Popular Science Monthly/Volume 59/July 1901/The Peopling of the Philippines I




SINCE the days when the first European navigators entered the South Sea, the dispute over the source and ethnic affiliations of the inhabitants of that extended and scattered island world has been unsettled. The most superficial glance points out a contrariety in external appearances, which leaves little doubt that here peoples of entirely different blood live near and among one another. And this is so apparent that the pathfinder in this region, Magellan, gave expression to the contrariety in his names for tribes and islands. Since dark complexion was observed on individuals in certain tribes and in defined areas, and light complexion on others, here abundantly, there quite exceptional, writers applied Old World names to the new phenomena without further thought. The Philippines set the decisive example in this. Fernando Magellan first discovered the islands of this great archipelago in 1521, March 16. After his death the Spaniards completed the circle of his discoveries. At this time the name of Negros was fixed,[2] which even now is called Islad de los Pintados. For years the Spaniards called the entire archipelago Islas de Poniente; gradually, after the expedition of Don Fray Garcia Jof re de Loaisa (1526), the new title of the Philippines prevailed, through Salazar. The people were divided into two groups, the Little Negroes or Negritos and the Indies. It is quite conceivable that involuntarily the opinion prevailed that the Negritos had close relationship with the African blacks, and the Indios[3] with the lighter-complexioned inhabitants of India, or at least of Indonesia.

However, it must be said here that the theory of a truly African origin of the Negritos has been advanced but seldom, and then in a very hesitating manner. The idea that with the present configuration of the eastern island world, especially with their great distances apart, a variety of mankind that had never manifested any aptitude for maritime enterprises should have spread themselves over this vast ocean area, in order to settle down on this island and on that, is so unreasonable that it has found scarcely a defender worth naming. More and more the blacks are coming to be considered the original peoples, the ‘Indios’ to be the intruders. For this there is a quite reasonable ground, in that on many islands the blacks dwell in the interior, difficult of access, especially in the dense and unwholesome mountain forests, while the lighter complexioned tribes have settled the coasts. To this are added linguistic proofs, which place the lighter races, of homogeneous speech, in linguistic relations with the higher races, especially the Malays. Dogmatically it has been said that originally these islands had been occupied entirely by the primitive black population, but afterwards, through intrusions from the sea, these blacks were gradually pressed away from the coast and shoved back into the interior.

The problem, though it appears simple enough, has become complicated more and more through the progress of discovery, especially since Cook enlarged our knowledge of the oriental island world. A new and still more pregnant contrast then thrust itself to the front in the fact that the blacks and the lighter-colored peoples are each separated into widely differing groups. While the former hold especially the immense, almost continental, regions of Australia (New Holland) and New Guinea, and also the larger archipelagos, such as New Hebrides, Solomon Islands, Fiji (Viti) Archipelago—that is, the western areas—the north and east, Micronesia and Polynesia, were occupied by lighter-colored peoples. So the first divison into Melanesia and Polynesia has in latest times come to be of value and the dogma once fixed has remained. For the Polynesians are by many allied to the Malays, while the blacks are put together as a special ethnological race.

For practical ethnology this division may suffice. But the scientific man will seek also for the blacks a genetic explanation. The answer has been furnished by one of the greatest ethnologists, Theodor Waitz,[4] who, after he had exposed the insufficiency of the accepted formulas, came to the conclusion that the differentiation of the blacks from the lighter peoples might be an error. He denied that there had been a primitive black race in Micronesia and Polynesia; in his opinion we have here to do with a single race. The color of the Polynesians may be out and out from natural causes different; indeed, ‘their entire physical appearance indicates the greatest variability.’ Herein the whole question of the domain of variation is sprung with imperfect satisfaction on the part of those travelers who give their attention more to transitions than to types. Among these are not a few who have returned from the South Sea with the conviction that all criteria for the diagnosis of men and of races are valueless.

