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A Simple Analysis of the Philippine Pre-Historic Era: Restoring the Filipino Pride

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Men may live for thousand of years without having a life that may be called historical; for history is formed only where there are credible written records of events. Until we have these records, we have no grounds for historical study, but leave the field to another study, which we call Archeology, or Pre-historic Culture Barrows 12.

Theories, notions, and speculations regarding the origin of Filipino people had been enshrouding the field of the Philippine history prior to the coming of the Spaniards and even before the Islamic infiltration in the country. Naturally, everything will start in such a manner of discovering something, specially the origin of something, until all unclear events of the past will become a clear evidence of the existence of something in the present. Perhaps the problem of some historians and archaeologists is that they have/had been building some sort of firewall between one work and the other or in some instances proving the work of some past historians as non-realistic or some kind of legend such as the story of “Marikudo and the Ten Bornean Datus” whom referred in the supposed later findings as the “Legend of Maragtas”, which simply means of no realistic origin being regarded only as legend, for legend is something that is widely believed but cannot be proved to be true (Webster’s Dictionary).

In this paper, let us try to connect the works of some historians and/or archaeologists or of some archaeological discoveries in order to make at least a little attempt to establish a story of the possible eventualities before and after the coming or establishment of Islamic culture in the Philippines. The establishment of Islam is also a very important part in the backbone of Philippine history as Dr. Renato Constantino asserted that no Philippine history can be complete without the study of Muslim development (1990). Whether it be an archaeological discoveries, or perhaps a story pass through by words of mouth authenticated by historians or not, connecting them in one way or another may give some sort of enlightenment or maybe will lead one to make his own investigation and contribute to the establishment of reality of a certain past, especially the past that would strengthen Filipino pride.

The documentary of the Philippine Treasures, which was recently initiated by GMA is very useful in this attempt to form the story of origin of the Filipino people, wherein a huge part of it would closely relate to the work of Fr. Francis C. Marigan in his “Early History of Cagayan de Oro” and the Asian history comprising the power transition between these two great Indonesian empires ranging from the 7th until the 15th century before the coming of the western civilization in southeast Asia, particularly the Philippines. A historical base Eskrimadors documentary, which was created by the POINTSOURCE Film provides a realistic directional calculation on the arrival of the Indonesians in the central part of the Philippines, which has all the possibility of expanding their territory to the Mindanao area. This short archaeological base historical study is aimed towards contributing an effective benchmark towards understanding the foundation of Filipino culture, heritage, and educational development.

I. The First Settlers
Imagine a place full of the bounties of nature with all the minerals and different species of animals from fouls in the air to ground mammals down to the fishes and all that lives in salt and fresh waters. Yes, the first settlers in this country enjoyed all the gift of nature and lived as if they were not bothered by the maladies brought by scarcity. This people are the nomad groups who came to the place through land bridges and live peacefully merging with nature.

These nomads scattered all over the place and, as the sea water grow in certain level, were trap strategically in what was known as the place of the thousand islands. Then think of an ancient civilization came passing through the place where indeed would gave all the possibility of uplifting the lives of this people. They were the ancient Chinese people who think only of commercialism through some sort of bartering without any intention of exploiting of what others have for they already have enough in their place. This Chinese traders might have taught the nomads to make use of the bounties of nature around them, but before they could flow out into some sort a development as a society, another group of people, which were identified as the dominant race in the country, discovered the place and form a society.

