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The Formation of the Philippine Archipelago

Origin Of The Philippines

The history of Philippines dates back to some 50,000 years ago. It may be surprising but there is
sufficient archaeological evidence to back the claim, though we may not conclude that it is the
'history' of 'the Philippines' that dates back that far behind. However, there is little dispute about
the statement that Homosapiens did exist in Palawan some 50,000 years back. Later,
Austronesian-speaking people settled in the Philippines and established maritime trading with
other parts of the South East Asia. It was done as early as 5,000 B.C.
For a very long time, the archipelago remained untouched by the outsiders, lying peacefully in its
own little part of the world. The west, however, did flow in with Ferdinand Magellan being the
first in 1521, followed by Miguel Lpez de Legazpi in 1565. They formed the first Spanish
settlements, which eventually turned the Philippines into their colony. Then came Roman
Catholic missionaries, who converted most of the inhabitants to Christianity. The following 300
years of Philippines' history saw several turmoils with the Spanish military fighting off various
local revolts and several external colonial challenges from as diverse quarters as the British, the
Chinese, the Dutch, the French, the Japanese, and the Portuguese. The Spanish military was
largely successful in defending their occupation. However, they could not avoid the occupation
of the capital by the British during the Seven Years' War. Though that was a temporary
occupation, it was still one of the most serious damages done to the Spanish rule in the
The Philippines opened up for world trade on September 6, 1834. In the Spanish mainland a
propaganda protest began. The propagandists led by Rizal demanded, amongst other things, a
greater representation in Spain, but the movement did not yield expected gains. So, Rizal
returned to the Philippines and pushed for the reforms locally, which resulted in his arrest, trial,
and execution for sedition on December 30, 1896.
However, the spirit of revolution did not die down. Another revolution sprang up. It was led by
Andrs Bonifacio and was continued by Emilio Aguinaldo, who managed to establish a
revolutionary government though, the Spanish governor general Fernando Primo de Rivera
announced the death of the revolution on May 17, 1897.
The Spanish-American War broke out in 1898 and gradually proceeded up to the Philippines
when Commodore George Dewey defeated the Spanish squadron at the Manila Bay. Spain ceded
the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Guam and Cuba to the United States. It was the Americans who
brought democracy to the Philippines. It was made a commonwealth country in 1935. The
Philippines was to attain independence in the next decade, but it did not come as World War II
broke out and Japan invaded. Independence, however, came Philippines' way on July 4, 1946.
Ever since its independence, the Philippines has faced a number of challenges but has managed
to sail through, unscathed so far.

Theories on the Origin of the Philippines

The Ice Age Theory
During the Ice Age, glaciers stored portions of the water on the earth in the form of ice. This ice
formation caused a drop in the worlds ocean levels. During this period, the Philippine

archipelago was part of the continental landmass of Asia. Scholars believed that land bridges
connected the Philippines to Asia.
When the Ice Age ended about 10,000 years ago, the ice formation melted and the ocean levels
rose. The land connections to Southeast Asia became flooded. The flooding submerged the land
bridges and created the Indonesian and Philippine archipelagos. Since then, these islands had
been populated by migrating people who traveled by boats. The migrants came mainly from
Indonesia and the Malay Peninsula. However, there were also migrants from the costs of
Indochina and, to a lesser extent, from China and Taiwan.
The Bottom-of-the-Sea Theory
In 1976, Dr. Fritjof Voss, a German scientist, challenged the Ice Age theory. According to him,
the Philippines was never a part of mainland Asia. Dr. Voss claimed that the Philippine islands
were located directly above a fault in the earths crust. Powerful earthquakes pushed up the
landmass from the ocean floor and the Philippine islands rose from the bottom of the ocean.
The Volcanic Eruption Theory
Another version on the origin of the Philippines is the volcanic eruption theory. Dr. Bailey Willis,
a geologist, concluded that the Philippines was a result of the eruptions of submarine volcanoes
along the western side of the Pacific basin. These eruptions caused magma and lava to pile up,
forming the Philippine isles.
The Lost-Continent Theory
A group of geographers believed that the Philippines constitute the remains of a lost continent
during prehistoric times. This continent had sunk below the ocean waters. However, a few
portions of land which now make up the Philippines were left above water.
The Early People of Philippine Archipelago
The primary peoples of the Philippine archipelago were the Negrito, proto-Malay, and Malay
peoples. The Negritos are believed to have journeyed to the Philippines by land bridges some 30,000
years ago from Borneo, Sumatra, and Malaya, during the last ice age. Later migrations were by water and
took place over several thousand years. The Malayans followed in successive waves. These people
belonged to a prehistoric age of Malayan culture, which has in fact survived to this day among certain
groups such as the Igorots. The Malayan tribes that came later had more highly developed material

