Negrito Race: The Ultimate Link of Filipinos to the World

Negrito Race: The Ultimate Link of Filipinos to the World

Jewel D. Mercader


Essentially, this paper discusses the significance of Negritos with regards to Filipinos’ relation to the rest of the people of the world.  This is supported by previous accounts stating that the Negrito people are one of the earliest modern humans and extant species settlers of the country, next to Mamanuas of Agusan; thus also part of the earliest migrations to inhabit the earth.  With respect to the forerunners of the studies on this subject, notable anthropologists and researchers, their contributions, methods and approaches are briefly talked over.  In addition, earliest accounts on pygmies before studies of scholars are shown.  An introduction on Negrito Filipinos is tackled including its brief history, distribution, acculturation and relationship with the non-Negritos.  Also, the author has gladly compiled a few substantial claims with regard to the Great Wave Migration (Out-of-Africa and other several supporting and opposing theories).  Significant archaeological, physiological and genetic findings are presented.  Ultimately, a conclusion on the above studies, a reflection on the significance of Negritos to Filipinos and a world view on human race are shared.


Negrito Race: The Ultimate Link of Filipinos to the World

Cultural communities in the Philippines are often regarded as pagans, minorities, barbarians and other derogatory labels.  They make up about eight percent of the Filipino people and apparently they are marginalized one way or another.  The Negritos who are thought to be one of the earliest modern human and extant settlers in the country, next to Mamanuas, are not considered “Filipinos”, noted by the Ilustrados.  In Filomeno Aguilar’s Tracing Origins, Renato Constantino pointed out that the designation “Filipino” originally referred to Spaniards born in the colonial Philippines, but it was transformed by Ilustrados into a ‘class concept’ until it finally embraced the entire nation and became a means of national identification.  What Rizal considered ‘ancient Filipinos’ are those who are civilized.  He has a clear distinction of his perception of the Malay-Filipinos—those who were civilized and have accepted Christianity and not those who lived in the mountains.  Those who settled in the lowlands who were part of the third migratory wave were the ones Ilustrados consider having racial and cultural affinity with.(2005)  In terms of human race, which is basically distinguished through sharing the same physical features or classified through historical accounts such as wave migrations, it is agreeable that Negritos are not Malay-Filipinos.  However, to extend the implied discrimination on treating these Negritos as ‘aliens’ from the land they belong to is unfair.  They are just like the others who fostered and took care of the country’s natural resources.  Although it seems that the feeling is mutual, when according to Lawrence Reid’s Historical Linguistics and Philippine Hunter-Gatherers, Negrito groups are careful to maintain their own identity, distinguishing themselves from their neighbors by developing distinctive linguistic emblems, by calling themselves ‘Negrito person’, and having a distinct term for all non-Negrito people.(2007)

Nonetheless, for the sake of self-awareness, it is still righteous to give them respect and recognize their legacy in this country.  We may have our differences, but it cannot be denied that they are still part of this one big family of Filipinos, thus contribute to its unified cultural identity.

Pioneering Scholars and Earliest Accounts on Pygmies

This section of the paper was referred from Rahmann’s The Philippine Negritos in the Context of Research on Food-Gatherers During this Century. (1975, pp. 204-236)

S.V.D (Societas Verbi Divini) is one of the earliest institutions which showed great concern and interest on studying ‘pygmies’ pioneered by Arnold Janssen.  He guided then the notable Father Wilhelm Schmidt (founder of Anthropos) with his researches.  Father Paul Schebesta was also a member of the society belonging to the first post-Schmidt generation.  People mentioned above agree with the same school of thought.  Other anthropologists who played significant role in the society are Fritz Bornemann, Hermann Hochegger and Jesus Azcona.

There were a number of researchers who dwelled on Philippine Negritos such as Father Morice Vanoverbergh (started 1925) on Negritos of northern Luzon; Father Schebesta on Philippine Negritos in general along with the Semang of Malaysia and pygmies of Central Africa.  Also Gusinde, accompanied by Marcelino Maceda spent a few weeks in Panay, and then went to study the Mamanua in northeastern Mindanao.  However they were not able to finish this research.  As per the first accounts on Pygmy peoples, it is known that Georg Schweinfurth was the first to re-discover the African Pygmies (after the ancient Egyptians), by meeting some of them in a Congo village.  After then, in 1929, Schebesta began his systematic field work among Pygmies of Central Africa.

Back to the Ancient Egyptians who first encountered the pygmies, it is said that they had a good knowledge of the dwarfs in tropical Africa who were highly cherished cultic dancers at the court of the pharaohs.  The account was supported by a letter of Pharaoh Phiops II of the Sixth Dynasty, 2500-2300 B.C.(Rahmann, 1975, p. 207)  Also, ca. 800 B.C., pygmies had come to the attention of the Greeks and Romans even at the time of Homer.  This had a rather extensive, although vague knowledge of the African pygmies when these people were only mentioned in a passage/third song in Iliad.  Later, St. Augustine and St. Albert the Great reckoned the pygmies to be among the human monstrosities and asked whether they were descendants of Noah and ultimately, of Adam.