Maitum Anthropomorphic Potteries as presented by the GMA documentary

In 1991, archeologists discovered anthropomorphic secondary burial jars in Ayub Cave, Piñol. Maitum, Sarangani Province, in Mindanao, Philippines (see figure 1). Since this sensational finding, a number of archaeological excavations were conducted to recover these important artifacts. These excavation projects were either government or privately sponsored.GMA documentary These burial jars are made of earthenware and characterized by their design and form that looks like or suggests human figures with complete or partial facial characteristics. These are earthenware potteries with incisions and cut-out foot-rings. These humanlike forms were associated with metal implements like bracelets. Some jars are decorated with glass beads and shell scoop, spoon, and pendants. Among the anthropomorphic vessels are plain nonanthropomorphic burial jars.GMA documentary According to scientists, these secondary burial jars date back to the Metal Age. The artifacts were dated to 830 +/-60 B.P. (by a calibrated date of AD 70 to 370) and 1920 +/- 50 B.P. (by a calibrated date of 5 BC to 225 AD). Scientists determined the age of the jars by doing radiocarbon date tests on the soot samples taken from a small earthenware vessel. This small vessel was found inside one of the larger burial jar. Source: wikipedia

Fig. 1

Maitum Anthropomorphic Potteries and the nomadic tribe connection The nomadic tribes as might had been influenced by the passing Chinese traders, learned to utilized simple applications and uses of natural resources like potteries as clay and other minerals is just within reach. Studies proved the emotionality of human beings which connects to the simple show of love and respect to the passing love-ones. The richness of nature transformed the lives of the nomads into a simple, slow but life transforming society.

II. The First Wave Malaysians and Indonesians (900-1200A.D.) The first wave Indonesian and Malayan races are believed to have came to the country in quest of new land. Their existence in the place brought some sort of a system of society. This societal existence can be traced in 900 A.D., as with the discovery of the Laguna Copperplate. The plate contains inscription, which according to Jyotisha (a Hindu astronomy) identified the date of its creation as the “year of the Syaka 822, month of Vaisakha, which correspond with the year 900 A.D., as deciphered by Anton Postman in 1989 at the National Museum of the Philippines. Such copper plate proved the existence of Hinduism in the country long before the coming Islam. Hinduism and its type of civilization was perhaps brought here by the first Indonesian and Malayan races.

The inscription forgives the descendants of Namwaran from a debt of 926.4 grams of gold, and is granted by the chief of Tondo (an area in Manila) and the authorities of Paila, Binwangan and Pulilan, which are all locations in Luzon. The words are a mixture of Sanskrit, Old Malay, Old Javanese and Old Tagalog. The subject matter proves that a highly developed society existed in the Philippines prior to the Spanish colonization, as well as refuting earlier claims of the Philippines being a cultural isolate in Asia; the references to the Chief of Medang Kingdom in Indonesia imply that there were cultural and trade links with various other affiliated empires and territories in other parts of the Fig. 2 LCI Malay Archipelago, particularly the Srivijaya empire. Thus, aside from clearly indicating the presence of writing and of written records at the time, the LCI effectively links the cultural developments in the Philippines at the time with the growth of a thalassocratic civilization in Southeast Asia. (Source: Wikipedia/History of the Philippines) The First Indonesian and Malayan races were not that numerous as compared to the second wave and their concentration were in the northern part of the archipelago. You could only imagine how their society could flow smoothly and silently against the race of time, while enjoying the gift of nature. Such society could already flow with the existence of Chinese trading and perhaps with education. These people slowly established their own system of society that reach its pick at the coming of the second wave Indonesian and Malayan races.

III. The Second Wave Malaysians and Indonesians (1300-1500A.D.) Srivijaya Empire of Java Indonesia ruled most of Southeast Asia and enjoyed its power long enough to be able to established its culture on different parts of the region. On the 13th century they were overthrown by the Majapahit Empire from the southeastern Java and its people were force to move eastward directing the Philippines and settled primarily in the central part of the archipelago (please refer to figure 3 for the directional map).

This group of people is lager in number compared to the first wave and they were indeed cropped with a much richer culture as they were the entirety of the ruling empire before they were overthrown by the Majapahit. Most of them were warriors and therefore it is not far from the possibility for them to rule over the greater part of the archipelago. Pointsource Film in the Eskrimadors documentary stressed out that the Srivijayans, who were mostly warriors, settled in the island of Cebu equipped by their ability to fight, which later turned to developing the art of stick fighting.

