" THE SEA UNITES WHERE THE LAND DIVIDES "

Saturday, February 12, 2011

What Every Visayan Should Know (Part 1)


What Every Visayan Should Know
By Dr. Joey Dacudao

Our name is of ancient Sanskrit origin:

From the Cappeller Sanskrit English Dictionary [ viSaya Entry viSaya
Meaning m. reach, sphere, domain, province, country; the right place for (gen.); object, esp. of sense, pl. (sgl.) the pleasures of sense or the external world. {chandasi viSaye} in the sphere of i.e. only in the Veda (g.). Adj. --- falling into the sphere of, belonging or relating to. -- Abstr. {-tA} f., {-tva} n.
Bisaya means ‘our own', ‘native', ‘indigenous'. When Masbatenos say they are speaking in ‘Binisaya', they mean that that are speaking in Masbateno. When Ilonggos say they are speaking in ‘Binisaya', they mean that that are speaking in Ilonggo. When Cebuanos say they are speaking in ‘Binisaya', they mean that that are speaking in Cebuano. ‘Bisaya nga manok' means native chicken. ‘Bisaya nga iro or ido' means native dog.

 Sanskrit (and its derivative Pali) was and is the language of the sacred scriptures of India in which Hindu and Buddhists ideas were written down. Our name has an ancient origin, which perfectly befits us as one of the most ancient extant people of the world. Our ethnic ancestors were probably identifying themselves as Bisaya as far back as 200 AD or earlier.

 And no, Bisaya does not mean ‘slave' as some misguided chauvinists say. This term possibly had its roots only during the 14th century or later when Islamic states of archipelagic Asia were taking Visayans as slaves. Neither does Bisaya mean maid, prostitute, construction worker, and driver. This current idea among Manilenos has its roots in the internal colonialism of the Philippines which has impoverished our peoples and lowered their social status.

 Contrary to the above, we were members of the Sri-Visayan civilization spread all across Archipelagic Asia, which most probably existed continuously as a confederation of cooperative autonomous kingdoms from 3rd century to the 13th century. This thousand-year long civilization was the second longest-lived polity in the history of humankind after the Chinese, and apparently the only non-Chinese polity that the Chinese consistently respected and was friendly with. The famous Borobudur in present-day Java Indonesia, the world's largest active temple of worship, was probably built by Visayan aristocracy in the 9th century and until today is still used by Buddhists.

The Sri-Visaya was a technologically advanced civilization that melted iron, manufactured glass. created the still popular dyed-clothe industry (what we call batik clothing, and the colored patadyong and malong), controlled the biggest international sea-based trade route of the world between China and Europe (the Persian trade route in contrast to the competing land-based Silk Route made popular by Marco Polo's writings), and defended the above with an army of 20,000 soldiers. Its roots is Polynesian.
If one were to figuratively sit in outer space and peer over the Pacific and Indian Oceans, one would see a wide expanse of island-dotted water dominating the entire view, with the continents of Africa, Asia, Australia, and the Americas merely occupying the West, North, South, and Eastern edges. Across this huge expanse of the earth live the Polynesian peoples.

The Philippine languages belong to the Austronesian Language family, formerly called Malayo-Polynesian, which is one of the world's largest language families. This, our language family, has more than 700 languages and covers the largest traditional geographic spread of any language family, ranging through islands from Madagascar off the coast of Africa in the west to Easter Island off the coast of South America in the east, and predominates in present-day Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines.
Our Polynesian ancestors probably originated in what is now Taiwan/Formosa around 7000 BC, and from there migrated to the south, south-west, and south-east, into their present inhabited localities mentioned above. In order to do so, the Polynesians developed a proficient boat-making technology, and became the greatest sea-farers of ancient times. The Sri-Visaya represented the height of this boat-making technology.

The so-called Sri-Visayan Empire lasted for a thousand years, and ‘paradoxically' enough, one of the main reasons why it survived for such a long time continuously is probably due to its not being a real centralized Empire, but a Federation (or perhaps even a looser Confederation) of more or less autonomous political kingdoms more bound together by a common economy than a strong-armed military. As in all true federations, it would have been a flexible tolerant large society made of smaller polities and ethnic peoples that respected each other. This is precisely the same reason why present-day Federations tend to be more stable politically than centralized Unitarian regimes, wherein power grabs in the center, decision overload, and the continuous economic exploitation by the center and its cultural chauvinism tends to create chronic incurable societal illnesses.

