By the time the most advanced species of modern man, Homo sapiens, had evolved, about 120,000 years ago, there is evidence of rapid population growth around the globe. So how did Homo sapiens spread?
While it is generally accepted that the forerunner to Homo sapiens - Homo erectus, left Africa about 1.5 million years ago to populate other parts of the world, there are two main theories about the spread of Homo sapiens.
The first theory, known as the 'Out of Africa' model, is that Homo sapiens developed first in Africa and then spread around the world between 100 and 200,000 years ago, superseding all other hominid species. The implication of this argument is that all modern people are ultimately of African descent.
The other theory, known as the 'Multi-regional' model, is that Homo sapiens evolved simultaneously in different parts of the world from original Homo erectus settlers. This means that people in China descended from the Homo erectus population there, while Australians may have descended from the Homo erectus population in South East Asia.
Both theories have their staunch defenders who cite DNA evidence - analysis of the genetic blueprint passed down from generation to generation - to advance their case.
First Human Migration
The Human saga began 160,000-120,000 years ago when the hominin specie called Homo Sapiens lived and roamed Africa for thousands of years. With mental capability combined with an erect body carriage that frees the forelimbs for manipulating objects, has allowed humans to make far greater use of tools than any other species. But not until 90,000 to 85,000 years ago did early humans started its first exodus eastward crossing the Red Sea.
Wandering along the southern coast of the Arabian Peninsula they turned beachcombers and journeyed far across the Indian Ocean coastline towards Indonesia which by then was connected by land. Between 30,000 BCE and 50,000 BCE the earth has been experiencing recurring warm periods and this helped in preventing th northern ice caps from advancing across Scandinavia into northern Europe. This warming up period prompted early humans from central Asia to move to eastern Europe while others made their way to present day north-eastern Eurasia; and would eventually cross the Bering land bridge situated between Alaska and Siberia -later reaching north America.
As the Palaeolithic clock rolled towards 20,000 BCE. the earth began to receive a minimum of the sun's heat at the northern hemisphere during summer. The weather became colder and the recurring warm weathers stopped. The ice caps started to advance from the north while the sea levels started to drop at 130 meters (430 ft.) allowing land briges to be accesible. In short, the world has entered into another Ice Age.
Scientists believe that during the period between 30,000 BCE TO 20,000 BCE. remnants of the early group of Homo Sapiens who left Africa 85,000 years ago that remained isolated in the Malayan Peninsula crossed the land bridges from Borneo and moved inward to the Philippines . The Semarangs or the Aetas as we call them have become extremely nomadic due to social and economic strain on their culture and way of life that had previously remained unchanged for thousands of years.
Since humans first populated the rest of the world they started civilizations, established religions, colonized distant lands, waged wars, spreaded pandemics and left marks in our genetic make-ups.
Some Anthropologists hypothesize that man's presence in the Philippines could be as early as 250,000 B.C. during the Ice Age or Middle Pleistocene Period. They came by way of the land bridges which linked the archipelago with Asia. This hominin specie was a cousin of the "Java Man," "Peking Man," and other earliest men in Asia. Professor H. Otley Beyer, eminent American authority on Philippine archaeology and anthropology, called him the "Dawn Man", for he appeared in the Philippines at the dawn of time. Brawny and thickly-haired, the "Dawn Man", had no knowledge of agriculture. He lived by means of gathering wild edible plants, by fishing, and hunting. It is probable that he reached the Philippines while hunting. At that time the boars, deer, giant and pygmy elephants, rhinoceros, and other Pleistocene animals roamed in the country.
The latest archaeological finding showing early human habitation of the Philippines was found 300 km north of Manila indicating human presence in our land 67,000 years ago. The find shows that the bone fragments belonged to the genus HOMO. It is still unclear at this point whether the find is a Homo Habilis, or Homo Erectus or something else. It is possible that these humans reached our lands from mainland Asia when the Philippines was still connected by land bridges from mainland China. The Callao Cave Man predates the Tabon Man by 42,000 years and is oldest proof of human existence in the Southeast Asia today.
