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Philippine Culture

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The “Pearl of the Orient Seas”, more famously known as the Island Philippines, has its share of rich and colorful history and cultural background, which dates back to as early as 100 million years. During this time, it was mainly the Philippine land and habitat that evolved and there were no human inhabitants on the land. Nevertheless, it was during these years that the Philippines started to develop its resources and become what would soon be a region of abundant natural resources and fertile lands. In the next years, this land would host its very first dwellers and witness the birth and development of the Philippine culture. Over the years, man and his environment will continue to interact and produce new discoveries and breakthroughs not only in technology but also in the different aspects of human life. Here we would see how early Filipinos managed to survive during their time and contribute in the formation of what we now own for ourselves: the Filipino culture.

The Paleolithic Culture (250,000 B.C.- 10,000 B.C.) was the period in which the first existence of human culture was seen. The first tools ever produced by the first Filipinos were usually made of stones and woods and were improvised from their environment. These tools were used for food gathering and defense against wild animals. These early tools produced even before technology was introduced in our country greatly show the resourcefulness and creativity of the early Filipinos. They were able to survive mainly from their surroundings. Since people during this time were relatively small in numbers, there was not really a problem in terms of food supply and space to dwell (all from the environment). In this case, the need for social organization or leaders in the group was not seen necessary for everybody had an ample share of everything. It was also because of being in a small group (around 30 people) that the people valued so much the unity and solidarity of their group. Each one of them has the same duties: to survive and defend their land. This oneness of the early Filipinos still exists today in our families and our patriotism to our motherland.

Increase in the population of the Philippines brought about a new period in its cultural development. Because of the need for a more advanced technology for a bigger production of food, the Neolithic Culture (10,000 B.C.- 500 B.C.) became a period of new technologies, techniques, organization, and values for the pre-Colonial Philippines and its inhabitants. Social organization also evolved into a more systematic structure. The males were tasked to hunt and cultivate the lands while the females were in charge of the household duties such as nursing the young as well as the old ones, preparing the food, and maintaining the home. Leaders, usually the elders in the group, also began to hold positions in the community as conflicts start to arise due to an increase in the number of people. Technology during this period also moved to greater heights. Tools became more efficient as the people’s ingenuity develop in their fight for survival. Moreover, since a bigger population requires a larger amount of food supply, proper food storage was required to be able to keep a community’s food supply.

Thus, the invention of the art of Pottery came into existence. Potteries (or earthenwares) played a very important role in the culture of the pre-Colonial Filipinos for it served the people then numerous purposes or uses. The earthenwares were created primarily for rituals and agricultural purposes. Eventually, it became a part of the Filipino household. They were used for storage of food and water (big jars, pots), cooking (pots), and practically all sorts of household chores (plates, trays, etc.). Some pots were also used as grave furniture or ritual tools for offering. Indeed, pottery was a very useful art during this period.

It is not just an important tool but it also exhibited the artistry and creativity of the people before the coming of foreign colonizers. The complex technology needed in Pottery shows the advancement of human and cultural development during the pre-Colonial times. It is also an example of the early families being self-sufficient and resourceful. The art of Pottery shows the “Filipinos’ ability to respond to the different changing social and physical environment” (Metropolitan Museum) and the uniqueness of every Filipino mind that creates an earthenware unique and distinct from all the other earthenwares created by other Filipinos.

The introduction of the use of metals paved the way for the further development of Philippine Culture during the Metal Age (200 A.D.- 900 A.D.). Technological breakthroughs allowed refinement in pottery works thus; Pottery reached its golden age in this period. The discovery of gold within our lands brought even a higher distinction in our culture during the pre-Colonial years. Gold, which was used as ornamentation, as a measure of prestige, as an expression of human vanities and even as an assurance of security in the afterlife (Metropolitan Museum), shows the richness of the Philippine lands and the abundance of such priceless minerals during the pre-Colonial times. And just as the Filipinos’ creativity in Pottery, the gold industry displays another Filipino ingenuity and talent. Gold products varied from jewelries and ornaments to ancestral face covers to garment appliqués to weapons. Trade among nearby regions also became evident during this period. The Metal Age was indeed a period of progress in the pre-Colonial period.

Philippine culture during the pre-Colonial period continued to flourish and develop over the years following these periods. Population continued to grow (and with it new technologies as well) and different groups started to emerge because of migration. Because of these, political institutions were established to maintain peace and order amongst the different communities. Social classes also became more structured and laws were implemented and strictly imposed. Together with all these changes, Filipino literature, language, and music also flourished. Literature would usually talk about the gods and goddesses of nature to whom they give respect and praise for all the “gifts and blessings” they receive. Religion during this time was attributed to the different mythical figures that were supposed to be the guardians of nature. Musical instruments, which were used in rituals and feasts, were usually made of bamboos and wood found in their surroundings. Again, the Filipino talent is shown in their lifestyle during the early years.

This richness not only in natural resources but as well as in skills of the early Filipinos is truly a source of national pride of many Filipinos today. Seeing the Philippines during the pre-Colonial years as a bastion of abundant natural resources and home to many great minds is enough reason for us Filipinos today to bring back the glory, which was once ours. We cannot just let our very colorful culture go to waste. If the Filipino people before were able to survive and live life to the fullest even before the colonizers of our land contributed to our history and culture, then surely the Filipinos of today can be as great or even greater than what we were before. If the people during the pre-Colonial years were able to transcend simple things into useful and wonderful works of ingenuity, then there is no reason for us not to be able to do the same. Let us use the lessons of the past as a tool and guide for our journey to the future. It is not enough that we know our history. It is better if we can make our own history and contribute to what is already a very colorful and interesting history and culture of our country.

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