The geographical condition of the Philippine archipelago and the chasing war between the overthrown and the reigning empire opened a realistic possibility for the two empires to have met in the central Mindanao for another possible encounter. Please see figure 4 and figure 5. But due to the span of time used in travel and the terrain in the wider land of Mindanao covered by thick forest followed by their discovery on the potential of the place for good settlement. These two groups of people became dormant in their desire to overthrow or defeat each other, instead collaborated themselves with the older settlers to form their new society, independent with each other but connected in some way in matters of trading. The condition created some kind of a symbiotic relation as what described as needs base community relation. Fr. F. Marigan describes it that the people of the mountain needs the products of the people from the low land like fishes and crafts, while the low land people is also in need of the products coming from the mountain like vegetables, fruits, and animals. Imagine how these people collaborated with each other, sharing with the richness of the place and living in peace.

IV. Religions before Islam
The Srivijayans were believers of Hinduism in which when detached from the center of their faith would have a bigger tendency of becoming Animists, while people of the Majapahit Empire were believers of Buddhism who have the tendency of accepting another faith for the sake of peace as part of their religious orientation. True, because the Srivijayans who were identified as Higaonons in Mindanao remained pagans and/or animists besides the presence of Islam when the recollects came to the place. The Majapahities, identified as the Maguindanaos by a group of researchers as explained by Fr. Francis Marigan, were Buddhists before they open heartedly embrace Islam. The Golden Tara, which was found in Agusan was a factual evidence of Buddhism from among the Maguindanaos of Mindanao. Why was the Golden Tara, then, been discovered in the place of the Manobo in Agusan? The answer lied within the coming of Islam and the acceptance of the Maguindanaos of the said religion. ( please see picture of the Golden Tara in figure 6)

Religions During Islamic Era
After embracing Islam, the Maguindanaos learned to hate their brothers who remained Buddhists as they were affected by the virus-like-Islamic orientation. Other tribes who did not embrace Islam were branded as Manobo, Teroray, Talaandig, and even B’laan which were discribed being enemies as the term b’laan connotes, who fled away from then and settled to the mountains and some in the river banks for the sake of peace. Thus, the term manobo, terroray, b’laan and other known tribal identities in Mindanao are not, actually real tribe names, but rather degrading brands coined to by a group of Islamic people who arrogantly considered themselves superior. The Manobo tribe indeed treasured their Vajryana Buddhism faith which was sensed in their animistic approach in respecting the mother nature. The Golden Tara is an evidence of the existence of Buddhism in Mindanao as represented by the Manobo tribe in Agusan and some other areas in it. The B’laan tribe, considerably also of an animist type may have perhaps started as part of either Hinduism or Buddhism in southern Mindanao as reflected by their traditions which were preserved even unto this days. Aside from the Maguindanaos which were identified for their Majapahit origin, all other smaller tribes mentioned may belong to either the nomad groups or that of the first wave Malaysians and Indonesians. These group were of Hindu and Buddhist origin in terms of belief.

The Coming of Islam
In Sulu archipelago, extending towards the east in Zamboanga was the infiltration of the Malayan race from Malaysia, just parallel and perhaps simultaneous with the coming of the Srivijayans, who settled in the central Philippines to the northern and part of central Mindanao. Extending westbound from northern Mindanao some of the Srivijayans met and merged with these Malayans. Thus, the people of Sulu are the combinations of the Malaysian race and the warriors of the Srivijayans. Karim Macdum, considered as the first Muslim missionary, introduced Islam at around 1380 onwards in Sulu but, probably were not able to extend to northern Mindanao area due to the presence of the warrior class Srivijayans, which was coined to by Fr. Francisco Marigan’s book as the powerful people that occupies the upper pulangi river part down to the Cagayan de Oro river and then to the Mount Apo. Islamic conquest from Sulu could have passed directly through Luzon and not with the area infiltrated with Srivijayan warriors. However, at around 1480, the coming of Sharif Kabungsuan in the central Mindanao changed the course of the Maguidanaos, which made them to have embraced Islam

