory waves. The first wave came from 200 B.C. to 100A.D. The Malays who came in this wave were the headhunting Malays, the ancestors of the Bontoks, Ilongots, Kalingas, and other headhunting tribes in northern Luzon. The second wave arrived from 100 A.D. to 13th century. Those who came in this migratory wave were the alphabet-using Malays, the ancestors of the Visayans, Tagalogs, Ilocanos, Bicolanos, Kapampangans, and other Christian Filipinos. The third and last wave came from the 14th to 16th century A.D. The Muslim Malays were in this migratory wave and they introduced Islam into the Philippines.

The Malays. Daring and liberty-loving, the Malays belonged to the brown race. They were medium in height and slender in physique, bur were hardy and supple. They had brown complexion, with straight black hair, dark brown eyes, and flat noses.

Culturally, the Malays were more advanced than the Negritos and the Indonesians, for they possessed the Iron Age culture. They introduced into the Philippines both lowland and highland methods of rice cultivation, including the system of irrigation; the domestication of animals (dogs, fowls, and carabaos); the manufacture of metal tools and weapons; pottery and weaving; and the Malayan heritage (government, law, religion, writing, arts, sciences, and customs). They tattooed their bodies and chewed betelnuts. They wore dresses of woven fabrics and ornamented themselves with jewels of gold, pearls, beads, glass, and colored stones. Their weapons consisted of bows and arrows, spears, bolos, daggers, krises (swords), sumpits (blowguns), shields and armors made of animal hide and hardwood, and lantakas (bronze cannons).

Legends and Hoaxes about the Malay Settlers. The legends surrounding the settling of the Philippines by Malay migrants are notably celebrated in the ati-atihan festival and perpetrated by hoaxers in the fraudulent documents containing the Maragtas chronicle and the Code of Kalantiaw.

According to one legend, at around 1250 A.D., ten datus and their families left the kingdom of Borneo and the cruel reign of sultan Makatunaw to seek their freedom and new homes across the seas. In Sinugbahan, Panay, they negotiated the sale of Panay's lowlands from the Negrito dwellers, led by their Ati king Marikudo and his wife Maniwantiwan. The purchase price consisted of one gold saduk (native hat) for Marikudo and a long gold necklace for Maniwantiwan. The sale was sealed by a pact of friendship between the Atis and the Bornean Malays and a merry party when the Atis performed their native songs and dances. After the party, Marikudo and the Atis went to the hills where their descendants still remain, and the Malay datus settled the lowlands. One of Aklan, Panay's fascinating festivals to this day is the ati-atihan, a colorful mardi gras celebrating the legendary purchase of Panay's lowlands. It is held in Kalibo annually during the feast day of Santo Niņo in January. The riotous participants, with bodies painted in black and wearing bizarre masks, sing and dance in the streets, re-enacting the ancient legend of the welcome held by the Atis for the Malay colonizers.

The Maragtas goes on to describe the formation of a confederation of barangays ("Madya-as") led by one Datu Sumakwel, who passed on a code of laws for the community. The fictitious story also alleges the expansion of the Malay datus to other parts of the Visayas and Luzon. Although previously accepted by some historians, including the present authors, it has become obvious that the Maragtas is only the imaginary creation of Pedro A. Monteclaro, a Visayan public official and poet, in Iloilo in 1907. He based it on folk customs and legends, largely transmitted by oral tradition.

The Code of Kalantiaw, a code of laws said to have been promulgated by Datu Kalantiaw of Aklan in 1433, was also previously accepted by historians and lawyers. But it has been proven to be a fraud. The Code of Kalantiaw was contained in a set of documents sold by Jose E. Marco, a collector and author from Negros Occidental, to Dr. James E. Robertson, Director of the Philippine Library and Museum, in 1914. Robertson then published an English translation of the penal code, and Filipino scholars came to accept the code as a deliberate hoax.

Challenge to the Migration Theory. The migration theory offered by H. Otley Beyer to explain the early settlement of the Philippines has been challenged by such scholars as Robert B. Fox and F. Landa Jocano. According to these scholars, Philippines prehistory is far too complex to be explained by "waves" of migration. It seems doubtful that early immigrants came in a fixed period of time and with a definite destination. Nor can archaeological and ethnographic data, show that each "wave" of immigrants was really a distinct racial and cultural group.

According to the other viewpoint, the early Filipinos were not passive recipients of cultures but also active transmitters and synthethizers of them. For example, comparative studies of Pacific cultures show that some of the inhabitants of Micronesia, Polynesia and other Pacific islands came from the Philippines. Moreover, by the time the Spaniards came to the Philippines, the early Filipinos had developed a distinctly Filipino, as opposed to Malayan civilization.

Birth of the Filipino People. Whether one accepts the migration theory or not, it appears that out of the interracial mixture of the early settlers - indigenous tribes or Asian latecomers - was born the Filipino people. Prior to the arrival of the Europeans, the Filipinos had already established a propensity for intermarriage with the assimilation of multiple races and cultures.

Early Relations with India. The early relations between the Philippines and the Indian empires of Sri-Vijaya and Majapahit were commercial and cultural, not political. As a free and independent people, the early Filipinos carried on trade with Borneo, Celebes, Java, Sumatra, and other countries of Southeast Asia. And through Sri-Vijaya and Majapahit, they received India's cultural influences. The early contact between India and the Philippines was decidedly indirect via Malaysia.

India's Cultural Influences. The impact of Indian civilization on the Philippines profoundly affected the culture of the Filipinos. The Brahmanistic elements in ancient Filipino religion and the names of their gods and mythological heroes were of Indian origin. The term Bathala (supreme god of the ancient Tagalog) originated from the Sanskrit Bhattara Guru, meaning "the highest of the gods".

The sarong ( skirt ) and potong (turban) of the pre-Spanish Filipinos and the embroidered shawls of the present-day Muslim Filipino women reveal Indian influences. The ancient Filipino alphabet originated from India. About 25% of the words in the Tagalog language are Sanskrit terms. Among such words are dala (fishnet), asawa (spouse), diwa (thought), puri (honor), lakambini (princess), and wika (language).

Filipino literature and folklore show the impress of India. The Maranao epic Darangan is Indian in plot and characterization. The Agusan legend of a man named Manubo Ango, who was turned into stone, resembles the story of Ahalya in the Hindu epic Ramayana. The tale of the Ifugao legendary hero, Balituk, who obtained water from the rock with his arrow, is similar to Arjuna's adventure in Mahabharata, another Hindu epic.

Many Filipino customs are of Indian origin. Among them are the following: (1) placing a sampaguita flower garland around the neck of a visitor upon his arrival and departure as a symbol of hospitality and friendship; (2) before marriage, a groom gives a dowry to the bride's parents and renders domestic services to his future in-laws; (3) when the guests throw rice on the bride and groom after the wedding; and (4) when a childless couple goes on a pilgrimage to a holy shrine, believing that the god of shrine will grant their prayer for fertility. Another Indian influence is seen in the decorative art and metal work of the early Filipinos, and in their use of brass, bronze, copper, and tin. The boat-lute, a musical instrument in southern Philippines, is of Indian origin. Finally, about 5% of the blood in Filipino veins in Indian. Because of their lineage, the Filipinos possess dignity of bearing, indifference to pain, and a fatalistic outlook on life.

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