Friday, March 17, 2017

Our History Books Are Wrong: Ferdinand Magellan Did Not Discover The Philippines

For decades, it has been taught in Philippine schools that the country was first discovered by Ferdinand Magellan, the Portuguese explorer who led the Spanish expedition to the East Indies from 1519 until his death in 1521. Many schools in the Philippines still teach this false claim that "Ferdinand Magellan discovered the Philippines".

Let's be completely clear here. Ferdinand Magellan did not discover the Philippines. He merely landed on its shores on March 16, 1521. Prior to Magellan's arrival in the archipelago, people had already populated nearly all corners of the islands. Various civilizations flourished in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao for thousands of years before Magellan's ships caught sight of the islands from afar. How can you claim to have discovered a place when there were already people inhabiting it when you arrived?

With that aside, what should be the appropriate term to use when referring to Magellan's arrival in the country. Some say we should use the term "rediscovered" instead of "discovered". This is still wrong and doesn't make any sense whatsoever. The best way to describe Magellan and the members of the expedition is this: they are among the first Europeans to set foot in the Philippines.

So, if Ferdinand Magellan did not discover the Philippines, who did? This is a very difficult question. One that can't be provided with a definitive answer until we are able to piece together the waves of human migration that led to the settlement of the islands. As of this writing, there are several models of migration to the Philippines. There's still a thick fog of doubt and uncertainty swirling around these theories. One theory posits that the first humans in the archipelago came from the north (Taiwan). Another theory claims the complete opposite: the first human inhabitants came from the south (Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei).
The Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan.

Here's a quick overview of the models of migration in the Philippines:
1. Beyer's wave migration theory (Theory of Waves Migration) - Waves of migration came from the south via land bridges. These waves arrived in the following order: Dawn Man, Negritos, Indonesians, and Malays. This is the theory most well-known to Filipinos because it's the one commonly being taught in schools.
2. Bellwood's Austronesian diffusion theory (Austronesian Model) - Also referred to as the out-of-Taiwan hypothesis, this model suggests that people migrated from China to Taiwan then all the way down to the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
3. Solheim's Nusantao Maritime Trading and Communication Network (NMTCN) or island origin theory - This hypothesis is rather difficult to summarize so I suggest you read about it here and here.
4. Jocano's local origins theory (Core Population) - This model contends that the first inhabitants of the Philippines did not come from the Malay Peninsula. Jocano suggests that Filipinos are products of the long process of evolution and the movement of people.

Quick note: The oldest human remains found in the Philippines were dug out from the Callao Caves in Cagayan sometime in 2007. Modern dating methods estimate the age of the remains to be 67,000 years old. That said, some group of humans beat Ferdinand Magellan in discovering the Philippines by at least 50,000 years.