Saturday, August 18, 2007

Do You Think This Version of Ancient Philippine History Is Credible?


Here is a very interesting BRIEF HISTORY OF ANCIENT PHILIPPINES written by a rather famous and important person, but I am not sure if everything in it is believable or true. After taking a few minutes to peruse this work, I would love to hear your take on the claims of historicity made in it.

Do you think this version of Philippine History is credible in whole or in part?
How indigenous peoples came to live in the Philippines early as 25,000 to 30,000 B.C.
Before the time of Western contact, the Philippine archipelago was peopled largely by the Negritos, Indonesians and Malays. The strains from these groups eventually gave rise to common cultural features which became the dominant influence in ethnic reformulation in the archipelago. Influences from the Chinese and Indian civilizations in the third or fourth millenium B.C. augmented these ethnic strains. Chinese economic and socio-cultural influences came by way of Chinese porcelain, silk and traders. Indian influence found their way into the religious-cultural aspect of pre-colonial society.

The ancient Filipinos settled beside bodies of water. Hunting and food gathering became supplementary activities as reliance on them was reduced by fishing and the cultivation of the soil. From the hinterland, coastal, and riverine communities, our ancestors evolved an essentially homogeneous culture, a basically common way of life where nature was a primary factor. Community life throughout the archipelago was influenced by, and responded to, common ecology. The generally benign tropical climate and the largely uniform flora and fauna favored similarities, not differences. Life was essentially subsistence but not harsh.

The early Filipinos had a culture that was basically Malayan in structure and form. They had languages that traced their origin to the Austronesian parent-stock and used them not only as media of daily communication but also as vehicles for the expression of their literary moods. They fashioned concepts and beliefs about the world that they could not see, but which they sensed to be part of their lives. They had their own religion and religious beliefs. They believed in the immortality of the soul and life after death. Their rituals were based on beliefs in a ranking deity whom they called Bathalang Maykapal, and a host of other deities, in the environmental spirits and in soul spirits. The early Filipinos adored the sun, the moon, the animals and birds, for they seemed to consider the objects of Nature as something to be respected. They venerated almost any object that was close to their daily life, indicating the importance of the relationship between man and the object of nature.

The unit of government was the "barangay," a term that derived its meaning from the Malay word "balangay," meaning, a boat, which transported them to these shores. The barangay was basically a family-based community and consisted of thirty to one hundred families. Each barangay was different and ruled by a chieftain called a "dato." It was the chieftain's duty to rule and govern his subjects and promote their welfare and interests. A chieftain had wide powers for he exercised all the functions of government. He was the executive, legislator and judge and was the supreme commander in time of war.

Laws were either customary or written. Customary laws were handed down orally from generation to generation and constituted the bulk of the laws of the barangay. They were preserved in songs and chants and in the memory of the elder persons in the community. The written laws were those that the chieftain and his elders promulgated from time to time as the necessity arose. The oldest known written body of laws was the Maragtas Code by Datu Sumakwel at about 1250 A.D. Other old codes are the Muslim Code of Luwaran and the Principal Code of Sulu. Whether customary or written, the laws dealt with various subjects, such as inheritance, divorce, usury, loans, partnership, crime and punishment, property rights, family relations and adoption. Whenever disputes arose, these were decided peacefully through a court composed by the chieftain as "judge" and the barangay elders as "jury." Conflicts arising between subjects of different barangays were resolved by arbitration in which a board composed of elders from neutral barangays acted as arbiters.

Baranganic society had a distinguishing feature: the absence of private property in land. The chiefs merely administered the lands in the name of the barangay. The social order was an extension of the family with chiefs embodying the higher unity of the community. Each individual, therefore, participated in the community ownership of the soil and the instruments of production as a member of the barangay. This ancient communalism was practiced in accordance with the concept of mutual sharing of resources so that no individual, regardless of status, was without sustenance. Ownership of land was non-existent or unimportant and the right of usufruct was what regulated the development of lands. Marine resources and fishing grounds were likewise free to all. Coastal communities depended for their economic welfare on the kind of fishing sharing concept similar to those in land communities. Recognized leaders, such as the chieftains and elders, by virtue of their positions of importance, enjoyed some economic privileges and benefits. But their rights, related to either land and sea, were subject to their responsibility to protect the communities from danger and to provide them with the leadership and means of survival.