A better understanding on food gatherers was gained only after some erroneous views had been expressed.  This was started by Ernst Haeckel when he advocated biogenetic law which upholds that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny (this was soon rejected).  This was followed by J. Kollman advocating a special evolutionary theory.  He considered the pygmies of our time as the last remnants of the original pygmy races.  This was also assumed by Schmidt, however in contrast, he said that there was only one uniform Pygmy race originally.  Eugen Fischer opposed Kollman by advocating the degeneration theory when he pioneered studies on human heredity.  He said that the African pygmies only developed their present economy, food gathering, when they moved from the steppe into virginal forest.  This was opposed by Schebesta saying that Bambuti culture is of a primary-primitive nature and developed within the virginal forest though he admitted that there was a mutation towards a bodily pygmaean growth.  On the other hand, Rudolf Martin agrees partly with Kollman that the low stature of the Semang was an original element that was preserved by heredity and not a form of degeneration.  Rudolf Poech distinguished five groups of Pygmy peoples: Southeast Asian Negritos, central African Pygmies, the Bushmen, the Lapps, and the Veddoid wherein he did not assume their racial unity.

Schebesta however made a few points on the study of the problem of racial affinity between the Negritos of Southeast Asia and the African Pygmies: Only the Andamanese, Semang and the Philippine Aeta belong to the Negritos and that their characteristics exhibit them as Negroid.  The Negrito race constitutes racial elements of melanosoid, Veddoid, premongoloid and australoid origin together with the Negrito base, thus it is not a homogenous race.  Ultimately, Negritos are not Pygmies but there is a possible genetic connection between them.  Schmidt on the other hand, dealt with the pygmies’ belief on the existence of a high god or Supreme being.  Schmidt was inspired by Andrew Lang’s work who asserted that the belief in high god existed among the materially low tribes of Southeast Australia and among the Andamanese.

Several anthropologists followed and because of all their extensive work, food gathering culture is now well known somatologically and culturally but there are more to know.  Comprehensive monographs and comparative studies on Philippine Negritos might be extended to the Semang and Andamanese as a check on Schebesta’s hypothesis of a basic cultural unity of Southeast Asian Negritos.  Also, not just cultural anthropology, but social anthropology and applied anthropology should have a full share in the scholarly endeavor.

Negritos of the Philippines

Brief History and Distribution

Aetas are tentatively known as the first modern human settlers in the country who came around 30,000 years ago via land bridges, coming from Mainland Asia when the Malay Peninsula was still somehow connected with the Sundaland.(Noval-Morales, 1979, pp. 5-7)  After some time, based from genetic studies of Omoto, the Mamanuas of Agusan are thought to have arrived to the archipelago as early as 50,000 years ago. (III. Identification of the Carbonic Anhydrase-1 Variant, 1981) Negritos are thought to have come from the same race as the Great Andamanese of Andaman Islands, Semang of Malaysia and Mani of Thailand.  They are low-statured people whose main occupation and skill is hunting and gathering.  When new and more advanced migrants came into the Philippines, they moved and lived into the mountains.  As per the map updated by Dr. Jesus Peralta of the ethnic groups in the Philippines,(The Filipino People: Differentiation and Distribution Based on Linguistic, Cultural and Racial Criteria, 1974) it showed that Negritos are composed of Aburlin, Agta (Angat, Casiguranin Dumagat, Central Cagayan, Ebukid, Iriga, Isarog, Katabaga, Manide, Abiyan, Northeast Cagayan, Palanan, Roso, Sta. Margarita Tageilog, Umiray Dumagat, Villaviciosa, and Yaga), Alta, Atta, Ati, Ayta (Bataan, Tayabas, and Zambales) and Batak.  The Mamanuas who are considered negritos earlier are listed separately.

According to William Reed,(Negritos of Zambales, 1904) Negritos of more or less pure blood, known variously as Aeta, Agta, Baluga, Dumagat etc. are found in at least eleven other provinces of Luzon.  On the mainland of the Province of Tayabas, the Negritos are generally called Aeta and maybe regarded as being to a large degree of pure blood.  On another note, Zuniga said that the eastern side of Cordillera is also the undisputed possession of Negritos and the only spot in the Philippines in which the original masters of the Archipelago were hold of unrestricted possession.  Quoting Blumentritt’s opinion by William Reed, it is said that the number of Negritos will not exceed 25,000.  Of these the group largest in numbers and probably purest in type is that in the Zambales mountain range, western Luzon.  The Negritos of Panay, Negros and Mindanao are also to be regarded as pure to large extent.  On the east side of Luzon and in the Island of Paragua, there is a marked evidence of admixture.

Lifestyle and Acculturation

According to Headland’s The Casiguran Dumagats Today and in 1936, (1975) Negritos are basically nomadic and would move into different sites in accordance to weather and availability of resources.  Their resting places are more often than not elevated from the ground.  The flooring has a length of a man but the shade/roof has a height less than of a man.  In a collective setting, they would form their huts in a circle so that they are able to see everyone while dancing, performing rituals and anything under the sun.  They practice a simple way of living wherein they find contentment.  An interviewed negrito by Thomas Headland in this study, mentioned that they do not want to get accustomed with change, for when they do, they would never stop looking for it and would not be able to settle in life–making them unhappy.

Dwellings of Negritos in various regions also differ.  In Orion, Bataan province, floors consist of three or four whole bamboos.  They would also eat on banana leaves.  In Tuao, Cagayan, they would have a rectangular roof.  Their rice would come from Kalingas and during meal, they always desire for salt.  Amongst all negritos, they are the ones who bathe the most.  The Casiguran Dumagats’ usual dwellings from then and now are lean-tos hut with low and and unwalled shed.  In food, their staple meal would be rice or processed starch extracted from the soft inner pulp of the caryota palm.  To obtain rice, they make trades with the Malay with hunted deer, wild pig and monkey.  They also gather some seafood for supplementary viand.  In terms of drinking, even since then, Dumagat people love to drink liquor/’tuba’.  It has been a part of their daily routine that it has brought serious problems to their community with regards to productivity and health concerns.