Analytical anthropology has led to other and often unexpected results. It has proved that just that portion of South Sea population which can apparently lay the strongest claim to be considered a homogeneous race must be separated into a collection of subvarieties. Nothing appears more likely than that the Negritos of the Philippines are the nearest relatives to the Melanesians, the Australians, the Papuans; and yet it has been proved that all these are separated one from another by well-marked characters. Whether these characters place the peoples under the head of varieties, or whether, indeed, the black tribes of the South Sea, spite of all differences, are to be traced back to one single primitive stock, that is a question of prehistory for whose answer the material is lacking.[5] Were it possible to furnish the proof that the black populations of the South Sea were already settled in their present homes when land bridges existed between their territory and Africa, or when the much-sought Lemuria still existed, it would not be worth the trouble to hunt for the missing material. In our present knowledge we can not fill the gaps, so we must yet hold the blacks of the Orient to be separate races.[6]

The hair furnished the strongest character for diagnosis, in which, not alone that of the head is under consideration; the hair, therefore, occupies the foreground of interest. Its color is of the least importance, since all peoples of the South Sea have black hair. It is more the structure and appearance which furnish the observer convenient starting points for the primary classification. Generally a twofold division satisfies. The blacks, it is said, have crisped hair, the Polynesians and light-colored peoples have smooth hair. But this declaration is erroneous in its generality. It is in no way easy to declare absolutely what hair is to be called crisp, and it is still more difficult to define in what respects the so-called crisp varieties differ one from another. For a long time the Australian hair was denominated crisp, until it was evident that it could be classed neither with that of the Africans nor with that of the Philippine blacks. Semper, one of the first travelers to furnish a somewhat complete description of the physical characters of the Negritos, describes it as an “extremely thick, brown-black, lack-luster, and crisp-woolly crown of hair.”[7] Among these peculiarities the lack-luster is unimportant, since it is due to want of care and uncleanliness. On the contrary, the other data furnish true characters of the hair, and among them the crisp-woolly peculiarity is most valuable.

On the terms ‘wool’ and ‘wooly’ severe controversies, which have not yet closed, have taken place among ethnologists during the last ten years. Also the lack of care, especially the absence of the comb, has here acted as a disturbing cause in the decision. But there is yet a set of peoples, which were formerly included, that are now being gradually disassociated, especially the Australians and the Veddahs, whose hair, by means of special care, appears quite wavy if not entirely sleek and smooth. Generally it is frowzy and matted, so that its natural form is difficult to recognize. To it is wanting the chief peculiarity, which obtrudes itself in the African blacks so characteristically that the compact spiral form which it assumes from its root, the so-called ‘pepper-corn,’ is selected as the preferable mark of the race. The peculiar nappy head has its origin in the spiral ‘rollchen.’ As to the Asiatic blacks this has been for a long time known among the Andamanese; it has lately been noticed upon the Sakai of Malacca, and it is to be found also among the Negritos of the Philippines, as can be shown by specimens. Therefore, if we seek ethnic relationships for the Negritos of the Philippines, or as they are named, the Aetas (Etas, Itas), such connections obtrude themselves with the stocks named, and the more strongly since they all have brachy cephalic, relatively small (nannocephalic) heads and through their small size attach themselves to the peculiar dwarf tribes.

I might here comment on the singular facts that the Andaman Islands are situated near the Nicobars in the Indian Ocean, but that the populations on both sides of them are entirely different. In my own detailed descriptions which treat of the skulls and the hair specially,[8] it is affirmed that the typical skull shape of the Nicobarese is dolichocephalic and that “their hair stands between the straight hair of the Mongoloid and the sleek, though slightly curved or wavy, hair of the Malayan and Indian peoples”; their skin color is relatively dark, but only so much so as is peculiar to the tribes of India. With the little blacks of the Andamans there is not the slightest agreement. In this we have one of the best evidences against the theory of Waitz-Gerland that the differences in physical appearance are to be attributed to variation merely. I will, however, so as not to be misunderstood, expressly emphasize that I am not willing to declare that the two peoples have been at all times so constituted; I am now speaking of actual conditions.