This warrior missionary happened to have ducked at the Rio del Grande River’s mouth, the tail of which is what is known as the Pulangi river. As Islam grew strong from among the Majapahit-Maguindanaos they started to hate smaller tribes who did not embrace their new faith and branded them as Manobo and terroray and in some way an enemy as with the meaning of the B’laan tribe name. Their peace loving tribes preferred to leaved the place and settled in the mountains of Bukidnon and Davao. The Manobo tribe was even able to established their terretory in Bukidnon and as far as Butuan, particularly in Agusan. Sharif Kabungsuan prepared and gathered his men for another Islamic conquest, which accordingly to prepare for a peace talk rather than an actual war and if cannot be carried through their purpose, they will have to get through even with a bloody battle. Rushing towards the upper pulangi, Kabungsuan met the Buayans, the time transitory tribal name derived from ‘Srivijayan’, they were known as the powerful people.

Knowing their stand for a possible battle, Kabungsuan befriended the Buayan’s powerful leader “Ingud Mal-Ang” and offered his daughters for wives to this fierce and perhaps flesh hungry leader. This event made the Buayan’s of Northern Mindanao to pay annual tribute to the Sultanate of Maguindanao, which perhaps touch the pride of the Buayan people that after their leader left for Islamic conquest drove away those who were converted to Islam and pressed them towards southwestern Mindanao, near Lake Lanao, where their name later transformed to Maranao.

The Pre-Spanish Tribes
Archaeological discovered artifacts had recently proven the existence of a civilized society prior to the coming of the Spaniards, only that they were ahead in some way in terms of armaments. If we are to analyze what lies behind the advantage of the Spaniards with regards to armaments is just very simple. In the middle-east and Europe there was a vast problem of scarcity, thus the concept of survival for the fittest and elimination for the weak is very applicable. Every people in those places are indeed challenged by the need for survival and the strengthening of their portals, boundaries, and power to conquer is badly needed, whereas here in the ancient Philippines, people of warrior nature like the Srivijayans had put in mind for fighting as no longer necessary for survival. There isn’t any need such as fighting that requires them to survive. They only need to blend with nature in order to survive.

Everything was already provided for them by nature. It is also important to note that Filipinos in those oldened days were richly splendid with golds, silvers, and other important metals and materials for a luxurious and happy living. Think only of the supposed gold earing of Lapu-lapu in Boljoon, Cebu or the 1980s discovered treasure trove of ancient golden jewelries in Surigao del Sur, now on display at Fig. 7 the Ayala Museum and even the Golden Tara as presented by the GMA Philippine Treasure documentary. And try also to figure out the ability of our ancient tribal women with regards to arts as compared to other women in the world. The craftsmanship of the B’laan women as shown by their works, which were preserved in the National Museum of Chicago. This complex art is not only within the circle of the B’laan tribes but even to all tribes in the Philippines. But still this people were branded by the Spaniards as indios, while enjoying what they have had stolen from them, and then baptized them with Christianity. Isn’t it ridiculous?

Indios, are we… The term indio connote a person of illiterate characteristics, thus considered as the lowest class in the society. But was this really true? In the basic sense, literacy is the ability to read and write, and thus, a civilized society is one that posses a system of writing. And we Filipino indeed have a system of writing in

which when the Spanish friars entered the socio-cultural scene of the early Filipinos in the sixteenth-century, they forcibly destroyed and burned in massive quantities the shrines, equipment and paraphernalia used by the babaylans in their mission areas . In his extensive report on the Jesuit missions published in 1604, Fr. Pedro Chirino mentioned about his success in burning the community shrines in the hamlets of the Pintados, i.e., Bisayans (Chirino 1604, in B&R Vol. 12, 268). Borrinaga pg. 16. Figure 2 is a picture of the Laguna Copperplate which was an Fig. 10 evidence of the existence of writing in the Philippines, particularly in Luzon. The Philippine Treasure documentary presentation of GMA revealed the existence of the the system of writing in the Philippines in which the name has not been identified even into this day, since the term BAYBAYIN(see figure 10) is just the Tagalog term for spelling, and was just use to put an identity of this system of writing. On the other hand the term ALIBATA was coined from the first three letters of the Arabic Alphabet i.e. Alif, Ba, and Ta. The Laguna Copperplate and the Monreal Stone contains the same system of writing.