As per their occupation, they all started as keen hunters and gatherers but as time went by, more and more Negritos chose to work as laborers for the Malays to afford other necessities.  In connection to this, ‘ahibay’ system (socioeconomic trade relationship between Dumagat and Malay) was developed.  This system upholds the idea of having a ‘debt of gratitude’ or ‘utang na loob’ between the two groups in a way that Malay Filipinos would act as go-betweens or spokesmen of the Dumagat people in marriages and help them with other economic transactions, while in return, the latter would help the former and serve them as laborers.  Sometimes this system is abused however it is still notable that a lot of Malay and Dumagat people are loyal and are in good terms with each other.

In clothing, men and boys usually wear G-string and girls wear ‘tapis’.  Married ones would be usually bare from waist and up but single girls would wrap the ‘tapis’ around covering their breasts.  In the late 1960s, women began to use machine-sewed clothes and men started to wear long or short pants.  Dumagat men and women are also naturally modest so to speak; when they undress or bathe, they cover their genitals (neither the woman assisting in childbirth would dare to look under the blanket of the pregnant woman).  Another customary to the Negritos is the filing of teeth and gums but thought to be not indigenous to the group; instead it was influenced by the Ilongots.  They also cut geometric designs using glass blades onto the back and outer arms (padit).  Filing of teeth and cutting geometric designs are done for aesthetic purposes.

Dumagat women usually go under puberty at age 17 and then marry, while men marry on their early twenties.  They also practice the ‘sakad’ system of the Panay negritos.  It is when the groom-to-be visits the girl’s house three times and then consummates their love eventually.  Negritos are strictly monogamous although two cases had been reported which showed practice on having more than one wife.  There had been no case of rape/sexual abuse neither divorce, unless the other has eloped.

Religion has been consistently animist but through time they had an idea of ‘God’ and were speculated to have been influenced by the advent of Christianity.  Education was obviously oriented and encouraged to the Dumagat people though ever since, they had been very reluctant of heeding to the system, thus very few Dumagat are literate and might also one big reason why there had been a little change in their culture and customs.  In language, in light with defining basic elements of an earlier Negrito culture, it was concluded that no linguistic elements held in common among the Negrito groups which are distinct from other Philippine groups.

In conclusion, there had been little change in culture of the Negrito which might be caused by minimal orientation with education.  Most of the changes occurred after 1960; for example, instead of continuing the hunting and gathering custom, most Negritos now just work as laborers for the Malays.  Lastly, their population gets even worse having a ratio of twenty-three to one between Malays and Negritos respectively.

Relationship with the Non-Negritos

In Tessa Minter’s paper Contemporary Relations between Agta and Their Farming (2009), it presented three cases including the three places wherein Agtas are mostly situated in the northern Luzon: Divisoria, Diangu and Disabungan.  The whole study focused on whether the farmers and foragers are mutually dependent to each other or the latter being exploited by the former.  The Agta and farmers underwent turbulent circumstances from the past century; the relationship between the two has had many fluctuations.  In the end, it is understood that neither gives an accurate disposition of the case – that over time, relations between Agta and non-Agta may develop, breakdown, and redevelop.  They may be characterized by tension or intimacy.  They may be mutually beneficial or exploitative.  However, it seems that which greatly influences the relationship between the foragers and farmers is the pressure on land.

Speaking of land matters, Lourdes Amos, on her Cultural Integrity: Promoting Cultural Survival and Decentralizing Good Forest Governance in Ancestral Domains: The Agta-Dumagat People: Province of Aurora, Philippines,(2003) discussed the case of the Agta-Dumagat as an example of how the complex interstices of capital interests, local and national government and local community interests can be successfully negotiated for an end result of respect for Indigenous People’s customary rights and good forest governance.

The IPRA was enacted by Ramos in 1997, for recognition, protection and promotion of the Indigenous People’s rights.  However this threatened migrant settlers to be excluded from access within the Ancestral Domains.  To take note, the Agta-Dumagat benefit from the subsistence value of their traditional resources while migrant settlers and private groups benefit from commercial potential of these resources—thus, conflicts arouse.  According to Larsen, in forming a common management strategy, the varying interests of local people over resource use needs to be balanced by inter-relating cultural development and environmental justice.

In light with the above mentioned strategy, it is good to know that the authorities of the Agta-Dumagat promote inclusive decision-making through consensus processes in a centralized system of collective leadership.  Having the idea of consensus decision-making is good but the one that has to be worked out is the decentralization of power.  Achieving cultural independence within a symbiotic relationship between the Agta-Dumagat and the migrant settlers/private groups is the key to have a just and harmonious access to the ancestral domains.  A few organizations have initiated this advocacy (TAGPUAN, KASAPI, NCIPP and PLANT) along with the six Agta-Dumagat organizations.  Their campaign fostered the concept of pre-conquest rights to lands and domains primarily Native Title and Cultural Integrity.

