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AP in English: Pinagmulan ng mga Unang Pangkat ng Tao sa Pilipinas

An English version of the Araling Panlipunan lesson "Pinagmulan ng mga Unang Pangkat ng Tao sa Pilipinas" complete with a quick summary and review questions. Based on DepEd AP modules.


  • Quick Summary — what this lesson is all about, in our own words
  • Araling Panlipunan in English — the lesson Pinagmulan ng mga Unang Pangkat ng Tao sa Pilipinas, based on the DepEd module, but in English
  • Review — sample test questions to help you remember what you’ve learned

Quick Summary

Just like with the lesson about where the land of the Philippines came from, the explanations about where the PEOPLE of the Philippines came from can be divided into three types: the scientific theories, the myths, and religion.

Again, let’s start with the shortest explanation: the religious one. Both of the two most dominant religions in the Philippines – Christianity and Islam – say that God created Adam and Eve, the first man and the first woman, and that all humans of all races from everywhere in the world descended from them.

Next, let’s go to the mythological explanation. Now, there are many ethnic groups in the Philippines and each group has its own myths, which may be similar or different to the myths of the other ethnic groups. However, the most well-known myth that relates the story of the first people in the Philippines is the one about Malakas and Maganda. In one version of the story, Hanging Amihan (ang hangin sa lupa, the Wind of the Land) and Hanging Habagat (ang hangin sa dagat, the Wind of the Sea, also referred to in some versions as the Wind of the Sky) had an offspring, a bamboo. A bird pecked on the bamboo, it split open, and out came the first man and the first woman. The man was then named Malakas, and the woman Maganda, and their descendants became the people of the Philippines.

Finally, there are the scientific theories as to where the first people in the Philippines came from.

Before we go into that, though, let’s just take a look at the most important archaeological discoveries in the Philippines that give us a clue as to where there were already people, and when they lived, in prehistoric times.

  • In Rizal, Kalinga, scientists found the skeleton of an extinct rhinoceros (the Rhinoceros philippinensis). The bones had cut marks made by tools to remove flesh and tools for extracting bone marrow. This indicates that between 631,000 and 777,000 years ago – the age of the rhinoceros skeleton – there were already hominins (human-like species) in the Philippines who hunted animals like rhinoceroses, ate their meat, and consumed their bone marrow.
  • At the Callao Cave in Peñablanca, Cagayan, scientists found the bones and teeth of at least three individuals who belong to the new Homo luzonensis species (previously referred to as “Callao Man”). The bones have been dated to be around 67,000 years old. They are the earliest direct evidence of human presence in the Philippines. (The Kalinga findings – because they are only rhinoceros bones indicating the presence of humans – can be thought of as merely indirect evidence of humans.)
  • The famous Tabon Man actually refers to the fossilized fragments of several individuals (including the skull of a female) that were found in the Tabon Caves in Palawan.
    • One of the bones, a fragment of a tibia (lower leg), has been analyzed and found to be around 47,000 years old, the oldest human fossil in the Tabon complex.
    • The skull cap is considered likely to have belonged to a young female and generally accepted to be of the modern human species (Homo sapiens).
    • A right mandible (jaw bone), which was found together with the skull cap and also considered that of a Homo sapiens, dates back to 29,000 BC.

While the bones in Callao Cave are older than the Tabon Cave fossils, they belonged to a different, earlier species (Homo luzonensis), so the Tabon Cave bones are considered the oldest Homo sapiens remains that have been found so far in the Philippines.

Keep these archaeological findings at the back of your mind while you learn about the theories as to how the earliest Filipinos came to the Philippines.

So. There are several theories. Some are older, based on what was known in older times, and some are newer, based on more recent discoveries and technologies.

The theory that your parents and your teachers were most likely taught when they were in school was the Wave Migration Theory by H. Otley Beyer. This is an older theory that says that our earliest ancestors arrived in different “waves”: first, the Negritos; next, the Indonesians; and third, the Malays. The Negritos arrived by land bridges, while the Indonesians and Malays arrived by sea in boats.

Another theory, put forward by F. Landa Jocano, is the Core Population Theory. This theory says that the early inhabitants of the entire Southeast Asia belonged to the same ethnic group, and that we only gradually became different from each other with the passage of time. The Philippines may have been connected to Southeast Asia through land bridges – in particular, Palawan – which makes the Core Population Theory possible. However, some scientists point out that the presence of older Homo species in other parts of the Philippines (like H. luzonensis in Cagayan) suggest that hominins may have actually settled in the Philippines earlier than they did in the parts of Southeast Asia nearest to Palawan.

The more “modern” theories of how humans arrived in the Philippines has to do with the Austronesians.

Okay, first, who are the Austronesians? When you say “Austronesian” you’re actually referring to an enormous group of people that includes people in Taiwan, Micronesia, Polynesia, New Guinea, and the Southeast Asian countries of East Timor, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and, yes, the Philippines. Even all the way to Madagascar! But they didn’t just pop up in all these places at the same time. They actually started in one place – and that place is generally accepted these days to be Taiwan – and gradually spread throughout the region until they came to all those places that they (we) now occupy.

