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MUNTING NAYON
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A LOLONG TIME AGO



By Carlos A. Arnaldo
Manila
August 5, 2017

 
 


In my Rizal class the first day is spent trying to describe the Philippines before the Spanish came. I found that there was no single textbook for this, nor for the prehistory of the Philippines —that is until I happened upon, and very accidentally so, A LOLONG TIME AGO. It is a book, yes, on the prehistory of the Philippines, subtitled ‘Halo-halo histories.’  Authored by Michelline Suarez (housewife and mother of five), Joonee Garcia (school teacher) and Divine Reyes (writer), They all insist they are not historians, but writers interested in and concerned about history especially present day ignorance of the simplest facts of our past.

The first chapter speaks about our archipelago, a sea full of volcanic islands stretching from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao all the way to the China mainland, Vietnam and Cambodia, Malaysia and Indonesia a veritable land bridge over water. Migration a thousand years ago from mainland Asia to island Philippines was greatly facilitated.

This made the Philippines a major trading post, not in Manila or Cebu, but in Butuan where a large boat making industry was flourishing, where gold and silver ornaments were abundant, thus arts and crafts were very much alive there. A pity Magellan sailed on to Cebu instead of making Butuan the eventual center of Philippine trade and commerce as it was in those days.

A special chapter  focuses on the early balangay (originally balanghai)  or boats of Butuan.  Our boats then were made of long wooden planks so tightly sealed that a knife could not penetrate. Some boats were as long as two city buses! This was a thriving industry.

A Lolong Time Ago presents in humorous tones and clear illustrations, the origins of early society, the rise of the data and the rajah, the precious art and relics discovered over the centuries, the origins of man from skeletons found in burial sites. It is a veritable storehouse of stories of pre-historic Philippines, presented in simple, humorous and illustrated stories by excellent writers.

It takes quite a bit of engineering brains to build a sea-going vessel or the rice terraces of the Cordilleras, or to sculpt the beautiful  gold and silver ornaments you find in Ayala Museum. How can we be the ignorant, naked savages the Spanish considered they found on these islands? 

Not to disappoint you, but this is actually a children’s book published by Tahanan (and very reasonably priced), though I believe it is up to par as a reference for high school and college, and even those of us who want to discover more about ourselves. Read this book and share it.

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