With symbiotic living being said, it must consider the benefits of both parties.  It is understood that development in the cultural context is geared towards devising means of promoting cultural heritage and passing it down to posterity — in which Agta-Dumagat are mostly concerned of.  With a financial help from other government and private groups, state and development of the ancestral domains will be secured and Agta Dumagat customs and traditions will be preserved.  To determine the use of the Domain, sharing it with the non-IP, the IP conducts an initial review of traditional patterns of resource use and is overlaid onto those that exist at present.  Thus, in conclusion it has been decided that specific land use within the Domain is now classified as agricultural/settlement/residential, hunting/fishing ground, and sacred ceremonial/burial sites.  To date, TAGPUAN is involved in facilitating community protocols and decision-making is still consensus.

Great Wave Migration Theories (Out-of-Africa and Other Supporting and Opposing Theories)

This section was primarily referred from George Weber’s website Lonely Islands (2009). Also, all figures used were taken from this web-site.

 The Andaman Association built by George Weber aims to document and explain further the scientific study of all aspects of the Negrito and other remnant people in Asia and elsewhere in the world, their ethnology, anthropology, genetics, archaeology, prehistory and history, their outside relationships to other populations and (if not extinct) their present situation – and last but not least their place in the origins and history of the human race.(Weber, The Andaman Association, 2009)

Reading a few of their articles helped so much in providing information about the human race, specifically the Great Wave Migration.

According to this website, which the author of this paper thinks most would agree is that, the whole point of continuously studying the human race is to be able to have complete new insights into the human condition, its past, its origins and perhaps even its future.  While anthropologists and other concerned scholars deal on wave migrations, one striking problem has to be considered, and that is the strange lack of variation in the modern human genome.  This means that there had to be a mother of all genetic bottlenecks in our relatively recent past.  It is thought that the Toba volcanic eruption (73,000 years ago) played an important role in the vast lost of genetic variety since the Great migration (Out-of-Africa) started 100,000 years ago.  In this Great Wave Migration, some groups stayed in Africa while others took their journey.

1.  The mtDNA gene flow shows the routes various modern people took to get to where they are now and where groups split off from a source population.  From a genetic perspective, all humans are therefore Africans, either residing in Africa or in recent exile.

Genetically speaking, we can group the human species into 5 groups which are African, European, Asian, Austronesian and Papuan/Australian.

2.  The genetic relationships within the human race today (or at least of many major groups within it) has been published by L.L.  Cavalli-Sforza et al, 1994, The History and geography of Human Genes, Princeton University Press.  (This chart is an adaptation)

In accordance to human evolution, a very human-like presence of two sets of footprints were found in Laetoli, Tanzania (East Africa) which were made roughly 3.7 million years ago and most likely candidate species of Australopithecus afarensis (known to have lived in the area 3.2 million years ago).  Another was recently discovered on the now dormant Italian Roccamonfina volcano from north of Naples.  With all of these findings, we might want to know what first made the first humans different.  It is said that the ancestors of the early humans were omnivorous; eating anything except if it is poisonous.  Latter, the early humans soon discovered that while running, they could also throw stones and then developed their skill into hunting, now by throwing pointed sticks.  A pebble tool was found out in Ethiopia and is thought to have been hammered into the shape of a scraper 2.5 million years ago.  Chimpanzees, however, have been observed using pebbles as hammers to crack open nuts.

The next chart is a rough-and-ready sketch of human and pre-human species with the help of skimpy archaeological and genetic evidences provided by the living and the dead.  Of all the pre-humans discovered, the Neanderthal Man or Homo neanderthalensis is the one which puts conflict on the initial suggested theory that apes, pre-humans and everything genetically connected came from Africa, since Neanderthal remnants were never found in Africa except for the tools under the stone tool technology of the Mousterian and Levalloisian technology, which is said to be initiated by these people.  The Great Human Migration must have begun to intrude into Neanderthal territory from before 70,000 years ago when it is thought that they were pushed by the migrating Homo sapiens in the area (Europe).  Their last known traces were found in a cave near Gibraltar, dated to 24,000 years ago.  Also, the enigmatic remains of pre-human species in Java and China (among a few others) suggest that there have been some early “Out of Africa” migrations long before Homo sapiens existed, should the former remnants could not be explained as ‘local developments’.

3.  The chart shows a selection of Homo and pre-Homo species.

As earlier mentioned, some stayed in Africa while others joined the Great Wave Migration.  These people who stayed are the Sanid people (Khoisan) and Negrids (Capoids).  Studies in molecular genetics have shown that of all human groups the Khoisans are the closest to the roots of the Homo sapiens family tree, and that they are the oldest identifiable surviving human group today.The Negrids and Sanid people just had a clear separation from each other from around 5,000 years ago, when the former were pushed by the latter to go to the south of Africa.  Around 5,000 years ago the Bantu began to dramatically develop their metal-working skills and produced superior weapons which led to improved agricultural and horticultural skills and eventually caused population explosion (Bantu explosion).  This event led to large-scale colonization of the the territories of the hunter-gatherer Khoisanids.  This discovery led researchers to speculate that the growing technological sophistication might have encouraged the most successful groups to expand, to conquer better hunting grounds, thus to migrate.  However according to George Weber, this is just something interesting to think about and is purely hypothetical.  Also, this might not be applied generally since for example according to Dr.  Jesus T.  Peralta, in the Philippines, the earliest carbon 14 date flake tools obtained from Tabon cave were for about 30,000 years B.C, and that these are made exactly the same as the tools found in Cagayan Valley which date about 700,000 years earlier.(Glances: Prehistory of the Philippines, 2011) This means that people then have been using the same technology and was just later on modified about 100,000 or more years ago.

