The Peoples of the Philippines


The Peoples of the Philippines


Manila Philippines Map 1
Manila Philippines Map
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Manila Philippines seal
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Manila Philippines Coat of Arms
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The Peoples of the Philippines

The Study of Ethnology.—The study of races and peoples forms a separate science from history, and is known as ethnology, or the science of races. Ethnology informs us how and where the different races of mankind originated. It explains the relationships between the races as well as the differences of mind, of body, and of mode of living which different people exhibit.

All such knowledge is of great assistance to the statesman as he deals with the affairs of his own people and of other peoples, and it helps private individuals of different races to understand one another and to treat each other with due respect, kindness, and sympathy. Inasmuch, too, as the modern history which we are studying deals with many different peoples of different origin and race, and as much of our history turns upon these differences, we must look for a little at the ethnology of the Philippines.

The Negritos.—Physical Characteristics.—The great majority of the natives of our islands belong to what is usually called the Malayan race, or the Oceanic Mongols. There is, however, one interesting little race scattered over the Philippines, which certainly has no relationship at all with Malayans. These little people are called by the Tagálog, “Aeta” or “Ita.” The Spaniards, when they arrived, called them “Negritos,” or “little negroes,” the name by which they are best known. Since they were without question the first inhabitants of these islands of whom we have any knowledge, we shall speak of them at once.


Countries and Peoples of Malaysia

They are among the very smallest peoples in the world, the average height of the men being about 145 centimeters, or the height of an American boy of twelve years; the women are correspondingly smaller. They have such dark-brown skins that many people suppose them to be quite black; their hair is very wooly or kinky, and forms thick mats upon their heads. In spite of these peculiarities, they are not unattractive in appearance. Their eyes are large and of a fine brown color, their features are quite regular, and their little bodies often beautifully shaped.

The appearance of these little savages excited the attention of the first Spaniards, and there are many early accounts of them. Padre Chirino, who went as a missionary in 1592 to Panay, begins the narrative of his labors in that island as follows: “Among the Bisayas, there are also some Negroes. They are less black and ugly than those of Guinea, and they are much smaller and weaker, but their hair and beard are just the same. They are much more barbarous and wild than the Bisayas and other Filipinos, for they have neither houses nor any fixed sites for dwelling. They neither plant nor reap, but live like wild beasts, wandering with their wives and children through the mountains, almost naked. They hunt the deer and wild boar, and when they kill one they stop right there until all the flesh is consumed. Of property they have nothing except the bow and arrow.”

Manners and Customs.—The Negritos still have this wild, timid character, and few have ever been truly civilized in spite of the efforts of some of the Spanish missionaries. They still roam through the mountains, seldom building houses, but making simply a little wall and roof of brush to keep off the wind and rain. They kill deer, wild pigs, monkeys, and birds, and in hunting they are very expert; but their principal food is wild roots and tubers, which they roast in ashes. Frequently in traveling through the mountains, although one may see nothing of these timid little folk, he will see many large, freshly dug holes from each of which they have taken out a root.

The Negritos ornament their bodies by making little rows of cuts on the breast, back, and arms, and leaving the scars in ornamental patterns; and some of them also file their front teeth to points. In their hair they wear bamboo combs with long plumes of hair or of the feathers of the mountain cock. They have curious dances, and ceremonies for marriage and for death.

Distribution.—The Negritos have retired from many places where they lived when the Spaniards first arrived, but there are still several thousand in Luzon, especially in the Cordillera Zambales, on the Pacific coast, and in the Sierra Madre range; and in the interior of Panay, Negros, Tablas, and in Surigao of Mindanao.

Relation of the Negritos to Other Dwarfs of the World.—Although the Negritos have had very little effect on the history of the Philippines, they are of much interest as a race to scientists, and we can not help asking, Whence came these curious little people, and what does their presence here signify? While science can not at present fully answer these questions, what we do actually know about these pygmies is full of interest.


Races and Tribes of the Philippines

The Aetas of the Philippines are not the only black dwarfs in the world. A similar little people, who must belong to the same race, live in the mountains and jungles of the Malay peninsula. On the Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean, all the aboriginal inhabitants are similar pygmies, called “Mincopies.” Some traces of their former existence are reported from many other places in the East Indies.

