Mindanao Study Center

Mindanao Studies Part 2

By: Prof.  Emmanuel Nabayra

Peoples occupying the Philippine archipelago, particularly in the Mindanao group of islands, descended from the early groups of human migrants. Prof. Emmanuel S. Nabayra discusses the history of how the Philippines started and how the arrival of the first human settlers came.

Prior the arrival of the first humans in the Philippines, the Philippine archipelago was underwater. Archeological evidences include shells of giant clams found in Mt. Apo and a fossil of a horned coral in Mindoro. Due to intense tectonic activities, Mt. Apo and the surrounding Baguio District area of Davao City was forced out of the shallow seas, exposing seafloors to the open air. Continued geological activities of the are later developed into mountains we now see in Southeastern Mindanao.

Prof. Nabayra states that the Philippines was once connected to mainland Asia by two land bridges connecting to Borneo and to Eastern Indonesia. Marinduque used to be part of Luzon. Negros and Panay used to be one island. Masbate, Samar, and Leyte used to be connected to the Luzon Island.  These land bridge linkages allowed the spread of ancient plant, animal, and early humans around the northern and southern part of the Philippines.

Around the end of the fourth and last ice age, with the help of the land bridges and rafts made by early peoples, the first and prehistoric migrants to the Philippines archipelago arrived. The habit of gathering wild plants and hunting wild animals for sustenance enabled the early humans to somehow end up arriving and settling in the Philippine archipelago.

Evidences of the land bridges that connect the Philippine archipelago to the mainland Southeast Asia include ancient plants prevalent in both the continental Southeast Asia and the archipelagic Southeast Asia. Around eighty (80) million years ago, Asia and Australia separated. The Philippine archipelago was also connected to the mainland China through Taiwan. Around sixteen (16) million years ago, the land bridge between Luzon and Taiwan separated. With the last ice age finally over, the archipelagic array of land formations on the edge of the western Pacific Ocean now constitutes current the Philippines islands. 

With the arrival of the prehistoric migrants of the Philippine archipelago, how were they able to survive and thrive in this area? Who were these migrants and how were their lives back then? Do their descendants continue to thrive in the Philippines? How does this ancient migration influence the current conditions and composition of the Philippine population?

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