During the Great Wave Migration which started 100,000 years ago, those people who came out of Africa branched into two directions which are the southern and northern routes.  The southern branch had more or less, reached their present location before 30,000 years ago.  This include the Dravidians in India, the Negrito in India and Southeast Asia, the Papuans in Newguinea and some Pacific islands, the Australians in Australia and the Tasmanians in Tasmania.  Thus descendants are specifically the Andamanese, Nicobarese, Shompen, Mani, Semang, Tasmanians, Palau Islanders and if proven true, some of the oldest Americans/pre-Amerinds who are Pericuans and Fuegians.  However, vaguely, some Negrito-like groups have existed in southern China and have not been there for at least several thousand years, thus possible related people survivors, however still managed to hang on in Taiwan.

4.  Southern Branch Migration

            There is some slight controversial evidence that outliers of the southern branch may have reached the Americas, as early as 50,000 years ago when wind and sea currents in the Pacific could have been favorable to carrying lost sailors eastwards towards America.  These evidences include human traces in Monte Verde dated to 30,000 years, oldest finds dated to 36,000 years in Pedra Furada, Brazil and the Pericu tribe, an unusual group on the Californian peninsula in Mexico(these could have been among the last survivors of a pre-Amerind population, although the tribe died out during the late 18th century).

The people who joined the Northern Migration, on the other hand had a problem adapting to a drastic change in climate moving into the north from Africa.  What attracted them to go to the icy north must have been the enormous amount of meat available like mammoth, elks, deer, wooly rhinoceros and many others who once lived in now largely empty Siberia.  These people were the ancestors of today’s Europids and Mongolids (many Siberian people, Chinese, Mongolian, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Burmese) as well as less directly, of the modern Inuit-eskimo and the Amerindians.  The ancestors lived in Siberia for about 60,000 years (long enough for them to adapt to the climate).  Once they had dark skin colors but then this eventually changed to white or yellow.  The slit eyes of Mongoloids are also probably an adaptive measure against cold and especially glare from the sun.

12,000 to 10,000 years ago, climate in Siberia warmed dramatically and plentiful food animals died out, thus Homo sapiens had to adapt or perish.  The two main Siberian human groups, Mongolid and Europid had to look for new hunting grounds.  Mongolid moved mostly south towards what is now China and Southeast Asia.  This event must be connected with the remarkable patchwork of people and languages in Siberia.  On the way, they seem to have hived off a group which moved east into the Americas and became the Amerind people and later the Inuit and Aleuts.

5.  Northern Branch Migration

They say the Austronesians though are the offshoot of both Northern and Southern Branches.  Earliest traces of modern humans in Taiwan dated around 30,000 years ago suggest that they might have been part of Southern Migration and were related to Negrito, Papuans and Australians.  Thinking that China, the mainland of Taiwan was greatly involved also in the Northern Branch at the time, there might had been a mingling of people at the fringes of China, including Taiwan, coming from both Northern and Southern Migrations.  Around 5,000 years ago, prehistoric Taiwanese started the Austronesian explosion, the time when civilization of Ur in Mesopotamia was in its flower while Chinese civilization had only just begun.

However according to Solheim’s Nusantao Maritime Trading and Communication Network theory which was carefully based on artifact findings, said that trade network first spread in Asia-Pacific consisting of both Austronesian and non-Austronesian.  Instead of Taiwan as the origin of Austronesians, he placed it in the ‘Early Central Lobe’ or in Eastern coastal Vietnam at around 9000BC.  He suggested that people spread around 5000BC in the ‘Late Central lobe’ including Philippines, southern China and Taiwan.  From there, Austronesian became the official language and continued to spread eastward and westward.  Solheim’s idea was more akin to concentric circles compared to Bellwood’s linear expansion.(Wikipedia, 2012) Austronesians were the earliest wet-rice farmers and known to have settled along the coast of the East and the South China Seas.  These people have been the world’s most daring and successful seafarers the world has ever seen.

Negrito Migration

Following the southern branch migration out-of-Africa, the aboriginal Filipinos (Negritos) descended from ancestors who came from Central Africa passing through Indian subcontinent and then reached the Andamanese Islands.  It went through Southeast Asia and is now known as the ‘Orang Asli’ or Semang in Malaysia and Aetas in Philippines.  Jesuit Francisco Colin in 1663 said that the Negritos from India were only pushed away by the succeeding civilized migrants from Sumatra, Java, Borneo and Macassar.  Moving on and still following the wave migration, it seemed that Australia was first inhabited by immigrants around 50,000 years ago passing through Indonesian archipelago.  Prior to that, the Andamanese formed part of a large Southeast Asia.(Padilla, 2000) These Great Andamanese are now confidently considered as of the same kind of Negritos like Aeta of the Philippines, Mani of Thailand and Semang of Malaysia.  The question is whether the less unified Negrito population just broken up and largely destroyed by the Great Migrations of modern speaking languages of Austronesian(Malayan etc.), Austroasiatic (Khmer, Nicobari, etc.) and Sino-Tibetan (Thai, Burmese, etc.) families from the North about 8,000 and 5,000 years ago.(Weber, Prehistory and Theories, 2006)

Significant Findings on Migration and Genetic Relations of Negrito Race


Pottery and Shell Middens:

According to Lawrence Reid, provided that the earliest movement of Neolithic peoples came from Taiwan around 4500 to 4000 years ago, it is speculated that prior to this movement of Austronesian-speaking group, Philippines was probably occupied by several separate groups, with widely disparate languages.  Also, these people before the Austronesian-speaking group have occupied coastal areas as they still do in northern Luzon and broad river valleys.  Thus, we are to consider the founded extensive shell middens and other pre-Neolithic remains near Lal-lo and other sites along the lower Cagayan River in northern Luzon dated to 5000 BP, a thousand years prior to the arrival of Austronesians in the area.(Reid, 2007) The ‘Out-of-Taiwan’ movement was supported by archaeological evidences such as pottery from Torongan and Sunget in the Batanes Islands between Taiwan and Luzon which were dated to between 3600 and 3000 BP recovered from site at Nagsabaran Cagayan Valley of Northern Luzon.

