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Asian Cultural Heritage

By aguevarra Oct 22, 2012 1085 Words
The popular and widely known Asian “Migration Theory” of professor H. Otley Beyer about the prehistoric peopling of the Philippines is now considered untenable by modern scholars. They questione the manner by which the theory was formulated because of the absence of historical or archeological proofs to support it.

The Asian texture of Filipino culture from the prehistoric Spanish times, therefore, could be traced to evolutionary factors, the continous migrations of people and the early contacts with other Asian civilizations.


Indian influences were traceable in the languages, religious belief, literature, customs and traditions of early Filipinos.

The Supreme God of the ancient Tagalog was Bathala, which came from the Sanskrit word B’hattara (great Lord) Among the pre-Islamic natives of Sulu, Indra Battara was the most prominent deity, Indra, being the sky god. The other gods the natives believed were of Indian or Vedic in origin such as Agni (fire god) and Surya (sun god). The epics of the early Filipinos such as the Biag ni Lam-Ang of the ilocanos, Mahabharata, the Indian epic. Some Filipino superstitious beliefs that originated from India were:

1. A comet is a bad sign; it brings war, famine and other calamities. 2. A pregnant woman must not eat twin bananas for she will give birth to twins.

The putong (headgear) of the early Filipino male was Indian origin. So was the sarong (Indian sari), the lower part of the clothing of pre-Spanish women. Indian influences on Filipino culture are clearly manifested by the presence of Sanskrit words in Tagalog language. Dr. T.H. Pardo de Tavera mentions 340 Sanskrit words. Examples are:

1. Atawaasawa (spouse)
2. Amaama (father)
3. Raharaha (king)
4. Harihari (king)
5. Kottakuta (fort)
6. Gandaganda (beauty)
7. Bhattarabathala (god)
8. Mutyamutya (pearl)
9. Inaina (mother)

The Maragtas
For lack of historical or archeological data, the Maragtas or the great tale about the Ten Bornean Datus who came to Panay may be part-history and part-fiction. According to this great story, at around 1250 AD, ten datus and their families left Borneo to escape the repressive rule of Sultan Makatunaw and to establish new homes across the seas. Led by Datu Puti, the Malays landed in Panay Island where they negotiated with Marikudo, the Negrito king for the barter of the lowlands. The agreed price was one golden salakot for the Ati king and one gold necklace for Maniwangtiwang, Marikudo’s wife. The barter of Panay was sealed by an agreement of friendship between the Atis and the Malays. The Negritos, after performing their merry songs and dances, retreated to the mountains.

There are some interesting coincidences, however, between the legend of Maragtas and Panay customs and traditions. To this day, the ati-atihan, a colorful song and dance festival is celebrated in Aklan. This is to re-enact the warm welcome accorded to the Malays by the Atis, which resulted to the purchase of Panay. W.H. Scott, the American missionary, in his doctoral dissertation (1968) comments: “There is no reason to doubt that this legend (Maragtas) preserves the memory of an actual event, but it is not possible to date the event itself, or to decide which of the details ar historical facts, and which are the embellishments of generations of oral transmission.”

The Chinese, who came to the Philippines, whether as traders or settlers, were primarily interested in trade, so their influences on Filipino life were mainly economic and social. The early Filipinos learned from the Chinese the art of metallurgy, the manufacture of gunpowder, mining methods and the use of porcelain, gongs, umbrellas, lead and kites.

From the Chinese originated the dishes lumpia, mami, okoy, pansit, bihon, chop suey and siopao. Sauces like toyo, and tawsi also came from the Chinese. Some Chinese customs were eventually adopted by the Filipinos. The arrangement of marriage of children by parents, the use of go-between in negotiating marriage, the use of white clothes or dress during the period of mourning and the filial respect for elders accorded by the children were examples of practices borrowed from the Chinese. About a thousand words are found in the Filipino language. Among them are the following:

1 Inkongingkong
2 Hebihibi
3 A-chiate
4 Bi-koebiko
5 Dikiamdikiam
6 Pin-topinto
7 Sosisusi
8 Mikimiki
9 Bakkiahbakya
10 Pansitpansit

The Filipinos had been trading with the Japanese long before the coming of the Spaniards. Japanese bahan (merchants) and wakos (pirates) sailed the South China Sea seeking for Sung and Yuan wares buried in Philippines graves, iron and woolens for Filipino gold and wax. The Japanese immigrants who came to the Philippines during the pre-Spanish times settled at the mouth of the Cagayan River, the Lingayen Gulf area, and Manila.

The first recorded encounter between the Japanese and the Spaniards was in 1572 when Juan de Salcedo, while sailing from Manila to Ilocos, fought off three Japanese junks off the coast of Pangasinan. The Japanese pirates sailed away, after fierce fighting. In 1582, an expedition led by Captain Juan Pablo Carreon assaulted a Japanese colony founded by the pirate Tayfusa at the mouth of Cagayan River. The Japanese were forced to leave the place. The early Japanese merchants also traded with Agoo, a town in the Lingayen Gulf area. They brought with them utensils, assorted weapons, salted meats and other Japanese were better treated and nodiscrimatory decrees were made against them. The Spaniards respected and feared them.

Arabia’s most enduring legacy to the peoples of Sulu and Mindanao is Islam. The Arabs also introduced the sultanate form of government, Arabic art and literature; the Arabic alphabet; the Koranic Law; the mosque; the art of warfare- lantaka(cannon), vinta(warboat) and the kuta(fort). The Luwaran, a code of laws and compilation of the customs and traditions of the early Muslims, was written in Arabic. The Maranao’s Darangan (epic poetry), Maguindanao’s Indarapatra and Sulayman and Sulu’s Parang Sabil were deeply inspired by Islam. Arabic influence is also clearly seen in the decorative and ornamental art of the maranaos, who are the best –known wood carvers and painters of the region.

Arabic words are also found in the Filipino language. Examples are: surat(letter), apu(old man), akma (appropriate), arak (wine), alamat (legend), maalem (knowing), pirate (scar) and salam (thanks).

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