The Early Filipinos

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THE LARLY FILIPINOS

The earliest Filipinos of whom we have historical record are the little black men whom the Spaniards called negrillos or negrito. They, however, called themselves simply dwellers, or lords of the lands; itself as indication of the antiquity of their settlement. When this was cannot say exactly, but it may we’ll have been when land bridges still connected the Philippines with the continent of Asia. It is reasonable to assume that their way of life has not changed much over the centuries. Certainly they are today as the Italian traveller Gemlli Caren described them towards the end of the seventh century.

1The blacks, by the Spaniards called negrillos, who live on the mountains and in thick woods, whereof there is plenty in Manila, differ quite the rest. They are meer barbarians, on feed on such fruit and roots as the mountains afford, and upon they can kill, even to monkeys, snakes and rats. They go naked except their privities, which they cover with the bark of trees, by them called bahaques, and the women with a clot woven of the fibers of trees, called tapisse. They use no other ornament but bracelets made of rushes and Indian canes of several colours. They have no laws, letters or government but that which kindred makes, for they all obey the head of the family. The women carry their children in wallets made of barks of trees and ty’d about them with a cloth, as some women of Albania do in Italy, or like the Irish women.

But if the earliest Filipinos had not, as Gemelli Careri says, “laws, letters or government save that which kindred makes,” they had that which in time, among more fortunate peoples, give rise to all these things: a worship. Earliest in the seventeenth century, missionaries on the island of Mindoro observed the Mangyans performing their religious rites.

2They wander through the forest fastness naked, save that nature prompts them to cover their private parts with the barks of trees… Gold and silver coins they esteem as nothing worth, but consider themselves wealthy if they own knives and cooking pots… If fortune smile on them and they bring down a buffalo, they spread a feast in which they piously make libations to their dead forbears, for being barbarians they consider all the good things that they receive to be a gift to their ancestors. If anyone falls sick, the others, to affect his cure, cook chicken and other foods and assemble the clan. The native who has power over ancestral spirits summons them with strange cries and bids them to the feast, in order that they might make the sick man well again. The banquet over, they collect the choicer morsels which remain, take them to the river, and wading waist-deep into the plunge the morsels into the water. They then stir up the sand [of the river bed] this way and that, for so they think-poor misguided people-to restore to the sick man the health which the spirits had taken away.

Much later, perhaps when the Han were founding an empire in China and the Romans an empire in the Mediterranean (200 B.C.-300 A.D.), another people came to the Philippines, this time by sea. The seafaring Malayas took the lowlands and rich river valley for themselves, driving the little black people to the hills of the hinterland. Having done so they called the, logically enough, Aelas; hill men. But if cannot have been war between them always. Occasionally they must have come to terms in the immemorial way, by intermarriage. Thus, the new “lord of the land,” or some of them at any rate were Aeta-Malay half casies: the first mestizos in the land whose history would be shaped largely by mestizos. This at lease is what the oral traditions of Batangas, is collected by Fray Agustin Maria de Castro, suggest.

3This town [of San Pablo] used to be called Sampaloc (which means “tamarind”) because of many tamarind trees which grew here. The chieftain or cassique, who ruled Sampaloc, or San Pablo, was the old gat Pagil,...
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