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Metal Age Philippines - 500 BC-AD 1000

The ancient Filipinos settled beside bodies of water. Hunting and food gathering became supplementary activities as reliance on them was reduced by fishing and the cultivation of the soil. From the hinterland, coastal, and riverine communities, the people evolved an essentially homogeneous culture, a basically common way of life where nature was a primary factor. Community life throughout the archipelago was influenced by, and responded to, common ecology. The generally benign tropical climate and the largely uniform flora and fauna favored similarities, not differences. Life was essentially subsistence but not harsh.

The culture was essentially a river and water-based culture. Fishing and agriculture were predominant means of livelihood. Most of the ancient cultural centers of the Tagalog regions were founded on river banks, specifically near the delta and the "wawa" or the mouth of the river, where the river meets the sea. Riverine communities, especially those by the delta and river-mouth became centers of trade and commerce. In pre-Hispanic Philippines, some of these trade centers were Maynila, Tondo, Sapa, Pasig through the Pasig River; Talim, Bay, Pila, Lumbang through the Laguna de Bai; Balayan though Pansipit River; Lipa and Taal through Bonbon or Taal Lake.

The early Filipinos had a culture that was basically Malayan in structure and form. They had languages that traced their origin to the Austronesian parent-stock and used them not only as media of daily communication but also as vehicles for the expression of their literary moods. They fashioned concepts and beliefs about the world that they could not see, but which they sensed to be part of their lives. They had their own religion and religious beliefs. They believed in the immortality of the soul and life after death. Their rituals were based on beliefs in a ranking deity whom they called Bathalang Maykapal, and a host of other deities, in the environmental spirits and in soul spirits. The early Filipinos adored the sun, the moon, the animals and birds, for they seemed to consider the objects of Nature as something to be respected. They venerated almost any object that was close to their daily life, indicating the importance of the relationship between man and the object of nature.

Taro, yams, and millet were the staple cereals of the islanders. These were planted in swidden fields, and around the margins of swidden patches devoted to dry upland rice. In the preconquest period, rice was highly valued and perhaps considered the most esteemed cereal, but it was not a daily staple. Rice production was insufficient and did not allow year-round consumption: even datus with many slaves ate root crops in certain seasons. Since only in a few places could a years supply of rice be produced, root crops were the most common food for part of the year, or all of the year for part of the people. Subject to seasonal flooding, the alluvial plains produced large quantities of irrigated rice and supported a large population, but even there, despite the abundance of rice in some places and for some people, the staple food was root crops.

Laws were either customary or written. Customary laws were handed down orally from generation to generation and constituted the bulk of the laws of the barangay. They were preserved in songs and chants and in the memory of the elder persons in the community. The written laws were those that the chieftain and his elders promulgated from time to time as the necessity arose. The oldest known written body of laws was the Maragtas Code by Datu Sumakwel at about 1250 AD. Other old codes are the Muslim Code of Luwaran and the Principal Code of Sulu. Whether customary or written, the laws dealt with various subjects, such as inheritance, divorce, usury, loans, partnership, crime and punishment, property rights, family relations and adoption. Whenever disputes arose, these were decided peacefully through a court composed by the chieftain as "judge" and the barangay elders as "jury." Conflicts arising between subjects of different barangays were resolved by arbitration in which a board composed of elders from neutral barangays acted as arbiters.

Baranganic society had a distinguishing feature: the absence of private property in land. The chiefs merely administered the lands in the name of the barangay. The social order was an extension of the family with chiefs embodying the higher unity of the community. Each individual, therefore, participated in the community ownership of the soil and the instruments of production as a member of the barangay. This ancient communalism was practiced in accordance with the concept of mutual sharing of resources so that no individual, regardless of status, was without sustenance. Ownership of land was non-existent or unimportant and the right of usufruct was what regulated the development of lands. Marine resources and fishing grounds were likewise free to all. Coastal communities depended for their economic welfare on the kind of fishing sharing concept similar to those in land communities. Recognized leaders, such as the chieftains and elders, by virtue of their positions of importance, enjoyed some economic privileges and benefits. But their rights, related to either land and sea, were subject to their responsibility to protect the communities from danger and to provide them with the leadership and means of survival.

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Page last modified: 29-03-2012 19:03:04 ZULU