Stone Tool Industries (Microliths):

According to George Weber it is important to connect a specific population whether extinct or alive to a specific prehistoric tool technology that is discovered.  For one example is the study of archaeological findings of the Andamans or Tasmanians.  It is speculated that the stone tools found in Andamanese kitchen midden are closely related to the Toalean stone tool industry which on the other hand started and were found all over the Indonesian archipelago and beyond.  This might conclude that if Andamanese tools are Toalean, all Toalean must have been made by Negrito, but something quite impossible.  However, it is considerable that if Andamanese used Toalean, then Negrito ancestors were much more widespread in the past and not isolated then as they were during the last 2,200 years.

It is found that microliths in South Sulawesi are of the same Toalean type as the stone tools found in Andamanese kitchen midden.  Toalean is dated back to mid-Holocene found in number of caves in Sulawesi, Indonesia around 6000BC up to 1st millennium AD overlapping the pottery from the late 3rd millennium BC.  Also, some of the Toalean findings are found, aside from Sulawesi, in areas wherein Negritoid people are still living. (Weber, Prehistory and Theories, 2006)

There is also a thought whether the Hoabinhian stone tool industry had been a forerunner of Toalean.  The former flourished around 17,000 to around 3,000 years from the present.  On the other hand, there is no evidence that Negrito groups used Hoabinhian tools except that two sites (Sumatra and Southern China) wherein both are still Negritoid territories were found with these tools. (Ibid.)

In Philippine studies, stone tools were also excavated in Cagayan Valley, along with fossils of an extinct animal, elephas, on the same bedrock layer, which known to have lived around 750,000 years ago.  According to Dr.  Jesus Peralta, (Glances: Prehistory of the Philippines, 2011) these stone tools were made exactly the same as the tools used by the found Homo erectus earlier in Indonesia (Java man) and China (Peking man).  Thus, to date, it is considered that Homo erectus people are the first inhabitants of the archipelago.  This is another one of the many probable proofs of having earlier migration long before the Great Wave Migration.  Nevertheless, continues works are pursued to finally find the remains of the people who made these stone tools.

In the Philippines, in 2007, Armand Salvador discovered the Callao man in Callao Cave through its metatarsal remains, which was found to be about 67,000 years old.  Its biological classification is still uncertain whether it is a modern human or a Homo floresiensis (the latter is sometimes treated as a subspecies or a pathological specimen of the former).  Earlier, Robert Fox also discovered a skull cap of a Homo sapiens sapiens in Tabon Cave, Palawan which dated to 22 to 23 thousand years old.(Peralta, Glances: Prehistory of the Philippines, 2011) The Tabon man indicates that it was Pre-Mongoloid.  However two experts opined that the mandible is ‘Australian’, and that these people cannot be Negritos.(Wikipedia, 2012)


In David Barrow’s The Negrito and the Allied Types in the Philippines,(1910) itrevealed the presence of Negrito blood of several other pagan people in the Philippines determined by measurement and observation of physical features from those who are considered pure Negrito.

The Negritos who were first measured and considered of pure blood are those from south slope of Mount Mariveles in Bataan.  Subjects were assessed with accordance to the methods of Topinard’s system of nomenclature: stature/arm reach, cephalic index (long heads/dolichocephalic, medium heads/mesaticephalic, broad or round heads/brachycephalic), nasal index (broad and flat nose/platyrhinian, medium nose/mesorhinian, and thin high nose/leptorhinian), skin color (dark brown, yellowish/saffron, light), hair, muscular development, eyes and lips.

As per the pure blooded Negritos, it was found out that their stature is distinctly ‘pigmy’ and they have unusually long arms; their heads while usually decidedly round (brachycephalic), has considerable variation and approaches mesaticephaly; the shape of their nose is peculiar wherein the root is deeply depressed and the bridge is short and low with an end rounding and bulbous (platyrhinian).  The Negritos’ color is dark brown with a hair typically African (kinky and grows in little clusters).  Their body proportion is good except that the head appears a little large and the arms are excessively long.  They are usually slender than stocky and their eyes are pretty, dark brown in color and well opened.  Their lips are full and their chins are slightly retreating, their ears are well shaped and attached.

Moving on to the North, the author has also measured some Igorots.  All in all, the researcher was able to measure 53 Igorots wherein 8 are women.  In conclusion, Igorot is one of the exceptionally short races, with long arms, muscular race of dark brown to saffron skin color, with black hair which is usually straight or wavy, having full lips and broad noses, with high nasal index and heads usually mesaticephalic or brachycephalic.  Apparently, some distinct features are Negrito, or at least characteristic of the black race of Oceania, still however, at base, they are Malayan, especially in consideration of their culture.