Another artifact that proved the existence of a system of writing was even discovered before the discovery of the Laguna Copperplate and the Monreal Stone, and was considered the oldest cultural artifact with pre-Hispanic writing was the Calatagan Pot discovered in Calatagan, Batangas. The inscription wad inscribed around the shoulder of this famous Calatagan Pot. Please see the picture in figure 10. The areas where the artifacts of our system of writing were all in the Luzon area. Does this mean that this place only in this country posses a Fig. 10 system of writing? And how about Visayas and the Mindanao areas? The famous Calatagan Pot which was discovered in Clatagan Batangas is not of Tagalog origin, neither of any other tribes in the Luzon area, but rather a Visayan trive origin, particularly the Cebuano tribe as it is as “Pag-uli Ritual” as deciphered by Rolando O. Borrinaga, Ph.D. a Professor of the School of Health Sciences in the University of the Philippines Manila , Palo, Leyte.

It now appears that the Calatagan artifact was a ritual pot particularly used as native incense burner for the pag-ulî (return) rite to retrieve the soul of a moribund person during the pre-Hispanic era. The inscription essentially provides the outline of a threestage monologue, presumably elaborated by a babaylan (native priestess) in a trance during the pag-ulî ritual. The pot was probably also used for ceremonies to retrieve victims of bugkut, disappeared persons believed to have been abducted by dwellers of the spirit world. Borrinaga Pg. 1. This Pag-uli Ritual System was also practiced amongst the Higaonons of the Central and Northern Mindanao as being narrated by the Higaonon tribal Chieftain in Pagalongan area of Cagayan de Oro City.

Tribal Name Transformed The word Visayas may have evolved from Srivijayan which was also the possible origin of the word Buayan of the great tribe of the Central and Northern Mindanao. When the Spaniards ruled the country other tribes in the Visayan region which were already converted to Christianity, penetrated Mindanao most specifically the low land area. These Christianized tribes manifested the more advance system of warfare as compared to the buayan tribe in which the later were forced to move to the mountain areas particularly and were branded as people of the mountain or people living in the mountain, as evident in the word Bukidnon. The tribe name Higaonon is the same as the word Bukidnon. Higa is another term for Higda, which means to lay down where in the word connotes to settle or live. The second word is Gaon is an old word which means mountain and forest and the last word is Onon, which is also connected to the non of Bukidnon, and that which means people.

Thus the word Higaonon means people living in the forests or moutains. The Buayans was branded as tagabukid of tagalasang and later may had forgotten their original Buayan tribe name, which the same also of Srivijayan origin, and now known as the Higaonon Tribe. The word Mindanao may have evolved from the name of the dominant tribe of Southern Mindanao which are the Maguindanao Tribe that were able to retain their original tribal name. All other tribal minorities except perhaps, that of Samboanga and the Tausugs areas of Sulu, Julu and even Tawi-tawi, were sort of brand name or just a name called to them by the Maguindanao Muslims. The Maranaos which were of Buayan origin was branded as people living besides the lake, as they were pressed in the area and settled beside Lake Lanao. Lanao is the Bisayan word for Lake and Ranao is the Maranao equivalent for Lanao. Thus, the tribe Maranao then were being identified.


1. Philippine History by David P. Barrows 2. Fr. Francis C. Marigan “Early History of Cagayan de Oro” 3. GMA documentary on Philippine
Treasures 4. POINTSOURCE Film, Eskrimadors documentary 5. The Calatagan Pot: A National Treasure with Bisayan Inscription by Rolando O. Borrinaga, Ph.D. 6. Philippine History, Wikipedia 7. Webster’s Dictionary

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