While discoveries including Tabon Man and Callao Man have provided anthropologists and historians with an idea of when humans came to live on the Philippines, it is still believed that the archipelago wasn’t permanently occupied by modern humans until the arrival of the Negritos.
Historians believe Negritos arrived in the Philippines in small migrations from mainland Southeast Asia. Negritos are the only surviving members of the original hunter gatherers that lived in Southeast Asia, alongside their cousins the Semang Negritos of Malaysia.
Also known as Aeta, the Negritos of Luzon and other islands in the Philippines are a population characterised by small size and African-like features, including dark skin and curly hair. It was these characteristics that encouraged Spanish missionaries who arrived in the 16th Century to name the group Negrito, which is a term that means “little black person”.
It is believed that the Aeta arrived in the Philippines between 13,000 and 10,000 years ago from the Asian continent - most likely from what is now known as the Malay Peninsula. However, their origins are not clear, with some anthropologists suggesting that they are the descendants of travelling people who essentially created a “human bridge” between Africa and Australia. However, there is no evidence to back this up.
Genetics also suggest that the Negritos are much more similar to the people who now live around them than they are to Africans. This would suggest that they have the same ancestors but either Asians have now developed lighter skin but were darker, or that Negritos independently developed features similar to Africans.
While some Negritos developed to live as agriculturalists as populations developed across the Philippines, others have continued to live as hunter gatherers, as evidence suggests they lived before other people arrived on the archipelago.
Today, Negritos mainly live in peace alongside the majority population of their homeland. However, they do struggle with discrimination and offer struggle with poverty.
"The Negritos - early pre-history Philippines". HistoryLearning.com. 2023. Web.