In terms of the Ilongot, after the test was done to a few, it was found out that their stature is a little less than the average of Igorot, who are brachycephalic and platyrhinian; although color is much lighter than the Igorots for they are less exposed to sunlight, but neither comparable to white or Mongol races.  As per its culture, it is a composite of Malayan and Negrito elements.

David Barrow also added that the Ilongots resemble the ‘Sakay’ of the Malay Peninsula who exhibit both Negrito and Malayan characters.  In the end, the author believed that the Sakay, like so many of the types of the Philippines, is an exhibit to the widely diffused Negrito element in Malayan peoples.


Understanding Negrito Race in General

This section was referred from George Weber’s article on Andamanese: Genetics and Possible Relations.(2006) This article gave significant information on human variability which includes race based on Genetics using individual differences in DNA sequence.  The responsible researchers characterized whole-genome patterns of common human DNA variation genotyping 1,586,383 nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 71 Americans of European, African and Asian ancestry.  The results showed a strong correlation between extended regions of linkage disequilibrium and functional genomic elements, providing a tool for exploring questions with regards to causal role of common human DNA on genetic variation within and between human populations.

The study used haplogroups, group of haplotypes (series of alleles) which determine genetic traits.  All known haplogroups are present in sub-saharan Africa and that many occur only there, supporting the theory that everyone came out from the continent.

It was given emphasis that one of the most sought-after ethnic groups to be used as basis of studies on human race is the Andamanese, for they were isolated for the longest time of all, maybe next to the Khoisans of Africa.  They are included as one of the Negritos or suspected relatives along with the Semang of Malay Peninsula, Aeta of Philippines, Vedda of Sri-Lanka, Dravidian group, Tasmanians in Australia, Papuans, Khoisan of South Africa, Congo pygmies, Pericu of the Calfornian peninsula in Mexico and the remnants of southernmost South America which are the Fuegians.

It was also mentioned that though Negritos, such as the Andamanese, who settled in their areas not going back to more than 2,200 years ago, are not African pygmies; there are however fascinating connections to the Khoisan of South Africa.  It can be assumed too that the Negritos represent an ancient if not the most ancient component in the prehistoric peopling of Asia by anatomically modern humans as such they could go back 70,000 years ago.

There are two opposing school of thoughts with regards to the Negritos and their relationships to other population.  First holds that Negritos were one group living in a large area of tropical Asia many thousands of years ago when new and more aggressive immigrants arrived who pushed the Ancestral Negritos and Veddoids into the remoter jungle areas.  This school has received a massive boost from the latest genetic evidence.  The other school of thought holds that Negritoid and Veddoid groups developed independently from each other and are not really related, thus, similarities are not regarded as ancestral traits but result of similar life style in similar environments.  This school’s impression seemed baffling; hence it is more than a little doubtful whether the various and originally quite different groups had enough time for physical adaptations of near-perfect similarity to have occurred.

A study on the evolutionary history of Andaman was also presented in the article from the American Journal of Human Genetics.(Kashyap, 2003) Genetic and epigenetic data are interpreted as favoring the long-term isolation of the Andamanese, extensive population substructure and/or two temporally distinct settlements.  An early colonization featured populations bearing mtDNA line M2, and this lineage is hypothesized to represent the phylogenetic signal of an early southern movement of humans through Asia.  This suggested that there may have been at least distinguishable founding events for the Andaman Islands; the earlier one could be as early as the southern migration out-of-Africa.

The early colonization of the Andaman archipelago by bearers of the M2 lineage supports the growing evidence of an early movement of humans through southern Asia and indicates the phenotypic similarities with African groups are convergent.  It also suggests that early human migrants were capable of reaching all the islands of southern Asia, therefore, near Oceania, by the late Pleistocene.  Such dispersal is consistent with the scattered distribution of negrito populations.

Also, the whole of the Indonesian archipelago and Papua-New Guinea is scattered with tribes showing unusual frequencies.  It has been suggested on the basis of blood frequencies that the Muruts of North Borneo, the Papuans of Schouten and Halmahera, the Bagobos, the Igorots of the Philippines as well as the Angami Naga of north-east India, the Sakay of Malaya, the Mois of Indo-China and all Negritos are related, representing a very ancient element of population that is also distantly connected to the Australian aborigines.  The Negritos on the Malay Peninsula and in the Philippines are undoubtedly related to the Andamanese, yet their blood frequencies are quite different, reflecting intensive and long-standing contact with their neighbors.

Genetic Studies on Mamanwas

Based on Population Genetic Studies of the Philippine Negritos,(Omoto, III. Identification of the Carbonic Anhydrase-1 Variant, 1981) investigation of blood samples from 277 Mamanwas of northeastern Mindanao, Philippines, confirmed the concentration of the variant carbonic anhydrase-1 (CA1 3N) in this group.  This also occurred in Manobos but in a low frequency.Survey of samples were also done in Aeta and Ifugao of Luzon.  The finding suggested that Aeta and Mamanwa have different origins although both are usally referred to as Negritos.  The mentioned above variant was also recorded in Chamorros of Guam and Saipan, Mariana Islanders, Filipinos in United States and probably Malaysians and Indonesians as well.  In conclusion of results, the frequency found in the Mamanwas is by far the highest among the values thus far obtained.  This suggests that this variant was once common in an aboriginal population of the Western Pacific from which was scattered by gene flow.  This variant was also absent in Aeta, suggesting that they have different origins with Mamanwa representing distinct migrations to the Philippines.  Later on, on Keiichi Omoto’s several genetic studies, it is concluded that Mamanuas of Agusan came to the islands around 49,000 years ago predating the occurence of Aetas.