In the same sense I wish also my remarks concerning the Negritos to be taken. Not one fact is in evidence from which we may conclude that a single neighboring people known to us has been Negritized. We are therefore justified when we see in the Negritos a truly primitive people. As they are now, they were more than three hundred and fifty years ago when the first European navigators visited these islands. About older relationships nothing is known. All the graves from which the bones of Negritos now in possession were taken belong to recent times, and also the oldest descriptions which have been received, so far as phylogeny is concerned, must be characterized as modern. * * *

Whoever would picture the present ethnic affiliations of the light-colored peoples of the Philippines will soon land in confusion on account of the great number of tribes. One of the ablest observers, Ferd. Blumentritt,[9] mentions, besides the Negritos, the Chinese and the whites, not less than 51 such tribes. He classifies them in one group as Malays, according to the plan now customary. This division rests primarily on a linguistic foundation. But when it is noted that the identity of language among all the tribes is not established and among many not at all proved, it is sufficiently shown that speech is a character of little constancy, and that a language may be imposed upon a people to the annihilation of their own by those who belong to a different linguistic stock. The Malay Sea is filled with islands on which tarry the remnants of peoples not Malay.

For a long time, especially since the Dutch occupation, these old populations have received the special name of Alfuros.[10] But this ambiguous term has been used in such an arbitrary and promiscuous fashion that latterly it has been well-nigh banished from ethnological literature. It is not long ago that the Negritos were so called. But if the black peoples are eliminated, there remains on many islands at least an element to be differentiated from the Malay, chiefly through the darker skin color, greater orthocephaly, and more wavy, quite crimped hair. I have, for the different islands, furnished proof, and will here only refer to the assertion that “a broad belt of wavy and curly hair has pressed itself in between the Papuan and the Malay, a belt which in the north seems to terminate with the Veddah, in the south with the Australian.” One can not read the accounts of travelers without the increasing conviction of the existence of several different, if not perhaps related, varieties of peoples thrust on the same island.

From this results the natural and entirely unprejudiced conclusion, which has repeatedly been stated, that either a primitive people by later intrusions has been pressed back into the interior or that in course of time several immigrations have followed one another. At the same time it is not unreasonable to think that both processes went on at the same time, and indeed this conception is strongly brought forward.[11] So Blumentritt assumes that there is there a primitive black people and that three separate Malay invasions have taken place. The oldest, whose branches have many traits in accord with the Dayaks of Borneo, especially the practice of head-hunting; a second, which also took place before the arrival of the Spaniards, to which the Tagals, Visayas, Vicols, Ilocanes, and other tribes belong; the third, Islamitic, which emigrated from Borneo and might have been interrupted by the arrival of the Spaniards, and with which a contemporaneous immigration from the Moluccas went on. It must be said, however, that Blumentritt admits two periods for the first invasion. In the earliest he places the immigration of the Igorrotes, Apayos, Zambales—in short, all the tribes that dwelt in the interior of the country later and were pressed away from the coast, therefore, actually, the mountain tribes. To the second half he assigns the Tinguianes, Catalanganes, and Irayas, who are not head-hunters, but Semper says they appear to have a mixture of Chinese and Japanese blood.[12]

Against this scheme many things may be said in detail, especially that, according to the apparently well-grounded assertions of Muller-Beeck, the going of the Chinese to the Philippines was developed about the end of the fourteenth century, and chiefly after the Spaniards had gotten a foothold and were using the Mexican silver in trade. At any rate, the apprehension of Semper, which rests on somewhat superficial physiognomic ground, is not confirmed by searching investigations. So the head-hunting of the mountain tribes, so far as it hints at relations with Borneo, gives no sure chronological result, since it might have been contemporaneous in them and could have come here through invasion from other islands.

The chief inquiry is this: Whether there took place other and older invasions. For this we are not only to draw upon the present tribes, but if possible upon the remains of earlier and perhaps now extinct tribes. This possibility has been brought nearer for the Philippines through certain cave deposits. We have to thank, for the first information, the traveler Jagor, whose exceptional talent as collector has placed us in the possession of rich material, especially crania. To his excellent report of his journey I have already dedicated a special chapter, in which I have presented and partially illustrated not only the cave crania, but also a series of other skulls. An extended conference upon them has been held in the Anthropological Society.[13]

The old Spanish chroniclers describe accurately the mortuary customs which were in vogue in their time. The dead were laid in coffins made from excavated tree trunks and covered with a well-fitting lid. They were then deposited on some elevated place, or mountain, or river bank, or seashore. Caves in the mountains were also utilized for this purpose. Jagor describes such caves on the island of Samar, west of Luzon, whose contents have recently been annihilated.[14]

The few crania from there which have been intrusted to me bear the marks of recent pedigree, as also do the additional objects. Unfortunately, Dr. Jagor did not himself visit these interesting caves, but he has brought crania thence which are of the highest interest, and which I must now mention.

