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Wednesday, May 03, 2006
Four hundred years ago,in the evening of March 16,1521, Ferdinand Magellan anchored his little fleet in Philippine waters. To most people Philippine "history" begins with Antonio Pigafetta's splendid diary of Magellan's voyage.

Spanish colonization both of the Americas and the Philippines characterized by the fanatic zeal to spread the Christian faith. In Mexico and Peru many old records were preserved in more or less modified form in the writings of the early Christians and Spanish half-castes. In the Philippines the destruction of artifacts seemed thorough and only a few fragments have survived. One Spanish priest in southern Luzon boasted of having destroyed more than three hundred scrolls written in the native characters. The result is that we have no trustworthy native material, and our past can only be pieced together from data painstakingly gathered from neighboring countries and stitched with local tradition and archeological discoveries. No wonder most historians have tended to pass over the Pre-European period and begin the body of their work with Magellan's voyage.

When Magellan arrived in the Philippines, the archipelago was already one of the epicenters of the international trade.

William Henry Scott in his book, THE PRE-HISPANIC SOURCE MATERIALS writes:"When the Pre-Hispanic epoch was brought to a close by Ferdinand Magellan's arrival in 1521, Luzon traders were sailing to Timor, Malacca and Canton. They had colony in Minjam on the Malay Peninsula, a Portuguese appointed magistrate in Malacca, marriage relations with the Sultan of Brunei and were learning to speak Malay."

The pre-Hispanic Filipinos were very literate and used syllabaries of Indian origins. "These islanders are so given to reading and writing that there is hardly a man and much less a woman; who do not read and write in the letters of the island in Manila," wrote Father Chirino (1604).

The first recorded mention of the Philippines is in the official Sung history when certain traders from Ma-i (the present island of Mindoro) brought valuable merchandise to Canton for sale in 982 AD. As early as the 10th century, Philippine vessels were crossing the oceans to China and Champa for exportable trade goods.

From the 12th to the 15th centuries, accounts of Bruni, Sulu, Ma-i and other of the Philippine islands became more numerous. The following abbrevviated account comes from Chau Ju KUa, written about 1225:

" The island of Ma-i lies north of Borneo. When the trading ships enter the archipelago, they stop in front of the officials place, for that is the place of bartering of the country. There is a grat market there. After a ship had been boarded, the natives mix freely with the ship's folk. The chief's are in the habit of using white umbrellas, for which reason the traders offer them as gifts."

"The custom for trade is for the local traders to assemble in crowds and carry the goods away with them in baskets; and, even if one cannot at first know them, and can but slowly distinguish the men who remove the goods, yet there will be no loss. The local traders then carry those goods on to other islands for barter, and as a rule takes them about eight to nine months before they return, when they repay the merchants on shipboard with what they have obtained for the goods."

"The products of the country consist of yellow wax (beeswax), cotton, pearls, tortoise shell, medical betel nuts, fiber cloth (sinamay). The goods used in trading are porcelain, trade-gold, iron cauldrons, lead, colored glass beads, iron needles, pieces of iron, colored cotton stuff, red taffetas,ivory, silks of different colors, copper pots,sycee shoes and the like"

"The San-hsu (or three islands) belong to Ma-i; their names are Kia-ma-yen (Kalamian or Culion), Pa-lau-yu (probably Penon de Coron) and Pa-ki-nung (probably Busuanga), and each has its own tribes scattered over the islands. When the ships arrive there, the native come out to trade with them."

"In the remottest valleys, there lives another tribe called Hai-tan (Aetas). They are smaller in nature, they have curly hair and they nest in treetops. Whenever foreign traders arrive at teh settlements, they announce their presence to the natives by beating drums. Upon this, the natives race for the ships in small boats, carrying cotton, yellow wax, native cloth and coconut husk whch they offer for barter. If the prices cannot be agreed upon, one or two of the natives remain onboard the ship as hostages while the chief of the traders must on shore to meet the native ruler in order to come to an understanding. These being reached, the natives are offered presents fo silk umbrellas, procelain, and rattan baskets. After the traders return to their ships, the hostage are released. A ship will not remain at anchore longer than three days or four days which it proceeds to another place."

Several late Sung and Yuan period Chinese documents make frequent reference to the Philippine trade centers. Ports in Sulu are described as having a well developed, organized network for exportable forrest and maritime products (sandalwood, laka-wood, ebony, animal hides and pearls). The Sulu pearls were known to be whiter and rounder than those from other places and commanded a high price.

In addition to the above, we find the following accounts of trade in Sulu from the brush of a Chinese author in 1349:
"When a ship arrives there, the natives take all the goods and carry them for sale in the interior, while they also sell to the neighboring countires and when they come back, the native articless are delivered to the merchants as payment. The bative are always afraid that our ships will not return, and whenever a ship leaves they detain some men as hostages to make sure the ship cll again."

During the early 14th century, Chinese-Philippine trade relations grew stronger. In 1406, during the reign of Chinese emperor Ch'eng-tsu, a Filipino chieftain visited the Imperial Court at Nanking and was presented gifts of horses, silver and other products. This was followed by other trips. Another visit occurred diring Emperor Hung-was' regin in 1572 when the Filipino tribute embassy was welcomed at his court.

Early Spanish documents provide a detailed documentation of the Southeast Asian Trade. Aside from Borneo, Thailand and Japan wee regularly arriving at some of the larger Philippine coastal ports: Manila, Mindoro, Pangasinan, Cebu, Jolo (Sulu) and Cotabato. Filipino traders had singnificant knowledge and presence in other Southeast Asian trade ports such as Melaka, Borneo, Ternate (Moluccas) and Myanmar.

Chiefs in pre-Hispanic Philippines also financed and equipped outgoing trade voyages for foreign trade. Furthermore they made attempts to attract foreign trade partners by investing in port facilities, good harborage, military protection for merchants, housing, provision and entertaiment for foreign traders. They developed efficient systems for mobilizing the trade goods. 16th century descriptions of Manila record a well-fortified, heavily populated trade port with special quarters for Chinese and Japanese merchants and a well organized port area managed by a grand chieftain and a number oflesser chiefs.

Pre-Hispanic Philippines clearly indicates a sophisticated, cultured people focused on peaceful commerical trade and viable economic relations with their neighbors.

The purpose of this article is to remind this present generation about the grand history of their Ninuno(forefathers) and rekindle our Diwa(spirit of greatness) that has always been the heritage of the Filipino people.

(Source: FILIPINASMAG by: Charity Beyer-Bagatsing. The grandaugher of renowned antrhopologists Dr. H. Otley Beyer. She is the guardian of the Beyer Library Collection and publisher of Northwest Woman Magazine)
posted by infraternam meam @ 12:47 PM  
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Name: infraternam meam
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