The Birth of the Filipinos
Although the great majority of the people of the Philippines are Tagalog, the country is not ethnically homogeneous. In spite of their small numbers the original inhabitants of the Philippines are the Agta (diminutive Africoids), who still live there in some numbers and are commonly and pejoratively called Pygmies.The Semangs (Aetas or Negritos)came around 30,000 BCE to 25,000 BCE and lived widespread throughout the Philippines. Today they are present mostly in the remote higland areas of Luzon, Palawan, Panay, Negros and Mindanao.
It is commonly thought that they migrated over land bridges, which existed at that time between Borneo and the Philippines. The Negritos are among the smallest people on earth. They are below five feet in height, with black skin, dark kinky hair round black eyes, and flat noses. Because of their black color and short stature, they were called Negritos (little black people) by the Spanish community in life, hence they developed no government, writing, literature, arts, and sciences. They possessed the crudest kind of religion which was a belief in fetishes. They made fire by rubbing two dry sticks together to give them warmth. They had no pottery and never cooked their food. However, they were among the world's best archers, being skilled in the use of the bow and arrow.
However, they were driven back by several waves of immigrants from Taiwan, Indonesia, only to be followed by the maritime peoples of the Malayan islands.
The Arrival of the Austronesians
The first Austronesian speakers are believed to have originated on the island of Taiwan following the migration of a group, or groups, of Pre-Austronesian speaking peoples from continental Asia approximately 10,000-6000 B.C. According to linguist Robert Blust, due to a lengthy split from the Pre-Austronesian populations, the Proto-Austronesian language and cultures emerged on Taiwan (Blust,1988).
Beginning around 5000-2500 B.C., the large scale Austronesian expansion began. Population growth triggered this expansion. A society that gives prestige and a higher status to the descendants of a community's founder added more incentive to settle new lands.
These first settlers landed in northern Luzon in the Philippines intermingling with the earlier Australo-Melanesian (Aetas)population who had inhabited the islands 23,000 years previously. Over the next thousand years up until 1500 A.D., their descendants spread south to the rest of the Philippine islands, Celebes (modern-day Sulawesi), Borneo, the Moluccas (modern-day Maluku), and Java.
The Austronesian settlers in the Moluccas sailed eastward and spread to the islands of Melanesia and Micronesia between 1200 B.C. and 500 A.D. respectively. Those that spread westward reached Sumatra, the Malay peninsula and what is now southern Vietnam by 500 B.C.(See Champa)
Sailing from Melanesia and Micronesia Austronesians discovered remote Polynesia by 1000 B.C., which unlike Melanesia, Micronesia and the Malay Archipelago were previously uninhabited, and settled its three extremities Easter Island by 300 A.D, Hawaii by 400 A.D. and New Zealand by 800 A.D In the Indian Ocean sailing from from Celebes (modern-day Sulawesi) and Borneo, they reached Madagascar by 200 A.D. Trade with India and China flourished within the first millennia A.D., which allowed the creation of Indianized kingdoms such as Srivijaya, Melayu, and Majapahit and Muslim traders began arriving during the 10th century and brought with them Islam as well as the sultanates.
There is much written on the Austronesian peoples of the Southeast Asia area and their descendants. These people were the seafaring people who traveled to distant parts of the world during this period of history. Some historians believe that these peoples settled in the southern regions of the Philippines and eastern regions of Indonesia. What is known, about this period, is that blade stone technology, dating back to around 5000 BCE reached the northern portions (Luzon area) of the Philippines. There are several postulates concerning migration and maritime trade during this time period.
The Indonesian Waves
The Indonesian migration to the Philippines happened in two waves. In 5,000 B.C. to 3,000 B.C., the first wave of Indonesians arrived in the Philippines. They were tall and slender, with relatively light complexion, thin lips and face, a high aquiline nose, a broad and high forehead, and deep-set eyes. These new settlers bring with them polished stone tools, boat building, bark and animal skin cloth making, pottery, rice planting, the process of cooking food in bamboo tubes, the techniques of making fire by rubbing two sticks together. The Negritos begin to move out of caves and settle in a scattered manner along the coasts and rivers.