The cave in question lies near Lanang,[15] on the east coast of Samar, on the bank of a river, it is said. It is, as the traveler reports, celebrated in the locality “on account of its depressed gigantic crania, without sutures.” The singular statement is made clear by means of a well-preserved example, which I lay before you. The entire cranium, including the face, is covered with a thick layer of sinter, which gives it the appearance of belonging to the class of skulls with Leontiasis ossea. It is, in fact, of good size, but through the incrustation it is increased to gigantic proportions. It is true, likewise, that it has a much flattened, broad and compressed form. The cleaning of another skull has shown that artificial deformation has taken place, which obviously was completed before the incrustation was laid on by the mineral water of the cave. I will here add that on the testimony of travelers no Negritos were on Samar. The island lies in the neighborhood of the Visayas. Although no description of the position of the skull is at hand and of the skeleton to which it apparently belonged, it must be assumed that the dead man was not laid away in a coffin, but placed on the ground; that, in fact, he belonged to an earlier ‘period.’ How long ago that was can not be known, unfortunately, since no data are at hand; however, the bones are in a nearly fossilized condition, which allows the conclusion that they were deposited long ago.

The deformation itself furnishes no clue to a chronological conclusion. In Thévenot[16] is found the statement that, according to the account of a priest, probably in the 16th century, the custom prevails in some of the islands to press the heads of new-born babes between two boards, also to flatten the forehead, ‘since they believed that this form was a special mark of beauty.’ A similar deformation, with more pronounced flattening and backward pressure of the forehead, is shown on the crania which Jagor produced from a cave at Caramuan in Luzon. There are modes of flattening which remind one of Peru. When they came into our hands it was indeed an immense surprise, since no knowledge of such deformation in the South Sea was at hand. First our information led to more thorough investigations; so we are aware of several examples of it from Indonesia and, indeed, from the South Sea (Mallicolo). However, this deformation furnishes no clue to the antiquity of the graves.[17]

I have sawed one of these skulls in two along the sagittal suture. The specimen gives a good idea of the amount of compression and of the violence which this skull endured when quite young. The cranial cavity is inclined backward and lengthened, and curves out above, while the occiput is pressed downward and the region of the front fontanelle is correspondingly lacking. Likewise, a considerable thickness of the bone is to be noted, especially of the vertex. The upper jaw is slightly prognathous and the roof of the mouth unusually arched.

For the purpose of the present study, it is unnecessary to go further into particulars. It might be mentioned that all Lanang skulls are characterized by their size and the firmness of bone, so that they depart widely from the characteristics of the other Philippine examples known to me. Similar skulls have been received only from caves, which exist in one of the little rocky islands east from Luzon. They suggest most Kanaka crania from Hawaii, and Maiori crania from Chatham islands, and they raise the question whether they do not belong to a migration period long before the time of the Malays. I have, on various occasions, mentioned this probable pre-Malayan, or at least proto-Malayan, population which stands in nearest relation to the settling of Polynesia. Here I will merely mention that the Polynesian sagas bring the progenitor from the west, and that the passage between Halmahera (Gilolo) and the Philippines is pointed out as the course of invasion.

At any rate, it is quite probable that the skulls from Lanang, Cragaray and other Philippine islands are the remains of a very old, if not autochthonous, prehistoric layer of population. The present mountain tribes have furnished no close analogies. As to the Igorrotes, which Blumentritt attributes to the first invasion, I refer to my description[18] given on the ground of chronological investigations; according to the account given by Hans Meyer[19] the disposal of the dead in log coffins and in caves still goes on. Of the skulls themselves, none were brachycephalous; on the contrary, they exhibit platyrrhine and in part decidedly pithecoid noses. On the whole, I came to the conclusion, as did earlier Quatrefages and Hamy, that ‘they stand next in comparison with the Dayaks of Borneo,’ but I hold yet the impression that they belong to a very old, probably pre-Malay, immigration.[20]