Thus it may be that there was a time when these little men and women had much of this island-world quite to themselves, and their race stretched unbrokenly from the Philippines across Malacca to the Indian Ocean. As it would have been impossible for so feeble a people to force their way from one island to another after the arrival of the stronger races, who have now confined them to the mountainous interiors, we are obliged to believe that the Negritos were on the ground first, and that at one time they were more numerous. The Indian archipelago was then a world of black pygmies. It may be that they were even more extensive than this, for one of the most curious discoveries of modern times has been the finding of similar little blacks in the equatorial forests of Africa.

The Negritos must not be confused with the black or negro race of New Guinea or Melanesia, who are commonly called Papuans; for those Negroes are of tall stature and belong with the true Negroes of Africa, though how the Negro race thus came to be formed of two so widely separated branches we do not know.

The Malayan Race.—Origin of the Race.—It is thought that the Malayan race originated in southeastern Asia. From the mainland it spread down into the peninsula and so scattered southward and eastward over the rich neighboring islands. Probably these early Malayans found the little Negritos in possession and slowly drove them backward, destroying them from many islands until they no longer exist except in the places we have already named.

With the beginning of this migratory movement which carried them from one island to another of the great East Indian Archipelago, these early Malayans must have invented the boats and praos for which they are famed, and have become skillful sailors living much upon the sea.

Effect of the Migration.—Life for many generations, upon these islands, so warm, tropical, and fruitful, gradually modified these emigrants from Asia, until they became in mind and body quite a different race from the Mongol inhabitants of the mainland.

Characteristics.—The Malayan peoples are of a light-brown color, with a light yellowish undertone on some parts of the skin, with straight black hair, dark-brown eyes, and, though they are a small race in stature, they are finely formed, muscular, and active. The physical type is nearly the same throughout all Malaysia, but the different peoples making up the race differ markedly from one another in culture. They are divided also by differences in religion. There are many tribes which are pagan. On Bali and Lombok, little islands south of Java, the people are still Brahmin, like most inhabitants of India. In other parts of Malaysia they are Mohammedans, while in the Philippines alone they are mostly Christians.

The Wild Malayan Tribes.—Considering first the pagan or the wild Malayan peoples, we find that in the interior of the Malay Peninsula and of many of the islands, such as Sumatra, Borneo and the Celebes, there are wild Malayan tribes, who have come very little in contact with the successive civilizing changes that have passed over this archipelago. The true Malays call these folk “Orang benua,” or “men of the country,” Many are almost savages, some are cannibals, and others are headhunters like some of the Dyaks of Borneo.

In the Philippines, too, we find what is probably this same class of wild people living in the mountains. They are warlike, savage, and resist approach. Sometimes they eat human flesh as a ceremonial act, and some prize above all other trophies the heads of their enemies, which they cut from the body and preserve in their homes. It is probable that these tribes represent the earliest and rudest epoch of Malayan culture, and that these were the first of this race to arrive in the Philippines and dispute with the Negritos for the mastery of the soil. In such wild state of life, some of them, like the Manguianes of Mindoro, have continued to the present day.

The Tribes in Northern Luzon.—In northern Luzon, in the great Cordillera Central, there are many of these primitive tribes. These people are preëminently mountaineers. They prefer the high, cold, and semi-arid crests and valleys of the loftiest ranges. Here, with great industry, they have made gardens by the building of stone-walled terraces on the slopes of the hills. Sometimes hundreds of these terraces can be counted in one valley, and they rise one above the other from the bottom of a cañon for several miles almost to the summit of a ridge. These terraced gardens are all under most careful irrigation. Water is carried for many miles by log flumes and ditches, to be distributed over these little fields. The soil is carefully fertilized with the refuse of the villages. Two and frequently three crops are produced each year. Here we find undoubtedly the most developed and most nearly scientific agriculture in the Philippines. They raise rice, cotton, tobacco, the taro, maize, and especially the camote, or sweet potato, which is their principal food. These people live in compact, well-built villages, frequently of several hundred houses. Some of these tribes, like the Igorrotes of Benguet and the Tinguianes of Abra, are peaceable as well as industrious. In Benguet there are fine herds of cattle, much excellent coffee, and from time immemorial the Igorrotes here have mined gold.