During 3,000 B.C. to 1,000 B.C. A second wave of Malay immigrants arrived in the Philippines by sea. Each of their ships accommodated one small clan. Such a ship load of people was called a barangay. The Indonesians who arrived in the Philippines in the second wave were shorter in height and bulkier in body, with darker complexion, thick lips, large round eyes, thick-set jaws, and large rectangular faces. The Indonesian culture was more advanced than that of the Negritos. It belonged to the New Stone Age (Neolithic). The Indonesians lived in grass-covered homes with woodenframes, built above the ground or on top of trees. They practised dry agriculture and raised upland rice, taro (gabi), and other food crops. Their clothing was made from beaten bark and decorated with fine designs. They cooked their food in bamboo tubes, for they knew nothing of pottery. Their other occupations were hunting and fishing. Their implements consisted of polished stone axes, adzes, and chisels. For weapons, they had bows and arrows, spears, shields, and blowguns (sumpit). They had one domesticated animal - the dog.
Exodus of the Malays to the Pacific World:
The seafaring Malays also navigated the vast stretches of the uncharted Pacific, discovering and colonizing new islands, as far south as Africa and Madagascar. Their unchronicled and unsung maritime exploits impressed the British Orientalist A.R. Cowen, who wrote: "The Malays indeed were the Phoenicians of the East, and apparently made even longer hauls than the Semitic mariners, their oceanic elbowroom giving them more scope than the coasts of the Mediterranean and the Red Sea."
The prehistoric Malays were the first discoveries and colonizers of the Pacific world. Long before the time of Columbus and Magellan, they were already expert navigators. Although they had no compass and other nautical devices, they made long voyages, steering their sailboats by the position of the stars at night and by the direction of the sea winds by day.
Malayan Immigration to the Philippines:
In the course of their exodus to the Pacific world, the ancient Malays reached the Philippines. They came in three main migratory waves. The first wave came from 200 B.C. to 100A.D. The Malays who came in this wave were the headhunting Malays, the ancestors of the Bontoks, Ilongots, Kalingas, and other headhunting tribes in northern Luzon. The second wave arrived from 100 A.D. to 13th century. Those who came in this migratory wave were the alphabet-using Malays, the ancestors of the Visayans, Tagalogs, Ilocanos, Bicolanos, Kapampangans, and other Christian Filipinos. The third and last wave came from the 14th to 16th century A.D. The Muslim Malays were in this migratory wave and they introduced Islam into the Philippines.
Culturally, the Malays were more advanced than the Negritos and the Indonesians, for they possessed the Iron Age culture. They introduced into the Philippines both lowland and highland methods of rice cultivation, including the system of irrigation; the domestication of animals (dogs, fowls, and carabaos); the manufacture of metal tools and weapons; pottery and weaving; and the Malayan heritage (government, law, religion, writing, arts, sciences, and customs). They tattooed their bodies and chewed betelnuts. They wore dresses of woven fabrics and ornamented themselves with jewels of gold, pearls, beads, glass, and colored stones. Their weapons consisted of bows and arrows, spears, bolos, daggers, krises (swords), and sumpits.
Legends and Hoaxes about the Malay Settlers
The legends surrounding the settling of the Philippines by Malay migrants are notably celebrated in the ati-atihan festival and perpetrated by hoaxers in the fraudulent documents containing the Maragtas chronicle and the Code of Kalantiaw.
