Negritos of Philipines: Moors of the Eastern and the Southern Seas – OguEjiofo Annu

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Negritos of Philipiness

Smallish Negro men can be found dotting all the coasts of East Africa and Arabia through India, the Isolated Mincopies of Andaman Islands, to Sakai of Malaysia, Thailand, Paupans of New Guinea, and Solomon Islands, and the Etaes of Philipines.

The Portugese who were the first Europeans to come in contact with these people originally called them “Moors” because they looked like any other Moor (Blackamoor/Negro) that they had met either in Europe, Africa, Arabia, or India. Moor was the international designation of the African then.

Later when the Moor was subjugated and “denigrated” his name was changed to Negros and Negritos by his oppressors. That is how come we have Negritos in Asia.

The presence of Negritos over so large an area has especially attracted the attention of anthropologists who have taken generally one or the other of two theories advanced to explain it: First, that the entire oceanic region is a partly submerged continent, once connected with the Asiatic mainland and over which this aboriginal race spread prior to the subsidence. The second theory is that the peopling of the several archipelagoes by the Negritos has been a gradual page spread from island to island.

Although they were originally sea faring people, they are for the most part inland dwellers these days. The fact that they live farther inland than the stronger peoples is also evidence that they were the first inhabitants, for it is not natural to suppose that a weaker race could enter territory occupied by a stronger and gain a permanent foothold there.

Who Are These Moors?

The attention of the first Europeans who visited the Philippines was attracted by people with frizzly hair and with a skin darker in color who looked just like the Moors that had ruled Europe for so many centuries, with whom even then they were yet in a mortal struggle.

Pigafetta, to whom we are indebted for an account of Magellan’s voyage of discovery in 1521, mentions Negritos as living in the Island of Panglao, southwest of Bohol and east of Cebu. By his account, the shores of some of the islands fairly swarmed with Negritos when the Spaniards arrived.

According to an interesting extract from an old account by Galvano:

“In the same yeere 1543, and in moneth of August, the generall Rui Lopez sent one Bartholomew de la torre in a smal ship into new Spaine to acquaint the vizeroy don Antonio de Mendoça, with all things. They went to the Islands of Siria, Gaonata, Bisaia and many others, standing in 11 and 12 degrees towards the north, where Magellan had beene. * * * They found also an Archepelagus of Islands well inhabited with people, lying in 15 or 16 degrees: * * * There came vnto them certaine barkes or boates handsomely decked, wherein the master and principall men sate on high, and vnderneath were very blacke moores with frizled haire * * *: and being demanded where they had these blacke moores, they answered, that they had them from certaine islands standing fast by Sebut, where there were many of them.” See The Discoveries of the World (ed. Bethune, Hakluyt Soc., 1862, p. 234):

Chirino has the following to say of the Negritos of Panay at the end of the sixteenth century:

Amongst these (Bisayas) there are also some negroes, the ancient inhabitants of the island of which they had taken possession before the Bisayas. They are page 17somewhat less black and less ugly man those of Guinea, but are smaller and weaker, although as regards hair and beard they are similar. They are more barbarous and savage than the Bisayas and other Filipinos, for they do not, like them, have houses and fixed settlements. They neither sow nor reap, and they wander through the mountains with their women and children like animals, almost naked. * * * Their sole possessions are the bow and arrow.

Zúñiga quotes the Franciscan history as follows:

The Negritos which our first conquerors found were, according to tradition, the first possessors of the islands of this Archipelago, and, having been conquered by the political nations of other kingdoms, they fled to the mountains and populated them, whence no one has been able to accomplish their extermination on account of the inaccessibility of the places where they live. In the past they were so proud of their primitive dominion that, although they did not have strength to resist the strangers in the open, in the woods and mountains and mouths of the rivers they were very powerful. They made sudden attacks on the pueblos and compelled their neighbors to pay tribute to them as to lords of the earth which they inhabited, and if these did not wish to pay them they killed right and left, collecting the tribute in heads. * * *

One of the islands of note in this Archipelago is that called Isla de Negros on account of the abundance of them [negroes]. In one point of this island—on the west side, called “Sojoton”—there is a great number of Negritos, and in the center of the island many more.

And so forth, and so on. Yes, there were Moors in the Islands of the Southern seas, and in the far flung coasts of the eastern oceans. Like the Moors of the west, they attain great heights and did amazing feats in their times. Rasta Livewire will bring you accounts of those Moors of the southern and eastern seas in the coming few months. Keep in constant touch.

Happy New Year!

Ogu Ejiofo Annu

December 27, 2009


See Negritos of Zambales by William Allan Reed Manila Bureau of Public Printing 1904

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