The Austronesian expansion – the term used for this gradual spread of the Austronesians – was a major migration that took thousands and thousands of years. What we are most concerned with in this lesson, however, is how that Austronesian migration arrived in the Philippines.

There are two simplified ways of looking at it: the Austronesians either spread throughout the Philippines from north to south, or from south to north.

Let’s talk about the “alternative” view first: that the Austronesians first came to the southern parts of the Philippines and then spread towards the north. This is the direction proposed by Wilhelm Solheim II in his Nusantao Theory. (It actually has a longer name, which you can find below in the English translation of the DepEd module, but let’s just call it the Nusantao Theory for convenience.)

According to the Nusantao Theory, the Austronesians actually originated from Sundaland, a landmass that drowned due to rising sea levels during the end of the Last Glacial Period. Sundaland includes the present-day islands of Borneo, Bali, Java, Sumatra, as well as the Malay Peninsula. Solheim’s Nusantao model proposes that the Austronesians actually reached the southern parts of the Philippines first and spread northward.

So: Nusantao theory = south to north.

However, the more accepted theory is that the Austronesians actually moved from north to south. From their origins in Taiwan, they reached the Philippines – specifically, the Batanes islands, and the coasts of northern Luzon – and then spread downwards throughout the rest of the Philippines and the rest of Southeast Asia. This is the theory put forward by Peter Bellwood and it is this model that is generally considered to be the one that makes most sense, based on the evidence.

Of course, our understanding of how the Philippines came to be inhabited can change in the future, if new discoveries are made. Even now, we know that what we know is far from complete. For example, the Austronesian theories say that when the Austronesians arrived in the Philippines, they interacted and intermingled with the Negritos who were already in the islands. So, even now, there’s an obvious question: where did the Filipino Negritos come from? What was the pattern of their migration? Those questions aren’t covered by the Austronesian theories and deserve further research on our part.

(Sorry, we should have called this section the Not-So-Quick Summary.)

Araling Panlipunan in English (Lesson Based on DepEd Module)

Teorya (Theory)

Scientists have different theories as to where the first groups of people in the Philippines came from.

(As you read about these theories, please remember that it is in the nature of science that it evolves. Things that were generally accepted as true in the past may no longer be considered correct in the present, and ideas that we think most likely to be right in the present may come to be challenged by new discoveries in the future. This is how science and reason work.)

The Wave Migration Theory by Henry Otley Beyer says that our ancestors came in different “waves of migration” from different parts of Asia. Negritos came over using land bridges, while Indonesians and, later, Malays arrived by sea.

  • Note: This was a well-known theory that was widely taught to students at school in previous decades but actually there seems to be no definite archaeological or historical evidence to support this theory in the form that it was put forward by H. Otley Beyer.

In the Core Population Theory by Felipe Landa Jocano, the first people in the Philippines were said to have come from Southeast Asia. This was based on the observation of similarities between Tabon Man – the earliest known Homo sapiens in the Philippines – and other early inhabitants of Southeast Asia.

  • In the years since this theory was proposed, scientists have discovered the remains of Callao Man – Homo luzonensis – which have been found to be even older, and living in the country earlier, than Tabon Man. This may mean that there were people living in the Philippines even before there were people in the Malay peninsula, and so it might contradict F. Landa Jocano’s ideas.

More modern theories say that the earliest Filipinos arrived as part of a larger pattern of migration among Austronesian peoples.

One Austronesian Theory proposes that the first people in the Philippines originated from South China. They are thought to have arrived using balangay (boats) and stayed until they spread throughout the archipelago.

According to the Australian archaeologist Peter Bellwood, the ancestors of early Filipinos are likely to be the Austronesians. Originally from South China, they came to the Philippines from Taiwan around 2500 B.C.E. and spread south, eventually reaching places like Indonesia, Malaysia, New Guinea, Samoa, Hawaii, Easter Island, and even Madagascar.

Bellwood based his theory on the similarities in language, culture, and physical characteristics among Southeast Asians and Pacific islanders.

Meanwhile, the American anthropologist Wilhelm Solheim II also believed that the Austronesians were the first people in the Philippines, part of his Nusantao Maritime Trading and Communication Network Hypothesis. The term “Nusantao” – which is supposed to mean a person from the south – was coined by Solheim from the Austronesian words nusa and tao. Solheim says that trade was the main reason for the Austronesians’ territorial expansion, reaching the Philippines from the southern regions of Celebes and Sulu, and eventually spreading throughout the Philippines.