According to one legend, at around 1250 A.D., ten datus and their families left the kingdom of Borneo and the cruel reign of sultan Makatunaw to seek their freedom and new homes across the seas. In Sinugbahan, Panay, they negotiated the sale of Panay's lowlands from the Negrito dwellers, led by their Ati king Marikudo and his wife Maniwantiwan. The purchase price consisted of one gold saduk (native hat) for Marikudo and a long gold necklace for Maniwantiwan. The sale was sealed by a pact of friendship between the Atis and the Bornean Malays and a merry party when the Atis performed their native songs and dances. After the party, Marikudo and the Atis went to the hills where their descendants still remain, and the Malay datus settled the lowlands. One of Aklan, Panay's fascinating festivals to this day is the ati-atihan, a colorful mardi gras celebrating the legendary purchase of Panay's lowlands. It is held in Kalibo annually during the feast day of Santo Niño in January. The riotous participants, with bodies painted in black and wearing bizarre masks, sing and dance in the streets, re-enacting the ancient legend of the welcome held by the Atis for the Malay colonizers. The Maragtas goes on to describe the formation of a confederation of barangays ("Madya-as") led by one Datu Sumakwel, who passed on a code of laws for the community. The fictitious story also alleges the expansion of the Malay datus to other parts of the Visayas and Luzon. Although previously accepted by some historians, including the present authors, it has become obvious that the Maragtas is only the imaginary creation of Pedro A. Monteclaro, a Visayan public official and poet, in Iloilo in 1907. He based it on folk customs and legends, largely transmitted by oral tradition.
Challenge to the Migration Theory:
The migration theory offered by H. Otley Beyer to explain the early settlement of the Philippines has been challenged by such scholars as Robert B. Fox and F. Landa Jocano. According to these scholars, Philippines prehistory is far too complex to be explained by "waves" of migration. It seems doubtful that early immigrants came in a fixed period of time and with a definite destination. Nor can archaeological and ethnographic data, show that each "wave" of immigrants was really a distinct racial and cultural group.
According to the other viewpoint, the early Filipinos were not passive recipients of cultures but also active transmitters and synthethizers of them. For example, comparative studies of Pacific cultures show that some of the inhabitants of Micronesia, Polynesia and other Pacific islands came from the Philippines. Moreover, by the time the Spaniards came to the Philippines, the early Filipinos had developed a distinctly Filipino, as opposed to Malayan civilization.
Whether one accepts the migration theory or not, it appears that out of the interracial mixture of the early settlers - indigenous tribes or Asian latecomers - was born the Filipino people. Prior to the arrival of the Europeans, the Filipinos where already enjoying rapid advances in its socio-economic development including a propensity for intermarriage with the assimilation of multiple races and cultures.
The Art of War, Social, and Economic Developments
Archeologists found remnants of stone walls in the province of Ifugao. Based on dating techniques of the tools and artifacts found in the same area of these walls, it has been shown that they were build during this period, 2000 BCE. It is theorized that these stone wall outlines were the traces of an ancient fortress. This was thousands of years before any Spanish influences.
Mines have been found in the Philippines, dating back to at least 1000 BCE. These physical presence and the written history by the early Spanish settlers suggest that the Filipinos were actively mining for precious metals thousands of years before peoples in other regions of the area. The type of metals that were mined included silver, copper, gold and iron. Many of these metals were used as decorations for their homes as well as on their personages.
During this same period, in history, the peoples of the region were building the rice terraces and other agricultural wonders that are known as common place today through the Asian communities. One group, known as the Igorots, built stone walls, dams, and canals that still mystify engineers. These hydraulic works were created from stones greater in bulk than those of the Great Wall of China. Pottery finds, through out the Philippines, have been dated between 500 BCE through 500 C E (AD.) Some of this pottery included the unique burial jars found amongst the Ayub Cave pottery in Mindanao. This particular type of jar pre-date any found anywhere else in the southeastern regions of Asia.
Sixth and last of the prehistoric migrations, occurring between 300 and 200 BC, brought from the south our most numerous and advanced prehistoric people - the Iron Age group usually known as Malays. They filtered in fleets of dugout boats, up from thr west Coast of Borneo into Luzon via Palawan through the Celebes Strait to Mindanao and the Visayas. In addition to advanced, irrigated agriculture, these migrants brought four new industries:
(1) the smelting, forging and manufacture of tools, weapons, utensils and ornaments of iron and other metals;
(2) the manufacture of a great variety of turned and decorated pottery;
(3) the art of weaving cloth on a hand loom; and
(4) the manufacture of beads, bracelets and other ornaments of green and blue glass.