The social and political organization of the population in the widely scattered islands
evolved into a generally common pattern. Only the permanent-field rice farmers of northern
Luzon had any notion of territoriality. The basic unit of settlement was the barangay, formerly a
kinship group headed by a datu (chief). Within the barangay (Malay term for boat; also came to
be used for the communal settlements established by migrants who came from the Indonesian
archipelago and elsewhere. The term replaces the word barrio, formerly used to identify the
lowest political subdivision in the Philippines), the broad social divisions consisted of nobles,
including the datu; freemen; and a group described before the Spanish period as dependents.
Dependents included several categories with differing status: landless agricultural workers; those
who had lost freeman status because of indebtedness or punishment for crime; and slaves, most
of whom appear to have been war captives.
In the 14th century Arab traders from Malay and Borneo introduced Islam into the
southern islands and extended their influence as far north as Luzon. Islam was brought to the
Philippines by traders and proselytizers from the Indonesian islands. By the 16th century, Islam
was recognized in the Sulu Archipelago and spread from there to Mindanao; it had reached the
Manila area by 1565.
The first Europeans to visit (1521) the Philippines were those in the Spanish expedition

around the world headed by the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan. Other Spanish
expeditions followed, including one from New Spain (Mexico) under Lpez de Villalobos, who
in 1542 named the islands for the infante Philip, later Philip II. Muslim immigrants introduced a
political concept of territorial states ruled by rajas or sultans who exercised suzerainty over the
datu. Neither the political state concept of the Muslim rulers nor the limited territorial concept of
the inactive rice farmers of Luzon, however, spread beyond the areas where they originated. The
majority of the estimated 500,000 people in the islands lived in barangay settlements when the
Spanish arrived in the 16th century.
Social Structure of the People
Before the coming of Spanish colonizers, the people of the Philippine archipelago
had already attained a semicommunal and semislave social system in many parts
and also a feudal system in certain parts, especially in Mindanao and Sulu, where
such a feudal faith as Islam had already taken roots. The Aetas had the lowest form
of social organization, which was primitive communal.

The Society
The barangay was the typical community in the whole archipelago. It was the basic political and
economic unit independent of similar others. Each embraced a few hundreds of people and a
small territory. Each was headed by a chieftain called the rajah or datu.
Social Structure
The social structure comprised a petty nobility, the ruling class which had started to accumulate
land that it owned privately or administered in the name of the clan or community.

Maharlika (Datu in Visayas): an intermediate class of freemen

called the Maharlika who had enough land for their livelihood or who
rendered special service to the rulers and who did not have to work in
the fields.

Timawa: the ruled classes that included the timawa, the serfs who
shared the crops with the petty nobility.

