Footprints

For Cultural Hybrids Seeking Home

ARE WE ALL AUSTRONESIANS? by Gerry van der Linden

13 March 2020

Human beings came early to the Philippines. After homo sapiens left Africa, about 60,000 or more years ago, and spread across the vast Eurasian continent, it took them perhaps 15 millennia to reach what are now called the Philippine islands. We find traces of these early visitors in caves such as the Tabon Cave on Palawan, dated back to 45,000 BC, and in sites in Cagayan Valley, dating back to about 26,000 BC. As hunters and gatherers these early humans lived a basic existence that did not change much over the next 40,000 years.

It is believed that the Negritos are the descendants of these first settlers. For about 40,000 years they were the only people living in the Philippine archipelago. They also lived through a dramatic natural phenomenon halfway that period, by about 18,000 BC. At that time a huge global event took place in the form of the last ice age. The vast expansion of the polar icecaps caused the oceans to drop to about 120 to 140 meters below their current level. The result was that Palawan became part of the Asian continent, while the rest of the Philippines became one landmass as all the straits between its thousands of islands disappeared when the ocean levels dropped. Somehow the Negritos survived these dramatic changes in their living conditions. Their descendants can today still be found in isolated pockets all over the country, such as the Agta of northeastern Luzon, the Batak of Palawan and the Mananwas in southern Agusan.

Much, much later the Negritos were joined by a lighter skinned people. When and from where they came has been the subject of much dispute. The best-known theory is that of Otley Beyer who in the 1940s suggested that they had come in successive waves from different origins to the south and west of the archipelago. These different waves explain the variety of language and culture found around the country. This has been called the ‘multiple homeland theory’ but it is no longer accepted by most scientists.

So what really happened? There are three sources of evidence to improve our understanding of the past: archaeological findings, linguistics and genetics. Archaeological diggings give us a glimpse of the past and dating techniques tell us how distant that past is. Typically, archaeologists look for the remnants of settlements and burial sites to give them an insight into past conditions. Linguistics, the study of languages, is of a more recent date. By looking at the degree of similarity and differentiation between languages linguists can identify common origins and tell when one language split off from another or from a common ancestor. Little work has been done on the genetic characteristics of the people of south-east Asia, but in future it is likely that more can be learned through the study of their genes.

Archaeological excavations in Itbayat and other islands in the Batanes group, midway between northern Luzon and Taiwan, have provided evidence of human presence from around 2,500 BCE. The evidence also suggests that these early settlers came from Taiwan. This supports a fascinating theory that is sometimes referred as the Austronesian Express.*

Linguists have identified the Austronesian language group, spoken by people living in a huge triangle with Taiwan at the top, Madagascar as its south-western corner, and the Easter Islands as its south-eastern corner (see map). The Austronesian Express theory proposes that by about 5,000 to 4,000 BCE people from southern China settled in Taiwan by crossing the strait that separates it from China. After a pause of over a thousand years, perhaps to develop the necessary shipbuilding skills, these people crossed the waters separating Taiwan from Batanes. They then crossed to Luzon and became the ancestors of all modern Filipinos.

But the Austronesian theory is even bolder: from the Philippines these migrants moved to Indonesia and Micronesia (1,500 BCE), Melanesia (1,400-800 BCE), Indochina (500 BCE), Madagascar (500 CE), Polynesia (600-1,200 CE) and New Zealand (1,200 CE or just 800 years ago). A language tree has been constructed that shows how all the many languages spoken across this vast triangle are related to each other.**

While this Austronesian Express was in progress, the newcomers to the Philippines settled all over the country, living in co-existence with the Negritos. During the three millennia from about 2,000 BC to 1,000 AD the newcomers gradually started to differentiate from each other. The Philippines was still covered with primary forests and small groups of families would have settled in sitios along the rivers and seacoasts. There would have been little contact among these local communities and over time they developed their own languages and cultures. The more than 80 recognized languages in the country all originated from the same Austronesian mother tongue, as do the other languages in the Austronesian region shown in the map.***

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Notes:  

*Coined by Jared Diamond, who uses 'Express' to capture how quickly this all happened.  The out-of-Taiwan theory was contested 20 years ago by Oxford University scientist, Dr Stephen Oppenheimer, in his book Eden in the East:  The Drowned Continent of Southeast Asia; he suggested that the migrations came from within Island Southeast Asia and resulted from flooding in the region.  More recent DNA research appears to support the view

**The 1,200 Austronesian languages fall into ten subgroups, of which nine (containing only 26 languages) are spoken only by aborigines of the island of Taiwan.  The tenth subgroup encompasses all Austronesian languages outside Taiwan, from Madagascar to eastern Polynesia--all 1,174 of them.

***This was of course not a process unique to the Philippines.  In New Guinea a population of a few million people living in isolated mountain valleys and islands developed over 250 different languages.

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Gerry van der Linden is a former Vice President of ADB and is now active in microcredit and governance NGOs in the Philippines 

 

The Life in a Day of a Locked Down Resident

05 April 2020

As I wake in the early morning, I slowly stand up and thank God that I have no sore throat and I feel just fine. I go to the windows to open the curtains—from the east, the sun’s rays are streaming, and the world is beautiful!