Besides these peaceful tribes there are in Bontoc, and in the northern parts of the Cordillera, many large tribes, with splendid mountain villages, who are nevertheless in a constant and dreadful state of war. Nearly every town is in feud with its neighbors, and the practice of taking heads leads to frequent murder and combat. A most curious tribe of persistent head hunters are the Ibilao, or Ilongotes, who live in the Caraballo Sur Mountains between Nueva Ecija and Nueva Vizcaya.

On other islands of the Philippines there are similar wild tribes. On the island of Paragua there are the Tagbanúa and other savage folk.

Characteristics of the Tribes of Mindanao.—In Mindanao, there are many more tribes. Three of these tribes, the Aetas, Mandaya, and Manobo, are on the eastern coast and around Mount Apo. In Western Mindanao, there is quite a large but scattered tribe called the Subanon. These people make clearings on the hillsides and support themselves by raising maize and mountain rice. They also raise hemp, and from the fiber they weave truly beautiful blankets and garments, artistically dyed in very curious patterns. These peoples are nearly all pagans, though a few are being gradually converted to Mohammedanism, and some to Christianity. The pagans occasionally practice the revolting rites of human sacrifice and ceremonial cannibalism.

The Civilized Malayan Peoples.—Their Later Arrival.—At a later date than the arrival of these primitive Malayan tribes, there came to the Philippines others of a more developed culture and a higher order of intelligence. These peoples rapidly mastered the low country and the coasts of all the islands, driving into the interior the earlier comers and the aboriginal Negritos. These later arrivals, though all of one stock, differed considerably, and spoke different dialects belonging to one language family. They were the ancestors of the present civilized Filipino people.

Distribution of These Peoples.—All through the central islands, Panay, Negros, Leyte, Samar, Marinduque, and northern Mindanao, are the Bisaya, the largest of these peoples. At the southern extremity of Luzon, in the provinces of Sorsogon and the Camarines, are the Bicol. North of these, holding central Luzon, Batangas, Cavite, Manila, Laguna, Bataan, Bulacan, and Nueva Ecija, are the Tagálog, while the great plain of northern Luzon is occupied by the Pampango and Pangasinan. All the northwest coast is inhabited by the Ilocano, and the valley of the Cagayan by a people commonly called Cagayanes, but whose dialect is Ibanag. In Nueva Vizcaya province, on the Batanes Islands and the Calamianes, there are other distinct branches of the Filipino people, but they are much smaller in numbers and less important than the tribes marked above.


Mindanao Belt of Bamboo Fiber.

Importance of These Peoples.—They form politically and historically the Filipino people. They are the Filipinos whom the Spaniards ruled for more than three hundred years. All are converts to Christianity, and all have attained a somewhat similar stage of civilization.

Early Contact of the Malays and Hindus.—These people at the time of their arrival in the Philippines were probably not only of a higher plane of intelligence than any who had preceded them in the occupation of the islands, but they appear to have had the advantages of contact with a highly developed culture that had appeared in the eastern archipelago some centuries earlier.


Mindanao Brass Vessels.

Early Civilization in India.—More than two thousand years ago, India produced a remarkable civilization. There were great cities of stone, magnificent palaces, a life of splendid luxury, and a highly organized social and political system. Writing, known as the Sanskrit, had been developed, and a great literature of poetry and philosophy produced. Two great religions, Brahminism and Buddhism, arose, the latter still the dominant religion of Tibet, China, and Japan. The people who produced this civilization are known as the Hindus. Fourteen or fifteen hundred years ago Hinduism spread over Burma, Siam, and Java. Great cities were erected with splendid temples and huge idols, the ruins of which still remain, though their magnificence has gone and they are covered to-day with the growth of the jungle.

Influence of Hindu Culture on the Malayan Peoples.—This powerful civilization of the Hindus, established thus in Malaysia, greatly affected the Malayan people on these islands, as well as those who came to the Philippines. Many words in the Tagálog have been shown to have a Sanskrit origin, and the systems of writing which the Spaniards found in use among several of the Filipino peoples had certainly been developed from the alphabet then in use among these Hindu peoples of Java.

