Published: July 9, 2010
The last immigrants from mainland Asia to reach the Philippines in prehistoric times were the Malays. They came to the country on sailboats called balangays. They came in three distinct migratory waves.
The first arrived about 200 B.C. and represented today’s head-taking Malays–the ancestors of the Bontoks, Ifugaos, Ilongots, Kalingas, Tingnians and other head-chopping groups in Northern Luzon.
The second wave of Malay migration came after the Christian era began and continued through the thirteenth century. Those who arrived in this migratory wave were the alphabet-using Malays and were the ancestors of the Tagalogs, Ilocanos, Pampangos, Bicolanos, Visayans, and other Christian Filipinos.
The third and last wave of Malay migration came in the fourteenth century and continued arriving up to the sixteenth century when the Spaniards reached Cebu. The Muslim Malays were in this third migratory wave, and their descendants became the Muslims of Mindanao and Sulu. Brown in complexion, the Malays were of medium height, had slender but hardy and supple bodies, straight black hair, dark brown eyes, and low noses. They had scanty beards and the hair covering their bodies was hardly noticeable.
In culture, the Malays were more advanced than the Pygmies and the Indonesians, for their culture was of the Iron Age. They introduced the following into the Philippines:
#1. both the lowland and the upland methods of rice culture and an advanced system of irrigation
#2. the smelting, forging, and manufacture of iron tools and weapons
#3. the art of weaving and pottery making
#4. the manufacture of beads, bracelets, and glass
#5. a system of government, law, religion
#6. writing, the arts, and the early sciences
They decorated their bodies with intricate tattoo designs. They wore clothes of woven fabric and ornamented themselves with pearls, beads, glass, colored stones, and gold. They cultivated food crops, medicinal and ornamental plants, and fruit trees. They chewed betel nut and ate meat of domesticated animals, notably the carabao (buffalo), the cat, the dog, the chicken, and the duck. Their weapons consisted of the dagger, bolo, kris, spear, sumpit (blowgun), bow and arrow, knife, lantaka (brass cannon), and shield and armor made of animal hide and hardwood.