The Philippines: The Pre-Colonial Period Explained

Before the Spanish sent their sail to the Philippines, the country has been occupied by many native Filipinos. During This time, there are already traders including the Chinese who comes to the Philippines to trade goods. Moreover, the country has been occupied by the Malayan races enriched with rich culture and traditions.

Prior to the colonial era, when indigenous people traded soundly with the various cultures and economies of the region, first in Spain for more than 300 years, then in the United States, during which it came quickly under Japanese occupation in WWII. The Philippines became independent in 1946.

As Asia’s oldest democracy, the country carries a history densely woven with a record of defiance against colonial and social oppression, exemplified by Dr. Jose Rizal, whose writings and novels against Spanish rule solidified Filipino people’s love for freedom and independence. Pre-colonial Filipino cultural achievements include those covered by the prehistoric and early history of the Philippines and its inhabitants, which are the indigenous tribes of today’s Filipino people.

Beginnings of the Archipelago 

The archipelago was formed by a volcanic eruption about 50 million years ago. The first inhabitants came from mainland Asia about 30,000 years ago, perhaps over an overpass built during the Ice Age. In the 10th century A.D., coastal villagers welcomed Chinese trade and settlers, followed by Islamic traders from Borneo.

The early inhabitants of the country were the ancestors of the Mongoloids that are prevalent today. However, the progressive spread of Islam from Borneo to the central and northern islands was disrupted by the arrival of Spanish Christians.

Pre-Colonial Trading

People of The Pre-Colonial Philippines 

Negritos were the early settlers, but their history of appearance in the country has not been certainly dated. They were actually followed by speakers of the Malayo-Polynesian languages, a branch of the Austronesian languages, who arrived in successive waves beginning around 4000 BCE, displacing the earlier arrivals.

Philippine Culture – Pre-colonial

Filipino culture is a melting pot of all its colonial rulers, and its foundation consists of a long indigenous history. It’s a culture that is difficult to identify because it is so diverse. Western influences may seem dominant, but it’s just the skin of a vibrant archipelago culture if you look closely.

Many languages ​​in the country emphasize many stories in the Philippines, and each language indicates a place. Even among the locals, English is also the currency in the country. The inherited language of the colonial ruler allows someone from one end of the country to speak to someone from the other end. As a result, Filipinos are nomads in their own country. This may also explain why hospitality is a well-known trait.

Whether Catholic or Islam or any other religion that exists, religion is a powerful force in the country. Places of worship are always in the center of the city and in towns. There are always multiple places to visit if the spiritual sanctuary is sought. The spectacle of these religions comes to life in the provincial fiestas. These celebrations combine colorful wonder and the enthusiasm of faith since Filipino people have a strong faith.

Art is a thriving industry in the Philippines. Entertainment is a big part of the lives of local Filipinos, and artistic works are exported in large quantities, especially in the performing arts. There are many things to discover in the Philippines. Its magnificent scenery attracts people here as tourists. But the complexity of that culture keeps people interested.

The Iconic Rice Has Always Been The Center of Every Meal

Another essay was written by Fernandez, The Staff of Life emphasizes rice’s importance to pre-colonial Filipino people. If people ate without it, it was considered a snack but not a meal. In addition, this food staple was used to show grief as no clean rice would be eaten for the whole year as a sign of mourning. Filipino people used several words for rice β€” palay is unhusked, bigas are husked, Kanin is cooked β€” also mirrored its significance in their way of life.

Kinilaw Is Atleast 100 Years Old

Kinilaw is one of the earliest food discoveries in the Philippines. In an essay, “Food At the Very Beginning,” cultural historian Doreen Fernandez states that kinilaw, a seafood dish similar to a ceviche dish, has been in the Philippines between the 10th and 13th centuries A.D.

During a Balangay excavation in Agusan Del Norte in 1987, researchers also discovered the tabon-tabon, it is a green fruit and some bones of yellowfin tuna. She also says that both were cut in the same way as to how the kinilaw is served today. Since kinilaw was prepared through souring and not by heat, they likely consumed it as it was simple to make. 

Writing Systems – Pre-Colonial 

During the early years, almost everybody in the society, male or female, knows how to read and write. However, they have their own writing method, which uses sharp-pointed tools, trunk skin, bamboo, and leaves. They actually write from top to bottom and read from left to right. Therefore, they have their Alibata, and their script is different from India, Japan, and China. This report was told by Father Pedro Chirino, one of the first Spanish missionaries to come to the Philippines.

Pre-Colonial Form of Government 

Before the Spaniards came into the Philippines, there were Filipino cultures that were not identified by most Filipinos, especially for newborn citizens. The Filipino people lived in villages called barangays before the colonization of the Spaniards. As the form of government, a barangay consisted of from 30 to 100 families. It was supervised by a Datu and was autonomous of the other group.

Pre-Colonial Clothing 

During this era, historians found that the “Barong Tagalog” (Philippine national dress) already existed. The earliest Baro or Barong Tagalog was worn by the natives of Ma-I (The Philippine name before) just before being colonized by the Spanish people. The men wore a sleeve-doublet made of rough cotton called Canga, which reached slightly below the waist. It has no collar with a front opening.

Their loins were also covered with a pane that hung between their legs. The women as well wore a sleeve dress but shorter than the men. They additionally wear a pane attached to the waist and reach the feet accentuated by a colorful belt. The materials used for their dress are of fine line or Indian Muslim.

Whenever Someone Dies, They Actually Make The Dead Body To “smoke” Strong Tobacco

When one died, the family made a chair and attached it to the stanchions of the house. The corpse, wrapped in a blanket, was placed in a chair as if it were sitting. The dead body was then made to “smoke” tobacco to avoid bacteria from entering the body. First, one end of the tobacco would be inserted into the mouth, and then someone around them would puff the smoke into the corpse’s mouth.

Next, water boiled with guava leaves was used to wash their skin, and the washing resumed until there was no water or fluid coming out of the dead person’s body. During the 3rd and 4th day after the washing, the corpse would be placed under sunlight. Everyone in the area would help peel off the corpse’s skin before being put in a coffin.

Conclusion | Final Thoughts

The crusade for a distinct Filipino character never seems to perish. On the contrary, several analyses, literature, dialogues, and works of art always seek to answer the question, what really makes a Filipino? As a country saturated with colonial practices for most of its written history, the Philippines’ pre-colonial past can usually be viewed with an air of mystery. In this long-gone era, traditions and beliefs are nothing but a distant, almost unimaginable memory.

Regina and Joe

Hello! It's Regina and Joe here. Like many other couples, we met online and after a long-distance relationship, Joe decided to move to the Philippines, where we married and live together since 2017. In this blog, we will teach you how to enjoy the Philippines to the fullest and what to expect from Filipino culture. Who more than us can understand both the West and the East?

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