The Negritos are believed to have migrated to the Philippines some 30,000 years ago from Borneo, Sumatra, and Malaya. The Malayans followed in successive waves. These people belonged to a primitive epoch of Malayan culture, which has apparently survived to this day among certain groups such as the Igorots. The Malayan tribes that came later had more highly developed material cultures. In the 14th cent. Arab traders from Malay and Borneo introduced Islam into the southern islands and extended their influence as far north as Luzon. The first Europeans to visit (1521) the Philippines were those in the Spanish expedition around the world led 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.
The Art of WarWhen the Spanish began to colonize the Philippine islands the culture and technology was by no means that far behind most other areas of the world. Indeed, in many areas the Filipinos were quite advanced considering the timeline of the history of science. The metal smith, Panday Piray of Pampanga, was so skilled at weapons making and other types of metal working that the Spanish entrusted him with opening the first Spanish artillery foundry in the country. The Spanish found that the Filipinos made their own small arquebuses, or portable cannons, usually made of bronze. Larger cannons made of iron and resembling culverins provided heavier firepower. The iron cannon at Raha Soliman's house was about 17 feet long and was made from clay and wax moulds. The most fearsome weapon though was the famed lantaka, or swivel gun. Unlike the Spanish cannons these guns were placed on flexible swivels that allowed the gunner to quickly track a moving target. The lantakas of the Moros gave the Spanish so much trouble that they always included native ships, like the karakoa, equipped with lantakas to counter the Moro weapons. The most impressive lantakas had two revolving barrels. These were eventually exported to South America, and may have become the precursor of the Gatling gun. Piray started a tradition of high quality metal casting that lasted for centuries in many parts of the Philippines. Many individuals with surnames like Piray, Viray, etc., may have ancestors who were members of the guilds of smiths who followed the Piray lineage. The metal work involving authentic native swords was also of the highest quality. Unfortunately, this fell into disuse among most of the lowlanders of the North. However, the Muslims and animists of the South continued to make very fine kampilans, krisses, etc., that can take many years of work to complete.
People of the SeaThe Filipinos, particularly the Bisayans, impressed the Spanish with their navigational skills. Some Filipinos used a type of compass similar to that found among the people of Borneo and the Chinese, although most had no need for such devices. They used sailing techniques native to the ancient Malayo-Polynesian people. Some of the fishermen and traders in the Bisayas, Mindanao, Sulu and other areas of the Philippines can still navigate long distances over open water without modern instruments. The Philippine ships were of excellent quality and continued to be of great use to the Spaniards who included armed Karakao, or korkoa, and other vessels not only in expeditions against rebellious or resistant Filipinos, but also against intruding Dutch and British forces. The karakao was a rowed vessel with small rowing canoes placed under each outrigger. It's name is related to the korokoro of Indonesia, the kolik and kurakura of Malaysia, the kelakela of Tikopia, kel or gel of Anuda, and the kel of Pak. 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 with an additional one sometimes placed at the stern. Legazpi describes one of the "Moro" pilots captured from Butuan: "...a most experienced man who had much knowledge, not only of matters concerning these Filipinas Islands, but those of Maluco, Borney, Malaca, Jaba, India, and China, where he had had much experience in navigation and trade." (Blair and Robertson, Vol. II, p. 116.) The Kapampangans were said to have continued their trade with Batavia until the start of the galleon trade compelled the Spanish to take control of all commerce. Indeed, at one point Filipinos were not even allowed to go out of their villages to trade. The Philippines was also an active trading center itself before the coming of the Spanish. Pigafetta mentions that merchants and ambassadors from all the surrounding areas came to pay tribute to the king of Cebu for the purpose of trade. Indeed, while Magellan's crew were with the king a representative from Siam was paying tribute. Legazpi wrote how merchants from Luzon and Mindoro had come to Cebu for trade, and that they had mentioned how Chinese merchants regularly came to the north for the same purpose. The Barangay The word, barangay, usually means to modern Filipinos the basic social unit into which communities are divided. However, the barangay is also the name of an oceanic vessel that was used for trade, and also apparently for migration. At Butuan in Northern Mindanao, a spectacular find of barangay vessels was made in the mid-seventies. One of these ships dated back to the 4th century, the oldest find of its kind in the Austronesian region. Some of these boats were associated with T'ang Dynasty pottery, the oldest to be found in the Philippines to date. In the same area, skeletons were found with burial artifacts including wooden coffins and various trade items. Fishing
The Filipinos were skilled in all types of fishing and fisheries. In the south, the basnig, a Vikinglike ship, was and is the vessel of choice among the Bisayans for ocean fishing. The salambao 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 similar to the copal of Mexico. These candles were made from a particular type of resin. Fish corrals, like the ones still used today, were also employed by the ancient Filipino. However, the area in which the Filipino most astonished Westerners was in their advanced aquaculture: "To the early Spaniards, the pisciculture of the Filipinos was regarded almost as a new art, so much more advanced it was than fish breeding methods in Europe." (Commercial Progress in the Philippine Islands, Antonio M. Regidor and J. Warren T. Mason, 1905) Many have looked to Japan for an explanation for these advanced methods. The roe was transplanted to safe pens for incubation and to guard the small fry from predators. Only when sufficiently mature to fend for themselves were they released back into the wild. These days this method is practiced by fisheries throughout the world. Before the Spanish came, the Filipinos also only used large mesh nets when fishing in rivers, lakes or in the sea. This ecologically sound practice protected the young ensuring future good catches. However, the competition brought by the Spaniards resulted in the use of such small mesh nets that the Spanish themselves eventually had to regulate the nets to prevent the destruction of the fisheries.
Jewelry, Metal Work and Mining
Mines dating back to at least 1,000 B.C. have been found in the Philippines. When the Spanish arrived the Filipinos worked various mines of gold, silver, copper and iron. They also seemed to have worked in brass using tin that was likely imported from the Malay Peninsula. The iron work in particular was said to be of very high quality in some cases, and occassionaly in some areas, even better than that found in Europe. "... the natives proceed more slowly in this ,and content themselves with what they already possess in jewls and gold ingots handed down from antiquity and inherited from their ancestors. This is considerable, for he must be poor and wrethced who has no gold chains, calombigas, and earrings." However, things seem to already diminished from Pigafetta's time: "On the island [Butuan] where the king came to the ship, pieces of gold as large as walnuts or eggs are to be found, by sifting the earth. All the dishes of the king are of gold, and his whole house is very well set up."
Pigafetta goes on to describe the huge gold ornaments, gold dagger handles, tooth plating and even gold that was used to decorate the outside of houses! On the gold work of the Filipinos is this description of the people of Mindoro: "...they possess great skill in mixing it [gold] with other metals. They give it an outside appearance so natural and perfect, and so fine a ring, that unless it is melted they can deceive all men, even the best of silversmiths." The Filipinos also made jewelry of carnelian, agate and other precious stones, and of course, they were known for their coveted pearl industry. The Filipinos made metal implements like the sumpak of carabao horn and silver, a sort of fire piston, and the kalikot, of ebony and silver, for pounding betel nuts into powder. Excellent gongs were made of various metals. These gongs were often used as clocks, and Dampier and other visitors to the Moro kingdom tell of the regular sounding of the gongs to mark the hours of day and night. So far no evidence exists, that I am aware of, that the Filipinos possessed the copper water clocks of the Moluccas or Bali.
PotteryThe ancient Filipino engaged in pottery making from very ancient times. Many of the important pottery traditions that spread into the Oceania region had their counterparts in the Philippines including the well-known Lapita culture. This quote from Wilhelm Solheim illustrates the matter: "