ArchivesJune 2010Before Magellan went to town

Before Magellan went to town


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Flow ba ka sa uso (Do you flow with the trend)?

I turned a corner on the street and there they were– those yellow, red and blue hues. I turned another street corner and there they were again. This time, it was the 7,107 islands in golden yellow threads.

There seems to be an awakening of national consciousness among us. In every corner, there seems to be a young person sporting a polo shirt, a cap, or a t-shirt embroidered or printed with a symbol of the Philippines.

What’s the meaning of this?

Before the end of this unassuming article, you will become friends with an almost unfamiliar word in our history: pre-colonial. That is the real emerging trend of today.

Take the Tabon Man. We are told he walked the islands of Palawan a long time ago. I chanced upon his name when I was still in high school once a long time ago, but it didn’t interest silly me, then…until I grew up, mentally, and began to understand what it really meant to me as a Filipino.

Excavated by the late Robert B. Fox, an anthropologist who headed the archeological excavations by the National Museum in the 1960’s (yes, we do have archeologists in this country), the fossils of Tabon Man were estimated to have represented a man who existed (in Palawan) between 24,000 to 22,000 BC. This means we were in existence way before we imagined!

“Big deal”! you might say. “We were present all right but according to our history teachers, as primitive bahag-costumed people.”

Excuse me? Why, must we say primitive when nowadays, most wear the same fashionable thing on a beach outing. Could it be that the bahag was the most fashionable and functional in that era?

Let’s forget about the preconceived notions of our first inhabitants and look simply at the dates. China, the ancient and mystical country with decades of history is said to have been inhabited by the Peking Man roughly 500,000 years ago. Tabon Man inhabited the Tabon Caves from 50,000 to 9,000 years ago. We may not be as ancient as the Chinese–offset by 450,000 years, but we are ancient, nevertheless.

Looked like they used to be a Stone Age manufacturing plant “with both finished stone flake tools and waste core flakes having been found at four separate levels in the main chamber.” (Wikipedia, Tabon Man).

We were not just living, breathing and eating 50,000 years ago; we had the ingenuity and audacity to build a factory of stone flake tools! We were creative and bold even then!

In 1975, another excavation took place. This time it was in Butuan City, Agusan del Norte. A remarkable thing was excavated. Boat artifacts.

What? Boat artifacts. Ho-hum…boring…. I thought so too. Details will always bore us until we connect them with what they really mean, so linger a little longer….

The boats, eight in all, measured 15 meters in length and 3 meters in width. The size meant these boats were capable of travelling long distances. Dated from between AD 235 to AD 1385, these proved the theory that our early inhabitants at the turn of the millennium “were already engaged in elaborate trade with their neighbors, particularly the Chinese and other Southeast Asian peoples.” (Jocano, F. Landa 1998)

Pre-colonial. A history long before our “history.” Few people know this. Few people will unless we start a trend to look closer.

Our history did not begin when Magellan came to town. Life did not begin on 1521.

We have a vast wealth of prehistoric culture, arts, oral literature and our own way of life.

Now, you may know more about who we were before the day Magellan came to town.

Hinilawod the play, is simply put, not just a play. It is a declaration of the courageous and mighty pre-colonial roots of the Filipino people. Hinilawod is our ancient oral literature–one of the many pieces– that survived the test of time and the clash of cultures. It is one of the longest Philippine epics with 28, 000 lines. Unearthed and transcribed from Kinaray-a to English by anthropologist- historian F. Landa Jocano for 42 years. Such devotion from a man who with wisdom wrote, “Our prehistoric past is the foundation of our present society.”

As another wise man understood, “Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinanggagalingan ay hindi makararating sa paroroonan.” (Dr. Jose Rizal)

Look to the past and forge to the future.

HINILAWOD. July 1-3, 2010 at Luce Auditorium. For tickets and details, please contact 422-9235, 0922-870-9975

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