I look at the clear skies and the sharp outlines of the trees I see from my 17th floor window, a refreshing sight from the usual view of murky buildings and hazy horizons. The earth is getting reborn-- if we humans but give it a chance to breathe and renew itself. I can see this change even just after a couple of locked down weeks! I watch a relatively large bird, gliding its wings to gracefully land on one of the trees.Momentarily, it takes off again, flying up and away, possibly to start its day with a hunt.

Thank God for this new day. I have never quite appreciated what a gift it is to live on to a new morning, each morning.

Presently, I set myself for my daily routine: I open the TV news to find out what has happened since last night, resigned that vaccines are too far off, but perhaps some cure miraculously found?

However, it is more of the same—more new cases, more deaths, especially in the Western world where they have more test kits, better statistical measurements, and better reporting. Here in Manila, I get mostly anecdotal evidence only, brought to me through the two chat groups I belong. So-and- So died last night. . . My blood boils when I hear of some powerful politician, knowing he is virus-positive, get into a hospital, unprotected, in order to accompany his wife. My heart bleeds when the toll includes a doctor or medical worker—they are the true sacrificing heroes of our times!

I scroll down the new messages from my chat groups and see more solicitations for what the city of some 12 million urgently needs. How may I in a little way contribute to ameliorate these needs? I am fortunate that I belong to one of the highest income groups in the country. I also believe in the capitalistic idea that so long as one earns one’s money honestly, it is not a sin to have more than most. But it is a sin NOT to share, and perhaps during these times, we should share until it hurts!

Hospitals need proper face masks: available-on-order and affordable, I read that someone is organising donations for volume deliveries. Another chat group member is helping collect funds to buy and deliver food to various centers. We should also be mindful of contract workers who now don’t have any means of livelihood, says still another. And so, I remember my part-time gardener who now cannot come; the real estate broker who rented out my apartment-for-lease; the builder who was going to do repair works for my own flat with his contracted labour before his job was terminated. These people are the breadwinners of their families.

I call my brother and sister-in-law to ask how they are. They’re ok, everyone else in the family is ok, and I am relieved. “What are the latest news”?

By mid-day, I will have finished answering emails, done my 30-minute exercise on my little exercise machine in front of NETFLIX, and perhaps do bits and pieces of work, but as yet I am not in the mood to do much.

After my solo lunch--prepared by a helper whose virus-prevention training is still a work-in-progress--I am back on NETFLIX, glued on the first season of Designated Survivor. However, by 2:00, I have to tear myself from it in order to participate at Mass officiated by Pope Francis via Sky Cable’s Channel 76.

Redemption, says the Pope, requires sacrifice. To my mind’s ear, I listen to his sermon. On the cross, the Lord took it upon Himself to absorb in His body all the sins of the world, thereby becoming the SERPENT SIN; and through the destruction of His body, HE has set us free. Go therefore and sin no more. I imagine a hero of Marvel comics who extends his arms and expands his chest, attracting all the bad energy from those around him until, like a magnet, they are all drawn into himself, and Boom❗️🔥💥—he explodes, sacrificing himself!

After Mass, I try to concentrate on my project for this lockdown period—to learn how to use social media. As a 72-year-old, I have never been keen on computers, much less care about facebook, twitter, or the various apps available on the internet. But I do know of a young man who is well versed on this—he has agreed that I can call him for a small fee, in order to get some guidance as the need arises.

Yesterday, he talked me into how to use Skype. “Press the phone icon, do you see it on the upper right corner of your computer screen”? “Yes, but I keep pressing and pressing, and nothing happens, it doesn’t work!” “Take a picture of what you’re doing and send it to me. . . . Mrs, Hoffarth, you should not press the icon on the screen with your finger, use your keypad and curser!”

Duh! I should have remembered. Only last week, I had a similar problem when downloading an app on my phone. I kept pressing my thumb on the fingerprint icon and nothing happened—it took me an hour to figure out that I had to press my thumb on the home button!

After all these frustrations, wow, what a sense of accomplishment!

Another 30 minutes on my exercise machine in front of Designated Survivor and I am ready for my early solitary dinner. Then, a long viber chat with my son, also on lockdown in Berlin. Before 9:00, I am ready to settle down with a book—this time on Greek mythology, amusing myself with the identities of their gods and all their antics, led by the amorous Zeus.

Sometimes, when I can’t sleep, I start thinking what all these might mean. It is the first time in mankind’s history that we are all united in fighting a common enemy, proving to ourselves that we are all interconnected regardless of national borders.

It’s humbling to learn that despite all our modern technology, we are NOT in control, nature will take its course. This experience is so far bringing the best and the worst in many of us, but in the end, it will be transformative. Nobody will come out of this the same—not our world leaders, not our family, not ourselves.

Entrusting everything to God, I hope for a better tomorrow.

