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Sources of History

Topics: Philippines, Visayas / Pages: 9 (2195 words) / Published: Aug 27th, 2013
Sources of History

Sources of information provide the evidence from which the historian obtains facts about the past. In writing history, the historian not only relies on past thoughts rather re-enacts it in the context of analysing the documents and other records left. This is an indispensable condition in the quest for historical facts. Primary sources are those that have witnessed the event that took place or have been part of the incident being studied. These include written records (e.g. narratives, manuscripts, public documents, letters, diaries), fossils, artifacts and testimony from living witnesses. On the other hand, secondary sources have not been part of the event being considered such as magazines, newspapers, pamphlets, typescripts, and articles written about the primary sources. Prehistory, a term given by 19th century French scholars, covers the past human experiences prior to the existence of written records. The basic source of prehistory is archaeology, which is a sub-discipline of anthropology (i.e., the study of all aspects of human life and culture). Archaeology is the study of past cultures. Archaeologists study artifacts (materials equipment made bt people of the past like tools, pottery, and jewelry) and fossils (preserved remains of plants, animals and people of a remote geological past). Archaeological excavation refers to the systematic recovery and study of these pieces of material evidence. Archaeology gives us an idea how things might have looked like at a particular time. Cultural artifacts may be looked at as concrete expressions of the ancient settlers’ way in dealing with the problem of adaptation to the environment. Their achievements in material and social culture show much of their behaviour, values, and beliefs as well as their intellectual maturity. Unfortunately, the reconstruction of the Philippine prehistory will always be incomplete. Many of the object recovered have disintegrated over time. Materials like wood, barks of trees, and clothing decompose easily particularly in a tropical climate such as ours. Devices made of stone, clay soil, metal and the like, can survive most likely the society that created it and thus, be presently known through the efforts of the archaeologists. Early archaeological undertakings in the Philippines began with the first major expedition in 1881 by a Frenchman, Alfred Marche in the island of Marinduque and other sites in Central Philippines. Most of his collections are now with the Musee de l’ homme in Paris, and some in Madrid. There were also sporadic finds and pot-hunting activities in various parts of the archipelago prior to this major archaeological excavation. Feodor Jagor, a German traveller, reported having encountered a priest in Naga, Camarines Sur who collected artifacts from ancient graveyards. Dr. Antonio de Morga, is his Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas (Historical Events of the Philippine Islands), described the ancient artifacts that were recovered by farmers in Luzon, particularly in Ilocos, Pangsinan, Pampanga, and Manila. These were clay vessels of dark brown color and some marked with characters. These items are no longer being manufactured in the islands. Jose Rizal, the country’s foremost hero was noted to have found ground and polished stone tools during his exile in Dapitan, Zamboanga del Norte. The second major archaeological exploration was carried out by Carl Guthe from the university of Michigan from 1922 to 1925. With his team, they conducted several test-digs in Palawan, Bohol, Northern Mindanao and other places in Central Philippines. The purpose of this Michigan archaeological expedition was to collect Chinese ceramics exported to the Philippines from China, to look into the early Filipino-Chinese relationship. The collection, resulting from the excavations, consisted of more than 30 cubic tons of prehistoric artifacts. They are now kept at the University of Michigan. From 1926 to the outbreak of the Second World War, much of the archaeological discoveries were done by Henry Otley Beyer (1883-1966) born in Edgewood, Iowa who had married Lingayu Gambuk, the 15 year-old daughter of a powerful Ifugao chief in 1910. The discovery of a major archaeological site in Novaliches in 1926, resulting from the construction of a dam for Manila’s water supply, was Beyer’s first archaeological research in the country. In 1947, Beyer published the Outline Review of Philippine Archaeology by Islands and Provinces. A pioneering research activity in Philippine prehistory. Larry Wilson, a mining prospector, assisted Beyer in the exploration of numerous prospector, assisted Beyer in the exploration of numerous Pleistocene sites in Northern Luzon. It was Beyer who first disclosed the importance of Palawan in the search for early man in the Philippines. All over the archipelago, the fossilized remains of large mammals that roamed the islands during the Middle Pleistocene Epoch have been discovered in the 1920s. The fossils of elephas, stegodons, rhinoceroses, and deer have been discovered in Cagayan, Pangasinan, Rizal, Panay Island and in Northeastern Mindanao. The elephas, stegodon, and rhinoceros are now extinct in the country. After the Second World War, increased interest in the prehistoric beginnings of the Philippines evoled. Archaelogy was later on introduced as part of the curriculum at the University of the Philippines. Wilhelm G. Solheim II conducted the first post-war excavations in Masbate Island from 1951 to 1953. Alfredo Evangelista and E. Arsenio Manuel assisted him in undertaking the work. Between 1950 and 1954, Solheim was the research associate at the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology of the University of the Philippines and the librarian and curator of the American Historical Collection of the U.S. embassy in Manila. His earliest works in Philippine archaeology was in 1951, with the publications on archaeological fieldwork in San Narciso, Tayabas (now Quezon). His activities included extensive field experience in Southeast Asia, as well as the various islands of the Pacific Region. From 1958 to 1962, Robert B. Fox and Alfredo Evangelist, both working for the National Museum of the Philippines, undertook series of test-digs in the caves of Cagraray, Albay and Bato, Sorsogon. Tradeware ceramics from China and Thailand were recovered in Calatagan. Fox led the Tabon Caves Archaeological Project in southwester Palawan, resulting in the unearthing of late Pleistocene human fossils and stone tools and implements. Charcoal materials analyzed by carbon-14 technique revealed the presence of amn in the area between 22,000 to 24,000 years ago. Human fossil bones of at least three individuals were found. These included a large frontal bone, with the brows and part of the nasal bones as well as fragments of a mandible and teeth. Classified as modern man or Homo Sapiens, these are the earliest known human inhabitants of the Philippines.