These crafts seem to have originated in India, and to have spread from there to Indo-China and Southern Malaysia, finally reaching the Philippines by way of Borneo and Celebes. This culture eventually was carried on north into Formosa, southern Japan, Korea and central Manchuria, where it finally disappears. These Iron Age folk built bamboo and wooden houses on When the Spanish began to colonize the Philippine islands the culture and technology was by no means that far behind most other areas of the world. Indeed, in many areas the Filipinos were quite advanced considering the timeline of the history of science. The metal smith, Panday Pira of Pampanga, was so skilled at weapons making and other types of metal working that the Spanish entrusted him with opening the first Spanish artillery foundry in the country. The Spanish found that the Filipinos made their own small arquebuses, or portable cannons, usually made of bronze. Larger cannons made of iron and resembling culverins provided heavier firepower. The iron cannon at Raha Soliman's house was about 17 feet long and was made from clay and wax moulds.
The most fearsome weapon though was the famed lantaka, or swivel gun. Unlike the Spanish cannons these guns were placed on flexible swivels that allowed the gunner to quickly track a moving target. The lantakas of the Moros gave the Spanish so much trouble that they always included native ships, like the karakoa, equipped with lantakas to counter the Moro weapons. The most impressive lantakas had two revolving barrels. These were eventually exported to South America, and may have become the precursor of the Gatling gun.
Pira started a tradition of high quality metal casting that lasted for centuries in many parts of the Philippines. Many individuals with surnames like Pira, Viray, etc., may have ancestors who were members of the guilds of smiths who followed the Pira lineage. The metal work involving authentic native swords was also of the highest quality. Unfortunately, this fell into disuse among most of the lowlanders of the North. However, the Muslims and animists of the South continued to make very fine kampilans, krisses, etc., that can take many years of work to complete. Sword makers were also astrologers who waited for auspicious conjunctions of planets before proceeding with each elaborate phase of the sword making ritual. The passage of the sword from the maker to the owner was a very mystical ceremony, replete with all types of supernatural beliefs. A well-made kampilan or kris is really one of the finest pieces of handicraft that can be found anywhere. In the North, they also had the kampilan, and another excellent weapon known as the bararao.
In addition to weapons, the Filipinos made good armor for use in the battlefield. The Moros in particular had armor that covered the entire body from the top of the head to the toes. Fortresses known as kuta or kota, and moog were built to protect large communities. These fortresses were protected with the cannons mentioned above. Governor Sande noted that when he asked local Filipinos to contribute their bronze cannons for use against the Moros, he received the equivalent of 400 quintals of bronze (about 21 tons) from an area with a radius of about eight leagues (24 miles). However, the large powerful cannons were more scarce. The fort at Tondo had less arnaments that an average Spanish warship. The problem was the big weapons often required the same complex, lengthy ritualistic procedure in manufacture as swords like the kampilan and the kris. Also, even small firearms were seen as status symbols for datus and rahas and thus, were generally too expensive for the ordinary warrior. However, the main disadvantage suffered by the Filipinos was that their guns were too often turned against themselves in service of "his Catholic majesty."
Although contemporary paintings exist of some Filipino forts, few remains exist. Strangely, in the far eastern corner of Ifugao Province remains of a very ancient fortress have been discovered. The fort had stone walls that averaged several meters in width and about two to three times the width in height. At first it was thought that these were the remains of an unknown Spanish fortress, but advanced dating methods and analysis of the tools, utensils and other artifacts showed that the most likely dating was about 2,000 B.C.
Some of the weaponry concocted by the Filipino was quite unusual. For instance, one weapon was the prototype of the
modern yoyo, and it returned to is owner after being flung at an opponent.