Sometime in the 13th century, Islam was introduced to the archipelago in Maguindanao. The Sultanate of Sulu was established and claimed jurisdiction over territorial areas represented today by Tawi-tawi, Sulu, Palawan, Basilan and Zamboanga. Four ethnic groups were within this jurisdiction: Sama, Tausug, Yakan and Subanon. The Sultanate of Maguindanao spread out from Cotabato toward Maranao territory, now Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur.

The Muslim societies evolved an Asiatic form of feudalism where land was still held in common but was private in use. This is clearly indicated in the Muslim Code of Luwaran. The Code contains a provision on the lease of cultivated lands. It, however, has no provision for the acquisition, transfer, cession or sale of land.

The societies encountered by Magellan and Legaspi therefore were primitive economies where most production was geared to the use of the producers and to the fulfillment of kinship obligations. They were not economies geared to exchange and profit. Moreover, the family basis of barangay membership as well as of leadership and governance worked to splinter the population of the islands into numerous small and separate communities.

When the Spaniards settled permanently in the Philippines in 1565, they found the Filipinos living in barangay settlements scattered along water routes and river banks. One of the first tasks imposed on the missionaries and the encomenderos was to collect all scattered Filipinos together in a reduccion. As early as 1551, the Spanish government assumed an unvarying solicitous attitude towards the natives. The Spaniards regarded it a sacred "duty to conscience and humanity to civilize these less fortunate people living in the obscurity of ignorance" and to accord them the "moral and material advantages" of community life and the "protection and vigilance afforded them by the same laws."

The Spanish missionaries were ordered to establish pueblos where the church and convent would be constructed. All the new Christian converts were required to construct their houses around the church and the unbaptized were invited to do the same. With the reduccion, the Spaniards attempted to "tame" the reluctant Filipinos through Christian indoctrination using the convento/casa real/plaza complex as focal point. The reduccion, to the Spaniards, was a "civilizing" device to make the Filipinos law-abiding citizens of the Spanish Crown, and in the long run, to make them ultimately adopt Hispanic culture and civilization.

All lands lost by the old barangays in the process of pueblo organization as well as all lands not assigned to them and the pueblos, were now declared to be crown lands or realengas, belonging to the Spanish king. It was from the realengas that land grants were made to non-Filipinos.

The abrogation of the Filipinos' ancestral rights in land and the introduction of the concept of public domain were the most immediate fundamental results of Spanish colonial theory and law. The concept that the Spanish king was the owner of everything of value in the Indies or colonies was imposed on the natives, and the natives were stripped of their ancestral rights to land.

Increasing their foothold in the Philippines, the Spanish colonialists, civil and religious, classified the Filipinos according to their religious practices and beliefs, and divided them into three types . First were the Indios, the Christianized Filipinos, who generally came from the lowland populations. Second, were the Moros or the Muslim communities, and third, were the infieles or the indigenous communities.

The Indio was a product of the advent of Spanish culture. This class was favored by the Spaniards and was allowed certain status although below the Spaniards. The Moros and infieles were regarded as the lowest classes.

The Moros and infieles resisted Spanish rule and Christianity. The Moros were driven from Manila and the Visayas to Mindanao; while the infieles, to the hinterlands. The Spaniards did not pursue them into the deep interior. The upland societies were naturally outside the immediate concern of Spanish interest, and the cliffs and forests of the hinterlands were difficult and inaccessible, allowing the infieles, in effect, relative security. Thus, the infieles, which were peripheral to colonial administration, were not only able to preserve their own culture but also thwarted the Christianization process, separating themselves from the newly evolved Christian community. Their own political, economic and social systems were kept constantly alive and vibrant.

The pro-Christian or pro-Indio attitude of colonialism brought about a generally mutual feeling of suspicion, fear, and hostility between the Christians on the one hand and the non-Christians on the other. Colonialism tended to divide and rule an otherwise culturally and historically related populace through a colonial system that exploited both the virtues and vices of the Filipinos.

Is this history credible to you? Are the factual claims more or less correct to your knowledge? Is the timeline plausible? As a more or less self-contained narrative, and accepting that all factual claims are true, is this History internally consistent? If you were a History teacher what grade would you give the above essay?


blackshama said...

The peopling of the Philippines is a major research focus in anthropology, archeology and human biogeography. Dr Victor Paz of the Archeological Studies Program and his students in UP has done several studies on this subject. I often attend symposia conducted by these good friends of mine.

