Who are the indigenous?

INQUIRER NORTHERN LUZON
Scholar says Negritos are the ‘original Filipinos’
By Vincent   Cabreza
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Posted date: February 12, 2008

BAGUIO CITY – All these years, school teachers have taught Filipino children
that Filipinos belong to the Malay stock. Now comes a language scholar, who has authored influential studies about Cordillera and other Philippine languages for almost 50 years, who says that linguistic, archaeological and anthropological findings collected
through the years prove that this assertion may have been wrong.Based on a comprehensive study of Philippine languages and dialects, Dr. Lawrence Reid, a New Zealand-born researcher emeritus of the University of Hawaii, dates the indigenous and mainstream Filipino to Taiwan about 4,500 years ago.Reid says the people Filipinos call “indigenous” today are themselves immigrants to the country and have become a
minority that has been marginalized by the state.He says the “original Filipinos” everyone refers to are actually the Negritos who are all but extinct in the country of their birth.Reid has developed an influential body of work on Philippine languages – with the Tasaday in the 1960s, a contribution to the Tasaday debate in the 1980s, and recently, with online dictionaries of a Mt. Province dialect that he speaks fluently.In 2006, he was honored at the 10th International Conference on Austronesian Linguistics in Palawan.

In a paper, entitled “Who are the Indigenous? Origins and Transformations,” he presented to the First International Conference on Cordillera Studies held last week at the University of the Philippines Baguio, Reid asked the government to correct websites that contain “uninformed and grossly amateurish statements about the cultural minorities.” The most prominent site Reid poked fun at belongs to the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), the agency tasked to administer, supervise and grant ancestral land titles to indigenous Filipinos.”There we find materials that have apparently been taken from popular descriptions and old, long outdated history books that refer to the multiple migration hypotheses of Dr. H. Otley Beyer, the leading Philippine ethnologist of his day, and which I am told is commonly taught in Philippine schools today,” he says.He says the NCIP profiles the Ifugao as “descendants of the first wave of Malay immigrants to the country.” The Kalinga are said to be descendants of the second group of Malays who came to the islands.”The Ibaloi are described as ‘peaceful, hardworking, and hospitable tribesmen. They are generally fair in complexion and have well-developed bodies, usually standing four to five feet above in height, have medium and narrow noses and some have broad flat noses,'” he says.”Attention to the shape of the nose is also mentioned for the Kallahan (or Ikalahan),” he says, as well as the Bugkalot, the Yogad of Isabela and the Ivatan of Batanes.”Absurd and completely unscientific descriptions such as these are internationally read, and not only give completely erroneous descriptions of Philippine indigenous groups, but cast a very poor light on the level of Philippine scholarship,” he says.Who does the indigenous Filipino take after?Reid says: “It is simply not true that the ancestors of Ifugaos or any Cordilleran peoples or of the Tagalogs or other lowland groups are descendants of the original inhabitants of the Philippines.””When your ancestors first arrived in these islands, they were not unoccupied. They were occupied by maybe hundreds of groups of Negritos,most of who have been completely assimilated or have died out,” he says.He says scientists have located 25 present-day groups of Negrito stock who still thrive, although they are on the brink of extinction themselves.Reid says the latest United Nations policy subscribes to the definition that indigenous peoples are “original inhabitants of a country, who inhabited the present territory of a country, at a time when persons of a different culture or ethnic origin arrived there.”Negritos are “the true first Filipinos” who date back to 50,000 years, he says, while the Ifugao ancestors who reputedly built the world heritage enshrined rice terraces appeared to have arrived only 4,000 years ago “as their first colonizers.””It is these first Filipinos who are the most downtrodden and socially marginalized of all Filipinos, and most in need of urgent action to enable them to survive in this society,” he says.The Cordillera no longer hosts Negrito tribes, although Reid says anthropologists have found evidence that Alta Negritos of the Sierra Madre used to thrive in the Ifugao mountains… Citing the discovery of ancient pottery shards in a cave in Itbayat, Batanes by archaeologist Peter Bellwood of the Australian National University, Reid says strong evidence “marks [the first colonizers] as being part of a Neolithic culture that existed in southwest Taiwan and [who] spread south from there into the Batanes islands and Northern Luzon..”He says the artifact supports irrefutable linguistic evidence debunking the “pre-scientific myth that Philippine languages are somehow corrupted versions of Malay, as a result of multiple migrations from the south.”


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