The History of the Philippines dates from the earliest hominin activity in the archipelago at least 709,000 years ago. Homo luzonensis, a species of archaic humans, was present on the island of Luzon at least 67,000 years ago. The earliest known anatomically modern human was from Tabon Caves in Palawan dating about 47,000 years. Negrito groups were the first inhabitants to settle in the prehistoric Philippines. By around 3000 BC, seafaring Austronesians, who form the majority of the current population, migrated southward from Taiwan. (History of the Philippines)

Mitolohiya (Mythology)

A Filipino creation myth tells the story of a king of birds who flew and explored the sky.

From afar he could see a tall bamboo bending over and swaying in the wind. Thinking to get some rest, he alighted on the bamboo and heard a knock coming from inside. And then he heard a voice saying, “Set me free, oh mighty king of the birds. Touch the bamboo enclosing me with your beak. I cannot breathe!”

At first, the bird thought it might be a trap. He noticed a lizard crawling up the bamboo. Being hungry, he tried catching the lizard with his beak but did not catch it. Again, he tried pecking on the lizard on the bamboo, this time with great force. The bamboo split open and out came a handsome man and woman called Malakas and Maganda.

The bird brought Malakas and Maganda to a green island. There, in the Philippines, the couple became the father and mother from whom the brown-skinned people originated.

Relihiyon (Religion)

In the Christian and Islamic religions, the Holy Scriptures say that God or Allah created the first man Adam and the first woman Eve, and they are the origin of all the races in the world.

Further Reading


Sample test questions to help you remember what you've learned. Our goal here is for you to LEARN, pressure! Feel free to go back to the text if there's something that you've forgotten. However, if you'd like a printable version of these questions so you can really test your memory, you can download the PDF worksheet here:

1. This refers to the Austronesian word which means people from the south.

a. Indones

b. Malayo

c. Nusantao

d. Polynesian

2. This is the theory that says that the first group of people in the Philippines came from Southeast Asia.

a. Teoryang Austronesian Migration

b. Teoryang Core Population

c. Teoryang Nusantao

d. Teoryang Wave Migration

3. What theory by Wilhelm Solheim II states that our ancestors come from the southern part of the Philippines?

a. Teoryang Big Bang

b. Teoryang Ebolusyon

c. Teoryang Galactic

d. Teoryang Nusantao

4. Which of the following islands was NOT among the places reached by groups of Austronesians?

a. Hawaii

b. Madagascar

c. New Guinea

d. Greenland

5. Who introduced the Wave Migration theory?

a. F. Landa Jocano

b. Peter Bellwood

c. H. Otley Beyer

d. Wilhelm Solheim II

6. What did Peter Bellwood base his theory on?

a. Similarity of climates in Southeast Asia and the Pacific islands

b. Similarity in superstitions in Southeast Asia and the Pacific islands

c. Similarity of eye color among people in Southeast Asia and the Pacific islands

d. Similarity of language, culture, and physical characteristics among people in Southeast Asia and the Pacific islands

7. The creator of the ancient Filipinos according to religion is?

a. Babaylan

b. Datu

c. Diyos o Allah

d. Lakan

8. According to the Christian and Islamic religions, God or Allah created the first two people, namely _____.

a. Adam and Eve

b. Abraham and Sarah

c. David and Bathsheba

d. Samson and Delilah

9. According to mythology, humans are believed to have originated from which tree or plant?

a. Gumamela (hibiscus)

b. Kawayan (bamboo)

c. Narra

d. Mango

10. What was the reason for the territorial expansion of the Austronesians?

a. Conquest

b. Trade

c. Friendship

d. Religion

11. According to Peter Bellwood, the Austronesians who were the ancestors of the Filipinos came from _____.

a. Taiwan

b. Mexico

c. America

d. Saudi Arabia

12. What is the belief and worship of God called?

a. mythology

b. legend

c. religion

d. fable

13. What do you call the pabula (story) that explains certain events and symbolizes the mahahalagang balangkas ng buhay (important structures of life)?

a. mythology

b. legend

c. religion

d. fable

Tagalog challenge!

Unscramble the letters to find the correct answer - in Tagalog.

He created the first people in the world according to the Islamic Religion.


According to mythology, man and woman came into the world from this type of plant.


They were the first man and woman created by God.

N A D A   A T   B A E

They are the man and woman who came out of the big bamboo.

K A S L A M   A T   A G A N M A D A

Main reason for the spread of the Austronesian people.


He was an American anthropologist who said that the Austronesians were the first people in the Philippines based on his Nusantao theory.

M L E H W I L   H E I M S O L   I I

According to this theory, the Austronesians came from Indonesia who went to the Philippines until reaching South-China due to trade.

T A O N U S A N   R Y T H E O

The Austronesian* word meaning people from the south.


The scientist who believed that the Austronesians originated from South-China and Taiwan.

T E R E P   W D O O L E L B

The Christian holy book that contains the story of the origin of the first man on earth.


* This term was coined by Solheim from two Austronesian words, nusa and tao. It is commonly believed (in the Philippines) to mean “people from the south” but the word “nusa” actually means island.

Araling Panlipunan in English