Their studies indicate that the waves of colonization are by Austronesians (a probable fact mentioned in the above historical account). Austronesian colonization is supported by molecular genetics, material culture evidence (pottery and tools) and linguistic evidence.

However the writer of this account of our history seems not to have got over the Otley Beyer account of the peopling of the Philippines that has been more or less falsified! This theory is still being taught as history in our classrooms!

Again old textbook concepts have been rehashed. This is a product of a poor research and scientific culture!

On matters of historiography, I am not qualified to comment ( I am a biodiversity scientist!) but as a literate layman, I think there is no basis to say that we had a common culture. The fact that linguistic differences have evolved suggests different ways of viewing the environment. We have to take with a grain of salt these claims as such are based mostly on friar accounts (read William Henry Scott, please!) and the very few accounts of Chinese and Arab traders.

The friar accounts while informative is seen from a colonial enterprise viewpoint.

As for the Maragtas as a WRITTEN DOCUMENT, the writer of this textbook account should read the works of William Henry Scott "Scotty". He concludes that while the Bornean colonization of Panay may have been an actual historical event, the account has been preserved as an ORAL history. This and the historicity of the infamous Code of Kalantiaw is part of Scotty's PhD which was conferred by the Royal and Pontifical University of Santo Tomas.

We have to give credit to the writer of the textbook account for not mentioning the Code. Probably he/she read Scotty's dissertation.

DJB Rizalist said...

A most valuable comment Blackshama. There is a lot more to this history, by the way, and it is not the kind of history that harmlessly exists in some dusty textbook. But more on that later.

Thanks however for bringing up many points I've wondered about too.

May I ask who you would consider authoritative sources that might be further consulted about above history and the rest of the document of which it is an integral and crucial part?

Are there folks in UP for example who are in possession of documentary or research evidence that might refute or confirm some of the the above?

But to some of the guts of this.

What do you think of the claim that the "indigenous peoples" arrived as early as 25,000-30,000 YA? That would be the Upper Pleicetocene Epoch if I am not mistaken.

Regarding Negritos, are they everywhere in Southeast Asia, or are they unique to the Philippine Archipelago?

I understand there are 110 officially recognized "indigenous peoples" or tribes in the Philippines.

Most importantly:

Should we consider Tagalogs, Pampangos, Ilocanos, etc, as "indigenous peoples"?

blackshama said...

The problem is they haven't published most of it! That's why we keep on rattling people's ears WHY PEOPLE IN ACADEME SHOULD PUBLISH. No publication = no science.

Vic Paz edited the Solheim fetscrhift which came out in print. I think it can be had from National Bookstore. You can get some new ideas on the peopling problem.

Negritos according to the new theories are more elated to Melanesians today than the Austronesians. At least that what my archeaology student in my biogeography class told me.

On the 30K YBP estimate for colonization, that is based on the fossil record of Homo sapiens probably from the Tabon material. we have to admit that there icould be likely an older colonization by H. erectus. After all H. erectus fossils have been found in islands that were never connected to mainland Asia in Indonesia.

Econblogger said...

The statements on communistic land rights directly contradict those of noted economic historian, Onofre D. Corpuz (An Economic History of the Philippines). In the pre-Hispanic era land could be possessed, individually cultivated, bartered, bought and sold, and even pawned (sanglang-bili, a forerunner of today's prenda.)

DJB Rizalist said...

thanks for the reference econblogger! I'll have to look that up for this issue.

Paul Kekai Manansala said...

I would think the Philippines was probably first settled by modern humans before or about the same time as Australia i.e. about 50,000 bp. However, the hard evidence for that still has to be uncovered. One of the oldest skeletons of modern humans in this part of world comes from Palawan.

Paul Kekai Manansala
History of Nusantao seafaring in Southeast Asia and the Pacific

DJB Rizalist said...

A Warm Welcome to Philippine Commentary, Paul, and thanks for the info.

Am trying to get some estimates of the population densities at various epochs. It is apparently well known that by about 30,000 years ago there were human beings on every continent of the planet.

How many Negritos were there I wonder, and where in the world did they come from. Why aren't there many more of them in other places. Are they really African pygmies as some people claim who came over "over land bridges"?

How are Australian aborigines related to our own negritos?