  1. Sitzungsberichte der Königlich Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin. Berlin, 1897, January-June, 279-289.' Translated with notes by Professor O. T. Mason for the annual report of the Smithsonian Institution, and printed from an advance copy supplied by Professor Samuel P. Langley, secretary of the Institution.
  2. Note.—The island of Negros received its name because it was peopled chiefly by a dark, woolly-haired race, while in other islands these were confined to the interior. Cf. A. B. Meyer, Negritos, 1899, p. 16.—Translator.
  3. This word, except in an historical sense, should never be used for non-Negrito Filipinos.
  4. Anthropologie der Naturvölker, Vol. V; The South Sea Islanders, Part II; The Micronesians and Northwestern Polynesians. Leipzig, 1870, pp. 33-36. Finsch, Verh. d. Berliner Anthrop. Ges., 1882, p. 164.
  5. Note.—The reader must consult, on the identity of Negritos with Papuans, A. B. Meyer in Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, Verhandl., Berlin, 1875, p. 47, and the Distribution of the Negritos, Dresden, 1899, pp. 76-87.—Tr.
  6. On Lemuria cf. A. R. Wallace, Geog. Distrib. of Animals, 1876, I, p. 272, and Island Life, 1880, p. 394.—Tr.
  7. Die Philippinen und ihre Bewohner, Würzburg, 1869, p. 49.
  8. Verhandl. der Berliner Anthrop. Gesellschaft, 1885, pp. 104, 109.
  9. Versuch einer Ethnographie der Philippinen, Petermann's Mittheilungen, Gotha, 1882, No. 67.
  10. A. Lesson. Les Polynesians, Paris, 1880, Vol. I, pp. 267, 283. [On this objectionable word see A. B. Meyer, The Distribution of the Negritos, Dresden, 1899, Stengel, p. 7.—Tr.]
  11. R. Virchow, Alfuren-Schädel von Ceram und von den Molucken. Verhandl. Berl. Anthrop. Gesellschaft, 1882, p. 78; 1889, pp. 159, 170. [Whether this be a new type or mixture cf. J. G. F. Riedel, Kroesharige Rassen tuesschen Selebes en Papua, 1886.—Translator.]
  12. Note.—The dates for these several migrations are given as follows: First migration, 200 B. C.; second migration 100-500, A. D., bringing the alphabet; third migration, fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, Islamitic. But these dates represent only opinions up to date, from which more thorough inquiry must set out.—Translator.
  13. Note.—In the matter of evidence for high antiquity and separate race furnished by incrusted cave crania, Prof. William H. Holmes's paper on the Calaveras skull (printed in this volume), should be studied, in which serious doubts are thrown upon the value of such relics as witnesses.—Translator.
  14. F. Jagor, Grabstätten zu Nipa-Nipa. Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, 1869, I, p. 80.
  15. Die Philippinen und ihre Bewohner. Verh. der Berliner Anthrop. Gesellsch., 1870, session of 25th of January.
  16. Rélations des diverses voyages curieux. Paris, 1591 (1663).
  17. [Chinese and Korean pottery are said to have been found with the deformed crania. Similar deformations exist in the Celebes, New Britain, etc. Head-shaping has been universal, cf. A. B. Meyer, Uber kunstliche deformirte Schädel von Borneo und Mindanao and über die Verbreitung der Sitte der kunstlichen Schädeldeformirung, 1881, 36 pp., 4°.—Translator.]
  18. Schädel der Igorroten. Verhl. der Berliner Anthrop. Gesellsch., 1883, pp. 300, 399. [On the Igorrotes see A. B. Meyer, Negritos, 1899, p. 12, note 2.—Translator.]
  19. Die Igorroten von Luzon, p. 386.
  20. With this study of crania should be read Dr. A. B. Meyer, on craniological data and their value, in The Distribution of the Negritos, Dresden, 1899, in which he says: “The form of the skull in general is variable and can not be regarded as a permanent character in the development of the races.” The reader must not neglect Dr. Meyer's publications, since in them he has the results of careful studies on the spot: Volume VIII, of the folio publications of the Dresden Royal Ethnographic Museum, 1890, on the tribes of Northern Luzon; Volume IX, of the same, on the Negritos, 1893; Album of Philippine Types, 1885, 32 plates, 4°; ditto, 1891, 50 plates; and The Distribution of the Negritos in the Philippine Islands and Elsewhere, Dresden. The last three are published by Stengel & Co., Dresden. The little book on distribution is in English, and contains, in addition to most useful information, a list of Blumentritt's publications.—Translator.