The Life in a Day

THE LIFE IN A DAY OF A LOCKED DOWN RESIDENT 05 April 2020 As I wake in the early morning, I slowly stand up and thank God that I have no sore throat and I feel just fine. I go to the windows to open the curtains—from the east, the sun’s rays are streaming, and the world is beautiful! I look at the clear skies and the sharp outlines of the trees I see from my 17th floor window, a refreshing sight from the usual view of murky buildings and hazy horizons. The earth is getting reborn-- if we humans but give it a chance to breathe and renew itself. I can see this change even just after a couple of locked down weeks! I watch a relatively large bird, gliding its wings to gracefully land on one of the trees. Momentarily, it takes off again, flying up and away, possibly to start its day with a hunt. Thank God for this new day. I have never quite appreciated what a gift it is to live on to a new morning, each morning. Presently, I set myself for my daily routine: I open the TV news to find out what has happened since last night, resigned that vaccines are too far off, but perhaps some cure miraculously found? However, it is more of the same—more new cases, more deaths, especially in the Western world where they have more test kits, better statistical measurements, and better reporting. Here in Manila, I get mostly anecdotal evidence only, brought to me through the two chat groups I belong. So-and- So died last night. . . My blood boils when I hear of some powerful politician, knowing he is virus-positive, get into a hospital, unprotected, in order to accompany his wife. My heart bleeds when the toll includes a doctor or medical worker—they are the true sacrificing heroes of our times! I scroll down the new messages from my chat groups and see more solicitations for what the city of some 12 million urgently needs. How may I in a little way contribute to ameliorate these needs? I am fortunate that I belong to one of the highest income groups in the country. I also believe in the capitalistic idea that so long as one earns one’s money honestly, it is not a sin to have more than most. But it is a sin NOT to share, and perhaps during these times, we should share until it hurts! Hospitals need proper face masks: available-on-order and affordable, I read that someone is organising donations for volume deliveries. Another chat group member is helping collect funds to buy and deliver food to various centers. We should also be mindful of contract workers who now don’t have any means of livelihood, says still another. And so, I remember my part-time gardener who now cannot come; the real estate broker who rented out my apartment-for-lease; the builder who was going to do repair works for my own flat with his contracted labour before his job was terminated. These people are the breadwinners of their families. I call my brother and sister-in-law to ask how they are. They’re ok, everyone else in the family is ok, and I am relieved. “What are the latest news”? By mid-day, I will have finished answering emails, done my 30-minute exercise on my little exercise machine in front of NETFLIX, and perhaps do bits and pieces of work, but as yet I am not in the mood to do much. After my solo lunch--prepared by a helper whose virus-prevention training is still a work-in-progress--I am back on NETFLIX, glued on the first season of Designated Survivor. However, by 2:00, I have to tear myself from it in order to participate at Mass officiated by Pope Francis via Sky Cable’s Channel 76. Redemption, says the Pope, requires sacrifice. To my mind’s ear, I listen to his sermon. On the cross, the Lord took it upon Himself to absorb in His body all the sins of the world, thereby becoming the SERPENT SIN; and through the destruction of His body, HE has set us free. Go therefore and sin no more. I imagine a hero of Marvel comics who extends his arms and expands his chest, attracting all the bad energy from those around him until, like a magnet, they are all drawn into himself, and Boom❗️🔥💥—he explodes, sacrificing himself! After Mass, I try to concentrate on my project for this lockdown period—to learn how to use social media. As a 72-year-old, I have never been keen on computers, much less care about facebook, twitter, or the various apps available on the internet. But I do know of a young man who is well versed on this—he has agreed that I can call him for a small fee, in order to get some guidance as the need arises. Yesterday, he talked me into how to use Skype. “Press the phone icon, do you see it on the upper right corner of your computer screen”? “Yes, but I keep pressing and pressing, and nothing happens, it doesn’t work!” “Take a picture of what you’re doing and send it to me. . . . Mrs, Hoffarth, you should not press the icon on the screen with your finger, use your keypad and curser!” Duh! I should have remembered. Only last week, I had a similar problem when downloading an app on my phone. I kept pressing my thumb on the fingerprint icon and nothing happened—it took me an hour to figure out that I had to press my thumb on the home button! After all these frustrations, wow, what a sense of accomplishment! Another 30 minutes on my exercise machine in front of Designated Survivor and I am ready for my early solitary dinner. Then, a long viber chat with my son, also on lockdown in Berlin. Before 9:00, I am ready to settle down with a book—this time on Greek mythology, amusing myself with the identities of their gods and all their antics, led by the amorous Zeus. Sometimes, when I can’t sleep, I start thinking what all these might mean. It is the first time in mankind’s history that we are all united in fighting a common enemy, proving to ourselves that we are all interconnected regardless of national borders. It’s humbling to learn that despite all our modern technology, we are NOT in control, nature will take its course. This experience is so far bringing the best and the worst in many of us, but in the end, it will be transformative. Nobody will come out of this the same—not our world leaders, not our family, not ourselves. Entrusting everything to God, I hope for a better tomorrow. I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. I'm a great place for you to tell your story and let your visitors know a little more about you.