In connection with sea-based trading, for centuries the Visayans created the most advanced boat technology in the world, at an era when the Chinese and Europeans were mostly landlocked, in the form of the Balangay boat. With this boat, the Visayans could travel from China, to Formosa/Taiwan; what is today the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia; India, Persia, Arabia and Africa. In order to build these boats, the Visayans had to invent mathematical and geometrical terms, some of which are given below.
[alidong = circle; lingin = sphere; lilik = cylinder; guha = cube; undok = pyramid; bantiwa = rhombus; hulikab = trapezoid; alipid = ellipse; alibid = oval; langyab = area; gantong = volume; sundanan = formula; tingob = sum; yukot = million; wakat = billion; tuldok = point; badlis = line; likog = arc; giwang = angle; gitlo = triangle; gipat = rectangle; lado = square (geometric figure with 4 with equal sides) ; siha = percent; sipak = fraction; abot = product; buad = square (exponent 2); dagnayan = denominator; iban = difference; ihapan = numerator; kabat = total; lapa quotient; puwaki = remainder; dugang or puno = add or plus; kuha = subtract; pilo = multiply; bahin = divide; tumbas = equal; sal-ot = parenthesis; banting = braces; sungkat = bracket; gukat = square root; lab-a = exponent . Source Engineer Jess Tirol]


The Persian trade was the economic lifeblood of the Sri-Visayan civilization, and too much dependency on it may have contributed to its fall. Centuries of conflicts and wars over the trade route culminated in the Tamil (an ethnic people in India and present-day Sri-Lanka) invasion and the destruction of the Sri-Visayan capital in Palembang Sumatra. The Chinese also began manning their own ships after the turn of the millennium. By the end of the 13th century, the Sri-Visayan's component Kingdoms had disintegrated into politically unconnected polities; and mass migrations accompanied its collapse.

We still retain a cultural memory of the fall of the Sri-Visayan civilization in the form of the legend of the 10 datus, emigrating away from one of the last surviving troubled polities of the Sri-Visaya (Borneo).
In the latter half of the 13th century, the Hindu-oriented Majapahit Empire became predominant in Archipelagic South East Asia, although it never achieved the Visayans' political and economic strength. Soon rising Islamic theocracies took over most of Archipelagic South East Asia.

In what became Indonesia and Malaysia, the ethnic identity of the Visaya mostly died, but in the peripheral northern half of their domains it ironically survived. In the 16th century, when Europeans first started exploring Archipelagic South East Asia, they encountered individuals and ethnic peoples who regarded themselves ethnically Visaya in what is today the Philippines. Now and then, Sri-Visayan artifacts were dug up, including the golden image of Butuan and a few Balangay boats buried in anaerobic conditions. In ‘the Philippine Islands' (a Spanish term) in particular, the Spanish established the capital of their new colony in Manila The significant consequence of this act, as far as the Visayan peoples in the Philippine Islands were concerned, was that they became political and economic colonies and peripheries of Manila.

Thus it happened that we lost much of our cultural memory, and the glory of our independence. Yet we must remember that when Visayan parents tell their children that we are Visayans today, this was exactly the same thing that Visayan parents told their children nearly 2000 years ago. It is one of the wonders of humanity that the Visayan ethnic identity has survived for so long; only the Chinese, Greeks, and perhaps a few other peoples, have an ethnic identity more ancient than ours. Few ethnic peoples could boast of such a claim.

Let us do our ethnic ancestors proud. Let us not let our ethnic identity die. The only way to do this is to preserve our Visayan languages (offshoots of a common Philippine proto-Visayan language more than a thousand years ago). Language is the main carrier of an ethnic identity; and a person who cannot speak a Visayan language is not a Visayan at all.

We may have lost our independence nearly a millennium ago, but in a strange twist of fate, we Visayans regained it, even if only for a couple of months. This is another story that every Visayan child must be taught.  Although this true story is largely ignored, which is something that we have the obligation to correct, the Visayans waged a war of independence separately from the Tagalog chain of command, something that irked Aguinaldo who lambasted them and issued a warrant of arrest for at least Gen. Lacson of Negros. Ironically, the Tagalog revolutionaries never won their war against Spain, but the Visayans did. The armies of the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Visayas and Mindanao (later renamed into the Federal Republic of the Visayas in order to accentuate its Federal ideals) and the Independent Cantonal Republic of Negros gained their recruits and firearms from defecting Visayan guardia civil soldiers and thus managed to build a proficient military. On 5 November 1898, Gen. Juan "Tan Juan" Araneta and Gen. Aniceto Lacson, after defeating Spanish military forces in Negros, declared in Bago Plaza Negros Occidental the Independent Republic of Negros. Governor General Don Diego de los Rios, the last Governor General of the Philippine Islands, representing the Spanish colonial authority formally signed a document of surrender, thus ceding Negros to an independent Visayan government. For the first time in recent history, an Asian colony had successfully beaten a European colonial power.