Ancient Religious Beliefs
The original religion of the early Filipinos was Animism (the worship of spirits). The Filipinos of that era practiced an animist religion which featured rituals aimed at pacifying malevolent spirits. The Muslim missionaries had come to Mindanao and the Sulu islands during the 15th century and, by the middle of the following century, a number of barangays, and some small communities in Cebu and Manila had submitted to the rule of Muslim sultans. While Ferdinand Magellan arrived on Cebu at the head of a Spanish expedition in 1521, and started baptizing animists and pagans to Christians in Visayas and Luzon islands. Manila was established seven years later and the Spaniards had gained effective dominion over the coasts and lowlands from Luzon to northern Mindanao by the close of the sixteenth century. The Spanish army had been accompanied by Catholic missionaries who converted the population to the faith. The Church in fact became a powerful institution in the Philippines, being frequently looked to by the people for guidance in political and social matters.
Though Chinese merchants dwelled in the Philippines from circa 1000 AD and a system of writing based upon Sanskrit was employed in some areas, neither Chinese nor Indian civilization exerted much influence in the islands. It is also noteworthy that the two great religions of the Asian mainland, Hinduism and Buddhism, found few adherents in the Philippines.
Custom and Traditions
Traces of their early customs and traditions remain evident in some rural areas. They were marks of success in resisting the impact of modern civilization. Therefore, many pre-colonial Filipino customs and practices are still operative in many parts of the archipelago -- giving observers first-hand materials for reconstructing the nation's distant past.
Take for example its tradition of clothing. The male attire is usually composed of the upper and lower parts. The upper was referred to as kanggan. It was a short-sleeved black or blue collarless jacket. The chosen color signified the wearer's rank -- the chief wore red, while those of lower stature wore black or blue. The lower part of the attire, called bahag, was usually a strip of cloth wrapped about the waist, passing down between the thighs; thereby leaving the wearer's thighs and legs exposed.
The womens dress was also comprise of the upper and lower parts. The upper was called camisa or baro. It was a jacket with sleeves. The lower part, on the other hand, was a lose skirt called saya by the tagalogs and patadyong by the Visayans. A piece of rfedred cloth, called tapis was often wrapped around the waste as an accent.
A headgear made of cloth, called putong, was worn by the men. It was wrapped around his head. Its color signified the "manliness" of the man. Red usually indicated that the wearer had once engaged in a battle and victoriously killed an enemy. But for someone who had slain at least seven was entitled to wear an embroidered headgear.
The women wore no head gear; they merely wore their hair gracefully knotted at the back of the head. With gold and precious stones abundant in the local mines and rivers. both male and female wore ornaments or jewelries-kalumbiga(armlets), pendants. bracelets, rings, earings, and leglets. As for their footwear, everyone walked barefoot in those early times, for the use of sandals and shoes didn't come about until the arrival and rule of the Spanish.
Contrary to the common misconception, when the Spaniards arrived in the islands they found more than just a loose collection of backward and belligerent tribes. They found a civilization that was very different from their own. The ability to read and write is the mark of any civilization and, according to many early Spanish accounts, the Tagalogs had already been writing with the baybayin for at least a century. This script was just beginning to spread throughout the islands at that time. Furthermore, the discovery in 1987 of an inscription on a sheet of copper in Laguna is evidence that there was an even more advanced script in limited use in the Philippines as far back as the year 900 C.E.
The pre-Hispanic Filipinos wrote on many different materials; leaves, palm fronds, trees but the most common material was bamboo. The writing tools or panulat were the points of daggers or small pieces of iron. Among the manuscripts in Charles R. Boxer's collection, known as the Boxer Codex, there is an anonymous report from 1590 that described their method of writing, which is still used today by the tribes of Mindoro and Palawan to write their own script
Once the letters were carved into the bamboo, it was wiped with ash to make the characters stand out more. Sharpened splits of bamboo were used with coloured plant saps to write on more delicate materials such as leaves. But since the ancient Filipinos did not keep long-term written records, more durable materials, such as stone, clay or metal, were not used. After the Spaniards arrived Filipinos adopted the use of paper, pen and ink.
During this same period in history, the Philippines was already established as an active trading center. It is known that many merchants and trading ambassadors from the surrounding areas, including Siam (Thailand) and China, came to Cebu to pay tribute to the king and arrange trade agreements.
