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The Fallacies of a Deep-Seated Myth: Beyer’s Waves of Migration and the Peopling of the Philippines

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Mark Joseph B. Talagtag BSME 1-4 July 19, 2019


Since our elementary we are introduced to the theory of migration. We are taught that Negritos crossed and reached the Philippines using land bridge and Indonesians and Malays sailed using a boat called “Balangay” to reach our island. But are they really our forefathers? Is the knowledge we know about the first Filipinos a misconception?

As a Filipino we should know our history and all of the important information regarding our past. Many historians and scientists believe that the first inhabitants of the Philippine islands emerged during the Pleistocene period (, 2019). But there is controversy when it comes to who were our ancestors. There were two theories regarding where the first Filipinos came from namely; Henry Otley Beyer’s “Migration Theory” and Felipe Landa Jocano’s “Evolution Theory. These theories have different views and contradicts one another.

American Anthropologist H. Otley Beyer believes that Filipinos descended from different groups that came from Southeast Asia in successive wave of migration. Beyer’s theory is known as “waves of migration” because it explains that these populations came in three discrete waves of migration who boarded boats and went straight into the Philippine islands and has specific physical features (Mendez, 2018). On the other hand, F. Linda Jocano believes that Asians, including Filipinos are the result of a lengthy process of evolution and migration. This historical debate on whether who were the first Filipinos had created various research and investigation that results to new discovery.

In the article, Sir Jeff wrote a title about the criticism of the migration theory. It is stated that any scholars would find no evidence to support this theory, and some have critiqued it for engendering a “passive” national self-image. For a theory to be accepted the person should provide evidences about the topic being studied, the case of the waves of migration theory are being refute by many Filipino anthropologists and historians due to the lack of evidences provided by Professor Beyer.

Based on the article written by Sir Jeff, Felipe Landa Jocano is one of the anthropologists who disputes the theory of migration. According to Jocano, it is difficult to prove that Negritos were the first inhabitants of our country. He also argued that Filipinos are not from Malays but rather Malays are from Filipinos (this is supported by the discovery of the tabon man in tabon cave, palawan, Philippines which dated older than any early man fossils discovered in the Malay peninsula). In 1962, a skullcap and a portion of a jaw-presumed to be a human origin-were found in the Tabon Caves (dubbed as the Philippines' Cradle of Civilization) of Palawan by archaeologist Robert Fox and Manuel Santiago, who both worked for the National Museum. The remains were dated about 21,000- 22,000 years ago. This evidence proved Jocano’s idea that the first inhabitants did not come from Malay Peninsula. The human fossil is called the “Tabon Man”, the fossil is composed of the skull cap, or the frontal skull bone, two fragments of jaw bones and some teeth. The set of fossils suggest that are at least three individuals. The skull cap is that of a young individual, probably female. (National Commission for Culture and the Arts, 2015). Further research of mine discovered that The Tabon Cave, in fact, was populated by peoples earlier than Tabon Man, since stone tools were there again to prove this. The deepest soil deposit of the cave was dated to approximately 50,000 years old, and the youngest to about 10,000 years. This shows that the cave was used continuously for about 40,000 years by peoples that used the same kind of tools. The Tabon Man were hunters and gatherers. Hunters and gatherers had no domesticated plants or animals for food. Instead, they obtained all their food directly from the wild.

The skeletal remains indicate that the Tabon Man was not a Negrito. Negritos were among the first human settlers in the Philippines arriving 30,000 years ago. Thus, there is no question why the theory of migration proposed by Professor Beyer is being debunked by many historians.

I agree with Sir Jeff that the Evolution Theory was factual in nature. I also did some other research and read other articles pertaining to his theory, and as far as a read Jocano’s theory provided more valid

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