The Rise of Mohammedanism.—Mohammed.—A few hundred years later another great change, due to religious faith, came over the Malayan race,—a change which has had a great effect upon the history of the Philippines, and is still destined to modify events far into the future. This was the conversion to Mohammedanism. Of all the great religions of the world, Mohammedanism was the last to arise, and its career has in some ways been the most remarkable. Mohammed, its founder, was an Arab, born about 572 A.D. At that time Christianity was established entirely around the Mediterranean and throughout most of Europe, but Arabia was idolatrous. Mohammed was one of those great, prophetic souls which arise from time to time in the world’s history. All he could learn from Hebrewism and Christianity, together with the result of his own thought and prayers, led him to the belief in one God, the Almighty, the Compassionate, the Merciful, who as he believed would win all men to His knowledge through the teachings of Mohammed himself. Thus inspired, Mohammed became a teacher or prophet, and by the end of his life he had won his people to his faith and inaugurated one of the greatest eras of conquest the world has seen.

Spread of Mohammedanism to Africa and Europe.—The armies of Arabian horsemen, full of fanatical enthusiasm to convert the world to their faith, in a century’s time wrested from Christendom all Judea, Syria, and Asia Minor, the sacred land where Jesus lived and taught, and the countries where Paul and the other apostles had first established Christianity. Thence they swept along the north coast of Africa, bringing to an end all that survived of Roman power and religion, and by 720 they had crossed into Europe and were in possession of Spain. For nearly the eight hundred years that followed, the Christian Spaniards fought to drive Mohammedanism from the peninsula, before they were successful.


The Spread of Mohammedanism

The Conversion of the Malayans to Mohammedanism.—Not only did Mohammedanism move westward over Africa and Europe, it was carried eastward as well. Animated by their faith, the Arabs became the greatest sailors, explorers, merchants, and geographers of the age. They sailed from the Red Sea down the coast of Africa as far as Madagascar, and eastward to India, where they had settlements on both the Malabar and Coromandel coasts. Thence Arab missionaries brought their faith to Malaysia.

At that time the true Malays, the tribe from which the common term “Malayan” has been derived, were a small people of Sumatra. At least as early as 1250 they were converted to Mohammedanism, brought to them by these Arabian missionaries, and under the impulse of this mighty faith they broke from their obscurity and commenced that great conquest and expansion that has diffused their power, language, and religion throughout the East Indies.

Mohammedan Settlement in Borneo.—A powerful Mohammedan Malay settlement was established on the western coasts of Borneo certainly as early as 1400. The more primitive inhabitants, like the Dyaks, who were a tribe of the primitive Malayans, were defeated, and the possession of the coast largely taken from them. From this coast of Borneo came many of the adventurers who were traversing the seas of the Philippines when the Spaniards arrived.

The Mohammedan Population of Mindanao and Jolo owes something certainly to this same Malay migration which founded the colony of Borneo. But the Maguindanao and Illano Moros seem to be largely descendants of primitive tribes, such as the Manobo and Tiruray, who were converted to Mohammedanism by Malay and Arab proselyters. The traditions of the Maguindanao Moros ascribe their conversion to Kabunsuan, a native of Johore, the son of an Arab father and Malay mother. He came to Maguindanao with a band of followers, and from him the datos of Maguindanao trace their lineage. Kabunsuan is supposed to be descended from Mohammed through his Arab father, Ali, and so the datos of Maguindanao to the present day proudly believe that in their veins flows the blood of the Prophet.

The Coming of the Spaniards.—Mohammedanism was still increasing in the Philippines when the Spaniards arrived. The Mohammedans already had a foothold on Manila Bay, and their gradual conquest of the archipelago was interrupted only by the coming of the Europeans. It is a strange historical occurrence that the Spaniards, having fought with the Mohammedans for nearly eight centuries for the possession of Spain, should have come westward around the globe to the Philippine Islands and there resumed the ancient conflict with them. Thus the Spaniards were the most determined opponents of Mohammedanism on both its western and eastern frontiers. Their ancient foes who crossed into Spain from Morocco had been always known as “Moros” or “Moors,” and quite naturally they gave to these new Mohammedan enemies the same title, and Moros they are called to the present day.

Summary.—Such, then, are the elements which form the population of these islands,—a few thousands of the little Negritos; many wild mountain tribes of the primitive Malayans; a later immigration of Malayans of higher cultivation and possibilities than any that preceded them, who had been influenced by the Hinduism of Java and who have had in recent centuries an astonishing growth both in numbers and in culture; and last, the fierce Mohammedan sea-rovers, the true Malays.




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