Today, many historians dispute when modern Philippine history began. Some believe it to have started in the 13th century. It was during this time that 10 datus from Borneo, each with a hundred of his kinsmen, landed in what is now known as Panay Island in the Visayas. From this time to the early 16th century, the region, now known as the Philippines, was ruled by independent tribes of peoples who had seen rapid advances in social and economic development. For instance, around the year 1380, it is believed that the Arab-taught Makdum arrived in the Sulu archipelago, established what became a powerful Islamic sphere of influence over the next hundred years.
During this same period, the Philippines was already established as an active trading center. It is known that many merchants and trading ambassadors from the surrounding areas, including Siam (Thailand) and China, came to Cebu to pay tribute to the king and arrange trade agreements.
European historians credit the voyages of Magellan and succeeding expeditions from Spain as the official accreditation and discovery of the pacific region. and of the Philippines. When the Europeans reached our islands it was already inhabited by people whose culture and modernization was by no means that far behind from most other areas of the world.
The Spanish were surprised by the advances made by these people. For instance, the people of this land were skilled in weapons making and other types of metal works. The Filipinos were already making their own cannons -- large one of iron and small, portable, ones of bronze. They were surprised to find a swivel type gun, known as a 'lantaka' which allowed the gunner to track a moving target. These 'primitive' people, found by Magellan; were also 'people of the sea'. They used navigational instruments similar to a compass and were much more skilled and experienced in all types of fishing and fishery activities.
This 'discovery', the historians point out, is relevant, because it is what placed the Philippine archipelago on the maps of the world. It occurred when he, Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese explorer, landed at Homonhon Islet, near present day Samar, claiming the lands for Spain. It is believed that this event occurred on the 17 day of March in the year 1521. He was later killed on the Mactan Island of Cebu in a clash with native warriors who were led by a chieftain named Lapu-Lapu.
The Philippines- A Treasure To Behold
During this time in world history, Spain was in fierce competition with Portugal to dominate, through colonization, the lands of the world. Clearly the Philippines was a prize catch for Spain, based on its number of islands and its size; which, at the time, was estimated to be larger than it actually was. However size alone was not what made it a great prize -- its location made it a worthy and valuable catch. The archipelago was formally named Las Felipinas, in 1543 by Ruy Lopez de Villalobos who followed Magellan to this territory. It was named in honor of Spain's King Philip II (actually the Crown Prince, who was actually excommunicated from the Catholic Church, by the Pope Paul IV in 1552). It was known to be composed of thousands of islands and islets (now known to be 7,107), and spanning over eighteen hundred (actually 1854) kilometers from north to south, stretching from China to the north to the Indonesian archipelago at the south. Permanent Spanish occupation began in 1565, and by 1571 the entire country, except for the strictly Islamic Sulu archipelago, was under Spanish control.
The northern most tip of the country, Y'ami, of the Batanes Island group, is only 241 kilometers south of what is known as Taiwan today; while the southern most tip, Sibutu of the Tawi-Tawi group of islands, is just 14.4 kilometers north of what is known as Borneo. Thus, the Philippines, was located in a strategic location, both politically and economically. They were the window to the New World.
To its east is the Pacific Ocean and beyond it, the New World (the Americas). To the west are the kingdoms of Indochina including modern day Cambodia and Siam (Thailand) while southwest is Malaysia.
The Cross and the Sword
Spanish colonizers succeeded in introducing Christianity to the islands. Still today, Christianity represents over 85% of religious beliefs. They were highly successful in the region of modern day Luzon and Visayas but were unsuccessful in Mindanao, south region, where Moslems staved off the Spanish efforts. Of course there are many recorded horror stories, of historically significant, where the Spanish forced the induction of Christianity upon the 'heathens' of these islands leading to thousands of deaths and tortures of the residents of the islands. Still today, many small towns and remote barrios celebrate, through re-enactment in fiesta stage plays, called moro-moro, the forced conversion of the peoples to Christianity by the threatened force of the Spaniards. These plays always end the same way most of the people convert and find 'happiness' in their new found religion, while the remaining are either killed or flee to the mountains, to be hounded by the Spaniards the rest of their lives.