A fascinating prehistory

Author’s note: I wrote this column piece in 2002, under the same title. It was published in the Nov. 29 issue ( vol. 14 no. 8 ) of the Baguio-based Northern Dispatch Weekly. My son, mentioned as a third-grade school boy in the essay, is now a second-year college student. I often wonder but forget to ask him whether college history textbooks still contain the story of Indonesian-A and Indonesian-B, or have they been expunged. Anyway, my take on the story still stands, and I hope my dear readers will learn something new once they finish reading this piece, which I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting nearly 10 years later.
Cagayan warrior ca. 16th century from the Boxer Codex
Did our ancient ancestors really arrive in the Philippines in waves? Image of Cagayan warrior drawn circa 16th century as part of the Boxer Codex doesn't seem to provide a good answer to this puzzling question of Philippine prehistory.

My younger son is in Grade 3, and sometimes I’m called upon to help him do his homework or review for his periodic exams.

A month ago, as I was checking his homework, we fell into a heated argument.

He claimed that the people of the Cordillera were descended from the first wave of Malays that came over here, while the rest of Luzon lowland peoples (e.g. Kapampangan, Tagalog) and the Visayans were descended from a second wave of Malays. He proceeded to lecture to me that the Malays were preceded by Indonesians, who also came in two waves–Type A and Type B.

I tried to explain to him, in terms an eight-year-old mind could grasp, that the wave migration theory of how our country was populated — most elaborately developed by Dr. H. Otley Beyer — has been debunked by most scholars of Philippine prehistory for quite some time now. But no, my son insisted, I was utterly wrong, and how dare I question his teacher and his textbook!

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When Agham Road led elsewhere

JV in DeQuiros PDI column 001
To my utmost satisfaction, Conrad reprinted my letter in full a week later in his column. I had misplaced my copy of that issue. This morning, however, it reemerged, yellowed and brittle, from a closet of old files that I was cleaning out. Its contents might be of interest not just to the younger generation of PSHS scholars, but to student activists who, I hear, are still doing the same kind of mass work among the squatter colonies of North Triangle as we did 40 years ago.

I hear The Bourne Legacy is shooting a few sequences along Agham Road in the North Triangle area of Quezon City’s central district. I suppose some film scenes will utilize the communities’ slum-housing conditions, which represent perhaps one of the starkest contrasts between abject poverty and cosmopolitan glitz this side of Metro Manila.

Portions of this sprawling area have now been cleared of so-called squatter communities and replaced by sleek malls, carparks, and office buildings. But there remain urban poor pockets that continue to remind us of how this part of the city looked ten years ago.

Nay, twenty years ago. Nay, forty years ago, when the road now known as Agham (“Science”) Road was just a gravelly dirt track that led to God knows where.

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A road map to the past

It’s June 12, 2011. Yet another Philippine Independence Day.

Boxer Codex
Visayan Pintados ("the painted ones"), the Boxer Codex, 1590

Again, Filipinos here and all over the world will celebrate, commemorate, cerebrate, maybe exonerate a couple of historical villains here and there, and perhaps commiserate with each other for what our country and people have achieved, or not achieved, since that fateful day 113 years ago.

Media (including Internet media) will be awash with historical or at least wannabe-historical pieces about our country’s past.

I, of course, being a Filipino — and a history buff at that — will join the June 12 hordes. But I have a special agenda. Continue reading “A road map to the past”