[In contrast, the failed Tagalog revolution against Spain was controlled by a dictator who murdered his rivals and whose overt aim was to establish a dictatorship. The Tagalog revolutionaries could not win over the Tagalog guardia civil to their cause and so had to fight it, could not convince the other Luzon ethnic peoples to fully side with it; and thus being unable to win the war, accepted Spanish money (or bribe as some would say) and essentially gave up their cause in 14 December 1897 in the Pact of Biak-na-Bato. Ironically, this is the story that is being taught to our children in our schools.]

Governor General de los Rios then turned all his forces on the Panay Visayan army. After more than a month of intense battles, the Spanish forces were defeated. On 25 December 1898, Don Diego de los Rios, surrendered to the Federal Republic of the Visayas, lead by General Martin Delgado, at Plaza Libertad in Iloilo City. Until the Americans invaded Iloilo a few months later, the Visayans had succeeded in establishing two independent countries.

Peculiarly enough, these independent Visayan states were never formally abrogated. The Treaty of Paris, in which Spain ceded the Philippines to the USA, was signed on 10 December 1898; but ratified by the U.S. Senate only on 6 February 1899, because of intense opposition, by a vote 57 to 27, only one vote more than the two-thirds majority required. Normally, the ratification would have been an illegal act, as Spain had already ceded southern Philippines to the two independent Visayan states. Manila's legal authority over the Visayas is based on the Treaty of Paris as written in the 1935 Philippine Constitution.

 The war of independence waged by the Visayans is a model of all things bright and beautiful that could possibly still be seen in a war. The Visayan revolutionaries comprised Visayans that spoke Akeanon, Kinaray-a, Hiligaynon, and Sugbuanon, a diverse multi-cultural structure. Its ideal was to Federalize the southern Philippines, give freedom to the local polities. There were no betrayals and executions, and the leaders were elected. Libertarian Constitutions were written. The local Visayan guardia civil mostly sided with it. Under slightly different historical circumstances, we could have been free.

 These above stories every Visayan must know in order to free ourselves from the psychological shackles that bind us; and because they are the truth. Let us stop behaving like a conquered people. Let us teach out languages and preserve our true pre-Spanish ethnic identities. Let us do our ethnic ancestors proud!
(Addendum: Five Branches of the current Philippine Visayan Languages as Classified by International Linguists:

1. Southern Visayan branch: Butuanon (spoken in Butuan, and parts of Agusan del Norte and Agusan del Sur), Surigaonon (spoken in Surigao del Norte and parts of Surigao del Sur), Tausug (spoken in Basilan, Sulu)

2. Cebuano branch: Cebuano (the only surviving language of this branch spoken in Cebu, East Negros, Siquijor, Bohol, Southeastern Masbate, West and South Leyte, West Biliran, Camiguin, most of Mindanao)

3. Central Visayan branch: Waray (spoken in Northeast Leyte, Samar, and possibly Sorsogon Bicol is a dialect of Waray), Masbateno (spoken in North Masbate), Bantayanon (spoken in Bantayan island), Romblomanon (spoken in Romblon and Sibuyan islands Romblon province), Capiceno (spoken in North Capiz, but this is probably a dialect of Hiligaynon), Hiligaynon (spoken in the Northern coast of Iloilo, Southwest Masbate, most of Guimaras, West Negros, parts of the Cotabato provinces).

4. Western Visayan branch: Kinaray-a (spoken in most of Panay- South and interior Iloilo, Southwest Guimaras, interior Capiz, Antique), Aklanon (spoken in Aklan), Unhan (spoken in Tablas island Romblon province), Cuyo (spoken in the Cuyo islands and previously but recently extinct in the Puerto Princessa area of Palawan), Calayanon (spoken in parts of Palawan).

5. Asi branch: Asi (the only surviving language of this branch spoken in Tablas island). If this language dies, one of the major linguistic divisions of the Visayan languages will have become extinct.)
In addition, it is most probably safe to say that all the present-day ethnic peoples that traditionally reside in the Southern Philippine islands used to be part of the Sri-Visaya civilization and federated polities.
(Source: Save Our Languages Through Federalism Foundation, Inc. (SOLFED) on Thursday, March 11, 2010 at 10:39pm)

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