The Philippines before dawn of the Western Colonization

3 11 2009

One question that is very hard to answer, and very tough to ask a Filipino for any Asian people is what do you feel about the Philippines being colonized for a very long time. The fact that the Philippines was colonized by Spain is very well-known and overrode the fact that the Philippines also had a period of history long before the colonization. Moreover, we did not have a lot of documents left on what the Philippines look like before the colonization.

Biologically, primary Filipinos are Negrito, proto-Malay, and Malay, because they emigrated from today’s Malaysia, Indonesia, and Borneo island during the last ice age, which is about 110,000 years ago and ended about 9,600 BCE. We have some documents that indicate that the Philippines was divided into many small kingdoms and tribes. Before the discovery of the Laguna Copperplate Inscription, the Philippines was considered isolated from the rest of Asia because of its archipelagic structure and location. However, we found that the Philippines invented a sophisticated writing system. In the inscription, we found that the Filipino’s language consists of a lot of words from Sanskrit, old Malay, old Tagalog, and old Javanese, so it implies that the Philippines had been trading with other countries in Asia before the landing of Magellan.

We know that the ancient Philippines traded with China, India, and Malaya. Moreover, the old Filipino culture was influenced by Hindu believe systems and later Buddhism. As we all know, the smallest unit of the Filipino society is barangay (as we use it to call our groups), and the society was led by a Datu, who is equal to a chief of a group. In the 7th century, the Philippines started to trade with other countries like Japan and Kingdom of Ryukyu. In 1380, the Philippines was influenced by Islam because Islam came with Arab traders who also brings a lot of goods like spices. Most southern part of South East Asia — such as today’s Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, and Timor-Leste — converted to Islam. The Philippines was also influenced because the majority of trades that it did with other countries were mostly with those southern nation.

About two hundred years after the invasion of Islam, the Philippines was discovered by Ferdinand Magellan, who was the first European to set foot on the beautiful islands of the Philippines. The history of the Philippines after this was heavily westernized and the Spanish language and culture has been more influential to the Philippines more than other cultures. After Spain, the Philippines was colonized by the British (only a brief period of several years), the Japanese, and the American.

I’m not sure what the answer would be for the question I asked at the beginning, but it is to be sure that the Filipino history did not start when Magellan set foot on the islands of Philippines.


– Paween Itthipalkul



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