Published: July 14, 2010
The impact of Hindu culture profoundly influenced Philippine life.
The sarong (skirt) and the putong (turban) worn by the early Filipinos (Pinoy) and the embroidered shawls still worn by today’s Muslim Filipino women are a Indian influence. It has been estimated that about 30 percent of the Tagalog words are derived from Sanskrit, India’s ancient language which greatly indluenced the modern European languages such as English and German. A few Sanskrit words in Tagalog are Bathala (the supreme God), dala (fishnet), asawa (spouse), mama (man), diwa (thought), puri (honor), mata (eye), likha (creation), lakambini (princess), kuta (fortress), and wika (language). The use of brass, bronze, copper and tin in the decorative arts and metal work of the early Filipinos is another Indian influence. The boat-shaped lute, a musical instrument still played by Muslim Pinoys, is of Indian origin.
Early Filipino folklore and literature also show strong Indian influences. The Maranaw epic Darangan is Indian in both plot and characters. Balituk, the tale of the Ifugao legendary hero, is similar to Arjuna’s exploits in the Mahabharata, the great Hindu epic. The Agusan legend of a man named Agnio, resembles the story of Ahalya in the Ramayana, another great Hindu epic. An eclipse is called laho in Tagalog and Kapampangan. The Philippine folk belief is to the effect that an eclipse occurs when the sky dragon swallows and bites the moon or the sun. Old folks say that the eclipsed moon is red because the sky dragon laho has bitten it, making it bleed, and the people stampede in into releasing the moon by beating on cans and drums. The marks one sees on the face of the newly risen moon are said to have been made by the teeth of the dragon that bites it every time it can, and the Hindu god that causes eclipses by biting the moon or the sun is Rahu.
From the Chinese, the early Filipinos learned to use porcelain ware, umbrellas, manufacture of gunpowder, and certain mining methods. The loose style in the early Filipino manner of dressin, the sleeved jackets and loose trouser of the Muslim Filipino women and the use of slippers indicate Chinese influence too. Also of Chinese origin was the wearing of yellow clothing by the nobles and of blue garments by the commoners in pre-Spanish Philippine society. The wearing of white dresses and the use of a white background in mourning and burial ceremonies is another Chinese influence.
Many Chinese words are found in the Tagalog language. Among these are sangko (elder brother), pansit (noodles), tinghoy (oil lamp), hibi (dried shrimp), petsay (Chinese cabbage), dikyam (dried fruit), ampaw (cereal), and susi (key). The surnames of a great many Filipino families are of Chinese origin, such as Cojuangco, Lim, Tan, Limjoco, Tongko, Juico and Ongsiako.
Equally important was the adoption by the early Filipinos of certain Chinese customs. Among these ar the arrangement of marriages by the parents of the prospective bride and groom, the practice of employing a go-between in proposing a marriage, and the deep respect accorded by the children to their parents and other elders.
The Japanese made some important contributions to Philippine life too. They taught the early Filipinos certain industries such as the manufacture of arms and tools, the tanning of deerskin, and the artificial breeding of ducks and fish.
The most important gift of the Arabs to the life of Muslim Filipinos was Islam, still a living religion in Mindanao and Sulu. The calendar, law, form of government, art, and literature of the Muslim Filipinos are of Arabic origin. The sarimanok design in Maranaw decorative art has an Arabic origin. Many stories in Maranaw and Tausug literature are derived from Arabian tales. Finally, there are some Arabic words found in the Tagalog language, such as alam (know), sulat (letter), salamat (thanks), hukom (judges), and piklat (scar).