Thursday, October 05, 2006

Crossing the Bridge

History of the Muslims in the Philippines
2nd Edition, By Salah Jubair

1- Crossing the Bridge

It was widely believed forty years ago that people came to the Philippines in several migratory waves through land bridges that once linked the present islands of this country with mainland Asia. They walked dry-shod into this archipelago with their beasts of burden over these land bridges at a time, which pre-historians referred to as the Pleistocene or Great Ice Age. During this period, the waters of the ocean stood 156 feet below the present levels, thereby allowing many necks of land to protrude above the surface and form land masses or bridges which enabled the first man to cross into what would later be called the Philippines.

Centuries after this period the great flood took place. The polar ice thaw increased the volume of ocean waters, causing them to rise to the present levels. Subsequently, all the land bridges were inundated and disappeared from view, and all succeeding migrations were made possible only by the use of boats.

The wave migration theory was first advanced by Spanish friars who speculated on the origins of the Filipinos and the Moros. However, in some of their writings they were inclined to consider the latter as a separate race. In 1882, Ferdinand Blumentritt, an Austrian Filipinist, also subscribed to this theory that there were three waves of Malay migrants who came to our islands. But it was Prof. H. Otley Beyer, at one time head of the Anthropology Department at the University of the Philippines, who made this theory very popular and accepted for several decades. Beyer's long years of archaeological research dwelt on retrieving facts of past cultures in the islands mainly from artefacts, bones and other remains. His findings shed light on the cultural, political, economic existence and even the beliefs of peoples.

It was admitted, therefore, as a scholarly theory that there were three waves of migration of peoples towards the archipelago, including Mindanao and Sulu, each wave comprising several or scattered minor movements. The theory held that the first to arrive via the land bridges were the aborigines or first inhabitants. Estimated to have come as early as 21,000 or 22,000 years ago, they were dark-skinned, kinky-haired, short-statured, and primitive in styles. Among this group was the "Java Man," who came first, and was followed by the "little people": Negritos or ''Aetas,'' Australoid Sakai, and Proto-Malays.

Among the next group, after the Great Ice Age, from 3,000 BC onward, were people of the Indonesian stock, who came in two migratory waves by sea from South Asia and settled in the country. They came by dugout canoes or plank-built boats. These Indonesians, taller in height and lighter in skin, introduced bronze and the rice terraces.

The third migrants, who came centuries after the Indonesians, were the brown-skinned, medium-height Malays. They were expert navigators, potters, weavers, blacksmiths and bold adventurers. Most of the Filipinos and Moros today are descended from this group. However, in the case of the latter, it is believed that they first came to Mindanao and Sulu not later than the first century before Prophet Jesus Christ (Peace be upon him).

No comments: