Philippine prehistory refers to periods before written history. The earliest known record of human remains in the Philippines are the fossilized fragments of a skull and jawbone of three individuals discovered on 28 May 1962 by a team headed by Robert B. Fox, an American anthropologist for the Philippine National Museum. These fragments are collectively called “Ta-bon Man” after the place where they were found on the west coast of the island of Palawan.
Tabon Cave was a kind of Stone Age factory which was Carbon-14 dated to roughly 7,000, 20,000, and 22,000 before the Christian era (BCE). The fossils found are considered to have come from a third group of inhabitants, who worked the cave between 22,000 and 20,000 BCE. An earlier cave level lies much farther below the level containing cooking fire assemblages that it is said to represent Upper Pleistocene dates of 45- or 50-thousand years ago.
Anthropologists who have examined a Tabon Man skullcap are agreed that it belonged to mo-dern man, homo sapiens, indicating that Tabon Man belonged to a racial stock which entered Southeast Asia during the Holocene Period absorbing earlier and latter peoples (some believe including the Austronesians) that would eventually produce the modern Malay, Indonesian, Filipino, and Pacific peoples.
There were immense changes taking hold of the Philippine Ar-chipelago starting from Stone Age cultures in 30,000 BC to the emergence of developed maritime-based civilizations in the 4th century AD, continuing on with the gradual widening of trade until 900 AD and the first surviving written records from the archipelago.
Written records signify a demarcation line that begins early Philippine history starting in 900 AD, which is roughly the date of the first surviving written record to come from the Philippines – the Laguna Copperplate Inscription. It is the Philippines’ oldest historical le-gal record written in Kawi (a writing system originating in Java used across much of Ma-ritime Southeast Asia). This record was a sort of receipt acknowledging that a man named ‘Namwaran’ had been cleared of his debt to the chief of Tundo.
THE FIRST KINGDOM
The ancient Kingdom of Namayan in the Philippines (circa 800-1175 AD) – also referred as the Kingdom of Sapa, Maysapan or Nasapan after its capital, was one of three major king-doms which dominated the upper eastern side of the Pasig River running along the coast of Laguna de Bay, the largest lake in the Philippines.
It has been observed from records that the kings of Namayan ruled basically by organizing kinship groupings into mini-states intimately interwoven by the imperatives of blood. These political subdivisions were known by the archaic names of Meykatmon, Kalatong-dongan, Dongos, Dibag, Pinakawasan, Yamagtogon, and Meysapan. In modern times, these territories are now the cities of Makati, Pasay and Mandaluyong; the districts of Quiapo, Sampaloc, San Miguel, Sta. Mesa, Paco, Malate, and Pandacan; and the towns of San Juan del Monte and Taytay. Uni-fied, the Kingdom of Namayan was as large in area as today’s Metropolitan Manila (246.5 square miles).
While there is continuing debate about the subject, it appears that Namayan is considered to be the older of three kingdoms, pre-dating the equally old kingdoms of Tondo and May-nila. It was formed as a confederation of ‘barangays’ (i.e., an old Filipino term for village or districts) and is said to have achieved its peak in 1175.
Spanning over a number of centuries, many of the barangay set-tlements in the Philippines were by varying degrees under the ‘de-jure’ jurisprudence of one of several neighboring empires. Among them were the Malay Sri Vijaya (circa 7th to 13th Centu-ry AD), Javanese Majapahit (circa 1293-1527), the Bruneians and the Melakans although ‘de-facto’, they had established their own independent systems of rule, trade and political alliances.
A more precise description of Namayan’s administrative area was given by Spanish Fran-ciscan scholar and missionary to the Philippines Friar Felix de Huerta, author of a record of the histories Catholic parishes during the Philippines’ Spanish Period. This record was used as an essential tool also to describe the local histories of Philippine municipalities during that era.
Friar Huerta also recorded the history of Namayan’s kings. It had been ruled from Sapa by Lakan Tagkan (also known as ‘Lacatagcan’ and ‘Takhan’), and Lady Buan. Their known proge-ny were five individuals of whom the principal is known as ‘Palaba’. Palaba sired a son by the name of ‘Laboy’ who, in turn, sired a son named ‘Calamayin’ whose own son was christened ‘Martin’ when he converted to Catholicism in the 1600s.
Tagkan’s child by his Bornean slave-wife, however, is probably of more interest to some. The child, named ‘Pasay’ inherited territories known today as Culi-culi, Baclaran and a modern city within Metro Manila that still bears this child’s name. There is some discre-pancy as whether Pasay was a son or daughter as some historical texts refer to this indi-vidual as ‘Dayang-dayang Pasay’, or the ‘High Princess of Pasay’. There are other explan-ations to the nature of the name but the most that’s given much weight is that it was named after a princess of the Namayan Kingdom.
FLOURISHING TRADE CENTRE
During the period between the 7th century up until the begin-ning of the 1400s, numerous prosperous centers of trade emerg-ed, including that of the Kingdom of Namayan. As a locus of trade, this probably explains why the site of the royal capital of the Kingdom of Nama-yan in Sapa still survives today, but in another form. It is now known as the district of Santa Ana de Sapa (founded in 1578) and where the famous Sta. Ana Church now stands.
As a confederation of barangays, local inhabitants of this Kingdom brought their products to the capital. International trading activities flourished from the 12th to the 14th centuries principally with merchants from China, the Moluccas, Java, Borneo, Sumatra, India, Siam, and Cambodia who journeyed to Namayan to exchange their goods.
Namayan’s strategic location in Southeast Asia facilitated much of the commerce between other far flung kingdoms during that period. As an entrepôt, it created much wealth for its own inhab-itants and enriched its stature and status as an important and thriving culture prior to the colonization of the Philippines by the Iberian Spaniards in following Ferninand Magellan’s first and last visit in 1521.