Alipin (Oripun in Visayas): and also the slaves and semislaves who
worked without having any definite share in the harvest. There were
two kinds of slaves then: those who had their own quarters, the aliping
namamahay (aliping mamahay in Visayas), and those who lived in their
master's house, the aliping sagigilid (aliping hayohay in Visayas). One
acquired the status of a serf or a slave by inheritance, failure to pay
debts and tribute, commission of crimes and captivity in wars between

Islamic Monarchy
The Islamic sultanates of Sulu and mainland Mindanao represented a higher stage of
political and economic development than the barangay. These had a feudal form of social
organization. Each of them encompassed more people and wider territory than the barangay. The
sultan reigned supreme over several datus and was conscious of his privilege to rule as a matter
of hereditary "divine right."
Though they presented themselves mainly as administrators of communal lands, apart
from being direct owners of certain lands, the sultans, datus and the nobility exacted land rent in
the form of religious tribute and lived off the toiling masses. They constituted a landlord class
attended by a retinue of religious teachers, scribes and leading warriors.

The sultanates emerged in the two centuries precedent to the coming of Spanish
colonialists. They were built up among the so-called third wave of Malay migrants whose rulers
either tried to convert to Islam, bought out, enslaved or drove away the original non-Muslim
inhabitants of the areas that they chose to settle in. Serfs and slaves alike were used to till the
fields and to make more clearings from the forest.
Throughout the archipelago, the scope of barangays could be enlarged either through the
expansion of agriculture by the toil of the slaves or serfs, through conquests in war and through
interbarangay marriages of the nobility. The confederations of barangays was usually the result
of a peace pact, a barter agreement or an alliance to fight common internal and external enemies.
As evident from the forms of social organization already attained, the precolonial
inhabitants of the Philippine archipelago had an internal basis for further social development. In
either barangay or sultanate, there was a certain mode of production which was bound to develop
further until it would wear out and be replaced with a new one. There were definite classes
whose struggle was bound to bring about social development. As a matter of fact, the class
struggle within the barangay was already getting extended into interbarangay wars. The barangay
was akin to the Greek city-state in many respects and the sultanate to the feudal commonwealth
of other countries.
The people had developed extensive agricultural fields. In the plains or in the mountains,
the people had developed irrigation systems. The Ifugao rice terraces were the product of the
engineering genius of the people; a marvel of 12,000 miles if strung end-to-end. There were
livestock-raising, fishing and brewing of beverages. Also there were mining, the manufacture of
metal implements, weapons and ornaments, lumbering, shipbuilding and weaving. The
handicrafts were developing fast. Gunpowder had also come into use in warfare. As far north as
Manila, when the Spaniards came, there was already a Muslim community which had cannons in
its weaponry.
The ruling classes made use of arms to maintain the social system, to assert their
independence from other barangays or to repel foreign invaders. Their jurisprudence would still
be borne out today by the so-called Code of Kalantiyaw and the Muslim laws. These were
touchstones of their culture. There was a written literature which included epics, ballads, riddles
and verse-sayings; various forms and instruments of music and dances; and art works that
included well-designed bells, drums, gongs, shields, weapons, tools, utensils, boats, combs,
smoking pipes, lime tubes and baskets. The people sculpted images from wood, bone, ivory, horn
or metals. In areas where anito worship and polytheism prevailed, the images of flora and fauna
were imitated, and in the areas where the Muslim faith prevailed, geometric and arabesque
designs were made. Morga's Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas, a record of what the Spanish
conquistadores came upon, would later be used by Dr. Jose Rizal as testimony to the
achievement of the indios in precolonial times.
There was interisland commerce ranging from Luzon to Mindanao and vice-versa. There
were extensive trade relations with neighboring countries like China, Indochina, North Borneo,
Indonesia, Malaya, Japan and Thailand. Traders from as far as India and the Middle East vied for
commerce with the precolonial inhabitants of the archipelago. As early as the 9th century, Sulu
was an important trading emporium where trading ships from Cambodia, China and Indonesia
converged. Arab traders brought goods from Sulu to the Chinese mainland through the port of
Canton. In the 14th century, a large fleet of 60 vessels from China anchored at Manila Bay,
Mindoro and Sulu. Previous to this, Chinese trading junks had been intermittently sailing into

various points of the Philippine shoreline. The barter system was employed or gold and metal
gongs were used as medium of exchange.