Ancient Philippine civilization

Ancient Philippine civilization

Early Filipinos possessed a culture and technology that were quite advance considering the timeline of history of science when it flourished. Waves of migrants who came to settle in the islands contributed to the development of ancient Philippine civilization. Prehistoric aborigines, a cross of Afro-Asiatic and Austro-Aborigines, now called Negritos (Aeta, Agta, Ayta) reached the islands by way of land bridges around 15,000 to 30,000 BC, and they were excellent hunters and food gatherers. In its midst, other ancient civilizations were also thriving and evolving. The Proto-Malays, a Mongol-Asiatic race, arrived around 2500 BC using oceanic vessels called "balangays", and they brought with them their knowledge in seafaring, farming, building of houses from trees and creation of fire for cooking. The next to arrive were the Duetero-Malays, of India-Asiatic race (Indian, Chinese, Siamese, Arabic), that prevailed with a more superior and advanced culture. They possessed their own systems of writing, knowledge and skills in agriculture, metallurgy, jewelry-making as well as boat-building. When the Spaniards came to the islands in the 15th century, industries such as mining, agriculture, fishing and pottery were already in place and contacts with other Asian nations had been long established.


Early Filipinos were good agriculturists. A report during the time of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi noted of the great abundance of rice, fowls, wine as well as great numbers of carabaos, deer, wild boar and goats in Luzon. In addition, there were also great quantities of cotton and colored clothes, wax, honey and date palms produced by the natives.In the Visayas, according to another early report, rice, cotton, swine, fowls, wax and honey abound. Leyte was said to produce two rice crops a year, and Pedro Chirino commented on the great rice and cotton harvests that were sufficient to feed and cloth the people.

Duck culture was also practiced by the natives, particularly those around Pateros and Taguig. This resembled the Chinese methods of artificial incubation of eggs and the knowledge of every phase of a duck's life. This tradition is carried on until modern times. [ Ancient Philippine Civilization] . Accessed September 04, 2008.]

The Ifugaos of the mountainous region of the Cordilleras built irrigations, dams and hydraulic works and the famous Banaue Rice Terraces as a way for assisting in growing crops around 1000 BC.

Art of War

High quality metal casting, artillery and other metal works had been a tradition throughout the ancient Philippines. The metal smith, or "panday piray" of Pampanga was skilled at making weapons, and many individuals with the surnames Viray and Piray are said to be descendants of people who once members of the guild of smiths who followed the tradition of the "panday pira".

Early Filipinos small arquebuses, or portable cannons made up of bronze. Larger cannons, on the other hand, were made of iron and resembling culverins provided heavier firepower. The iron cannon at Rajah Sulayman's house was about 17 feet long and was made from clay and wax moulds.

Guns were also locally manufactured and used by the natives. The most fearsome among these native guns was the "lantaka", or swivel gun, which allowed the gunner to quickly track a moving target. Some of the weaponry used by the natives was quite unusual. For instance, one weapon was the prototype of the modern-day yoyo, and it returned to is owner after being flung at an opponent.

Swords were also part of the native weaponry. Making of swords involved elaborate rituals that were based mainly on the auspicious conjunctions of planets. The passage of the sword from the maker entailed a mystical ceremony that was coupled with superstitious beliefs. The lowlanders of Luzon no longer use of the "bararao", while the Moros and animists of the South still continue the tradition of making "kampilan" and "kris".

In addition to weaponry, the early Filipinos made good armor for use in the battlefield and built strong fortress called "kota" or "moog" to protect their communities. The Moros, in particular, had armor that covered the entire body from the top of the head to the toes. The Igorots built forts made of stone walls that averaged several meters in width and about two to three times the width in height around 2000 BC. [ Ancient and Pre-Spanis Era of the Philippines] . Accessed September 04, 2008.]

Education and writing

Early Filipinos devised and used their own system of writings from 300 BC. These scripts descended from the Brahmic family of Ancient India.