Salient Points on Findings on the Great Wave Migration and the Negrito Race

Human race has been a relentless and sought-after discourse for our notable anthropologists; and by far, they admit that the more evidences they are able to gather, the more questions arise and the more gaps to fill with explanations.  On the other hand, they seem to be confident with their findings at least since the Great Wave Migration which started 100,000 years ago, but earlier than that, questions are yet to be answered by our children.  Also, due to fossils unraveled from different parts of the world which date back earlier than 100,000 years ago, it is speculated that there could have been earlier migrations before the Pleistocene period, before Homo sapiens started to appear.  It is also thought that modern humans and pre-modern humans lived side by side with each other.  The question now is left on the case of Neanderthals, who happen to have been never found in Africa albeit the consistently assumed idea that all homo and pre-homo species came from this continent.  Nevertheless, the found Mousterian and Levalloisian stone tools by Neanderthals in Africa helped patching the disparity; but of course, only concrete evidences would ultimately solve the case.

We have been studying and tracing the origins of human race, however we spend little time on discussing the reasons behind human expansion, migration and ultimately conquering lands.  As mentioned earlier, according to Weber’s hypothetical idea, it must have been the advancement of technology which encouraged people to look for bigger and better hunting grounds.  It is because they knew better that they wanted change, development and expansion.  This idea was taken from the event wherein due to the ‘Bantu Explosion’, (when the Bantu learned a more advanced tool technology) Khoisanids were pushed down south of Africa, for they have a more primitive technology and that they were inferior, population wise.  In any case, this might not be applied in general terms since based from Dr.  Jesus Peralta’s studies, at least what is evident in the Philippines, modern human and pre-modern human settlers in the archipelago have been using the same stone tool technology when they came, although modifications were applied in between of their arrivals.

The Austronesians are said to be an offshoot of both southern and northern migration.  During the southern migration, it is noted that some groups of people have also travelled at the fringes of south China, which explains the Negrito-like groups of people in the country.  Also, China had been a major part of the northern migration wherein first Mongolids occurred or developed.  Overtime, there could have been a mingling between people from northern and southern migration before the advent of Austronesians coming from Taiwan around 12,000 years ago.  With regards to the origin of Austronesian speaking people, Solheim’s Nusantao Maritime Trading Theory postulated a different claim.  He proposed that there had been a trading originally between Austronesian and non-Austronesian speaking people in the Asia Pacific.  Instead of Taiwan, he said that Austronesian language spread first in the ‘Early Central Lobe’ in Eastern Coastal Vietnam at around 9000 B.C and continued to extend in the ‘Late Central Lobe’ around 5000 B.C. in southern China, Taiwan, Philippines reaching southwards and eventually westwards to the rest of Oceania.

Another interesting point is that according to traces on genetics, it is possible that there had been two separate migrations into the Andaman Islands – an earlier colonization which might have happened as early as 70,000 years ago, before its initially known isolation since around 2200 years ago.  This finding greatly supports the early southern migration and thus, the dispersal of Negrito groups.  The Andamanese are undoubtedly related and are of one kind as of the Semang in Malaysia and Aeta in the Philippines.

As per studies on blood frequencies, all Negrito, Muruts of North Borneo, the Papuans of Schouten and Halmahera, the Bagobos, the Igorots of the Philippines as well as the Angami Naga of north-east India, the Sakay of Malaya, the Mois of Indo-China are all related and represent an ancient element of population distantly connected from the Australian aborigines.   The Mamanwa in the Philippines on the other hand was found out with a variant carbonic anhydrase-1 (CA1 3N) wherein it is said that this variant was once common in an aboriginal population of the Western Pacific from which was scattered by gene flow.  This variant was also absent in Aeta, suggesting that they have different origins with Mamanwa representing distinct migrations to the Philippines.  The Mamanwas are concluded to have occured in the country about 49,000 years ago predating the Aetas.

Negrito Race: The Ultimate Link of Filipinos to the World

Clearly, Filipino Negritos deserve respect and recognition just like the other groups in the country.  Technically, as one of the earliest modern human inhabitants and extant species of Philippine Islands, next to Mamanuas, they have the rights and authority to freely utilize its natural resources, live just like the Malay-Filipinos and be treated equally.  Just because they are technologically primitive and inferior, does not mean they should be ‘left behind’.  How dare we marginalize these people when in fact, Austronesians (Malays) are also thought to have come or atleast having an admixture with a Negrito blood.  Our Negrito neighbors could give so much answers to our questions.  Also, if proven that the Andamanese (from where Negrito Filipinos believed to have come from) had an earlier colonization dating back to 70,000 years ago,  we may speculate that the Negrito bloodline can be traced from the original stock who first inhabited Asia.

Everyone is a part of each other.  We should focus more on seeking of similarities and not on exploiting of differences to achieve a clear understanding of our culural identity, thus to a live a peaceful, more accepting and harmonious life.  Genes may mutate, develop and evolve; anthropologists may explore and understand the tiniest of things possibe; Science may branch into even more complex disciplines; and technology may soon discover bending time and space, but at the end of the day, what is important is that we understand that in order to survive, we should and we will always  depend on one another.  And for the record, we study human race not to be discriminated on how people are divided, but to be enlightened on how unified we are – for we all are one.


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