Unhistorical Data There are some narratives that have been previously accepted in Philippines history as facts but later were found out to be historical errors. It is to discredit of many historians who investigate and take position of what they have discovered out in their careful research. These unhistorical accounts include the Maragtas story, the Code of Kalantiaw, and the legend of Princess Urduja. Maragtas is the story about ten Malay datu from Borneo who settled into the Philippine islands. According to the Margtas, at around 1250A.D., ten Bornean datu and the families left their kingdom in search of new homes, across the sea to escape the merciless rule of Sultan Makatunaw. Led by Datu Puti, the Borneans landed in the island of Panay and bought the lowlands from Ati king named Marikudo in exchange for one gold saduk (native hat) and a long gold necklace for Queen Maningwantiwan. After the land sale and pact of friendship, the Atis went to the hills. The malay datus settled in the lowlands. The research of Scott showed that maragtas is not a prehispanic document but a book written by Pedro Monteclaro, a local historian of Panay. Monteclaro’s publisher in 1907, noted that this Maragtas should not be considered as facts, all of which are accurate and true. The publisher pointed out many of the author’s data do not tally with what we hear from old men. The author wrote that two of his manuscripts were rotten and hardly legible. None of these written materials was preserved for future generations. He made no explanation about the date as well as the origin of his sources. Neither were there claims to clarity. There is no tradition of recording history nor legal decision in panay during the precolonial times. Thus the Maragtas could neither support the presence of any pre-Spanish Confederation of Madiaas (also spelled as Madyaas) nor uphold the existence of a Sumakwel Code. Previously regarded as the second oldest legal code in the Philippines was the Code of Kalantiaw. This code was said to be a set of ancient laws promulgated in 1433 by Datu Bendara Kalantiaw (Spanish spelling, Calantiao) of Aklan, the third Muslim ruler of Panay. The code itself was contained in one of the chapters of the Las antiguas leyendas de la isla de Negros (Ancient Legends of Negros Island) written by Fr. Jose Maria Pavon, a Spanish secular priest who became a parish priest of Himamaylan, Negros Occidental in 1838-1839. Jose E. Marco of Negros Occidental discovered the alleged Pavon manuscripts and presented it to Dr. james Robertson, Director of the Philippine Library and Museum in 1914. According to marco’s confession, he obtained the two manuscript volumes from someone who had stolen them from the Himamaylan convent during the Revolution. Director Robertson had the pavon manuscripts published in its English translation in 1917. The Philippine Studies Program of the University of Chicago reprinted the translation in 1957. Eventually, Filipino historians and textbook writers acknowledged the authenticity of the Pavon manuscripts without any doubt. In the unprecedented doctoral study of Scott, he concluded that the Pavon manuscripts were not genuine and that the Code of Kalantiaw was a hoax. He presented his serious objections to this fake “historical” code. They are as follows: 1. There is no evidence that Fr. Pavon, the alleged author of the manuscript, was ever in the Philippines in 1838, or parich priest of the town in 1839, the dates of the manuscript. The discoverer of the alleged manuscript, Jose E. marco, was also involved in the sale of other fake historical documents. There is no historical evidence for the existence of Datu Kalantiaw, or a code of his name other than the documents presented by Jose Marco. 2. The contents of the manuscript are of dubious value. For example, the author prays for the preservation of the King of Spain in 1838 and dedicates a book to him in 1839, but Spain had no king between 1833 and 1874.

3. The author also states that the month of November was called a bad month for it brought air laden with putrified microbes of evil fevers. It was only in the 1850s that Louis Pasteur discovered the theory of infectious germs. The word “microbe” itself was invented by Dr. Charles Emmanuel Sedillot. He proposed the term for the first time in a lecture before the Academy of Sciences in 1878.

4. The kalantiaw Code contains many strange edicts that contradict the character of the Filipino. For example, the code prescribed death penalty for the crime of trespassing of the datu’s house, but imposed only a year’s slavery for stealing his wife. Another narrative that many Filipinos have learned is about the legendary warrior princess named Urduja. She has been adopted as a symbol of a woman of distinguished courage, an inspiration for women in the country. Unfortunately this tale is another historical error that has created false impressions and should be corrected. The story reportedly came from Muhammad Ibn Abdullah Ibn Batuta also known as IBN Batuta (1304-1378), an Arab traveller from Morocco. His book Rihlah (Travels) includes descriptions of the Byzantine court of Constantinople (now Istanbul) and the Black Death of Baghdad (1348). According to his travel accounts, while somewhere in Southeast Asian waters, he reached the land of Tawalisi after a voyage of 71 dys, and China was 15 days away with a favourable wind. In Tawalisi, he mentioned a mysterious amazon named Princess Urduja who would only marry the man who could beat her in fistfights. She presided over a court so fascinating and majestic. She gave Ibn batuta gifts of silk, spices, sheep, buffaloes, and two elephant-loads of rice. The legend of Princess Urduja is quite amusing but historians could not certify its authenticity. Modern historians agree that Princess Urduja was just an illusory cresation of Ibn batuta, a contemporary of marco Polo (1254-1324), the Venetian translation of the original title of the book was The Description of the World recorded by Rustichello, a romance writer from Pisa), drew the attention of a great number of Europeans and stimulated interest in Asian trade. Efforts to correct historical errors are still ongoing. Many historians even investigate for themselves the validity of sources and data. The concern of historians has been to collect and record facts about the past and to discover new facts with utmost care and truthfulness. The damage caused by deception is surely immeasurable but the blunder itself is a challenge that every individual should face. The determination to uncover the past necessarily involves the use of auxillary disciplines and literary forms.

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