Maritime culture and aquaculture

Early Filipinos, being descendants of the "balangay"-borne Austronesian migrants from mainland China, [ [ The Austronesian People] . Accessed September 04, 2008.] were known for their navigational skills. Some of them used compass similar to those used among maritime communities of Borneo and traders of China, although most had no need for such devices. In modern times, some fishermen and traders in the Visayas, Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan can still navigate long distances over open water without the use of modern navigational instruments. Philippine ships, such as the "karakao" or "korkoa" were of excellent quality and some of theme were used by the Spaniards in expeditions against rebellious tribes and Dutch and British forces. Some of the larger rowed vessels held up to a hundred rowers on each side besides a contigent of armed troops. Generally, the larger vessels held at least one "lantaka" at the front of the vessel or another one placed at the stern. Philippine sailing ships called "praos" had double sails that seemed to rise well over a hundred feet from the surface of the water. Despite their large size, these ships had double outriggers. Some of the larger sailing ships, however, did not have outriggers.

Communities of ancient Philippines were active in international trade. Early Filipinos were engaged in long-range trading with their Asian neighbors as far as west as Maldives and as far as north as Japan. Some historians even proposed that they also had regular contacts with the people of Western Micronesia because it was the only area in the Oceana that had rice crops, "tuba" (fermented coconut sap), and tradition of betel nut chewing when the first Europeans arrived there. The uncanny resemblance of complex body tattoos among the Visayans and the Maori of Aotearoa also proved some interesting connection between Oceana and ancient Philippines. Magellan's chronicler, Antonio Pigafetta, mentioned that merchants and ambassadors from all surrounding areas cameto pay tribue to the king of Sugbu (Cebu) for the purpose of trade. While Magellan's crew were with the king, a representative from Siam was paying tribute to the king.. Miguel Lopez de Legazpi also wrote how merchants from Luzon and Mindoro had come to Cebu for trade, and he also mentioned how the Chinese merchants regularly came to Luzon for the same purpose. The Visayan Islands had earlier encounter with the Greek traders in 21 AD. Its people enjoyed extensive trade contacts with other cultures. Arabs, Indians, Vietnamese, Thais, Cambodians, Malays and Indonesians as trader or immigrants. [ [ Cebu, a Port City in Prehistoric and in Present Times] . Accessed September 05, 2008.]

Aside from trade relations, the natives were also involved in aquaculture and fishing. The natives make use of the "salambao", which is a type of raft that utilizes a large fishing net which is lowered into the water via a type of lever made of two criss-crossed poles. Night fishing was accomplished with the help of candles made from a particular type of resin similar to the copal of Mexico. Use of safe pens for incubation and protection of the small fry from predators were also observed, and this method astonished the Spaniards at that time. During fishing, lage mesh nets were also utilized by the natives to protect the young and ensure future good catches.

Mining and jewelry making

Mining in the Philippines began around 1000 BC. The early Filipinos worked various mines of gold, silver, copper and iron. Jewels, gold ingots, chains, calombigas and earrings were handed down from antiquity and inherited from their ancestors. Gold dagger handles, gold dishes, tooth plating, and huge gold ornamets were also used. In Laszlo Legeza's "Tantric elements in pre-Hispanic Philippines Gold Art", he mentioned that gold jewelry of Philippine origin was found in Ancient Egypt. According to Antonio Pigafetta, the people of Mindoro possessed great skill in mixing gold with other metals and gave it a natural and perfect appearance that could deceive even the best of silversmiths. The natives were also known for the jewelries made of other precious stones such as carnelian, agate and pearl. Some outstanding examples of Philippine jewelry included necklaces, belts, armlets and rings placed around the waist.


The ancient Philippines had a very rich tradition of pottery as verified by the finds at Ayub Cave in South Cotabato and other parts of the islands. Japanese texts mentioned trading expeditions to the island of "Rusun" (Luzon) for the highly-prized Rusun and Namban jars occurred. Japanese texts were very specific about these jars being made in Luzon. The Tokiko, for example, calls the Rusun and Namban jars, "Ru-sun tsukuru" or "Lu-sung ch'i" (in Chinese), which means simply "made in Luzon." These Rusun jars, which had "rokuru" (wheel mark), were said to be more precious than gold because of its ability to act as tea canisters and enhance the fermentation process.


External links

* [ Ancient Philippine Civilization]
* [ Austronesian migration waves and expansion in the Asia-Pacific]
* [ Burial coffins and Grave furnitures]
* [ The Philippines: Then and Now]
* [ Pre-historic Neolithic Iron Age Culture]
* [ Timeline of the History of the Philippines: Prehistoric times]

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