In many parts of the country, the culture of the Old Stone Age went on specially where there was less contact with other peoples or less pressures from within the society and the environment. In other areas, changes in the way of the life of the people took place when a new idea is introduced into the society or the people themselves develop new life ways in to answer to new needs. As the world about them changed, people adapted to the new conditions, starting a cycle of changes which again affected the physical environment. Much of the old life styles, however remained, except those that have lost their use.
The difference between the culture of the previous age and the life in the New Stone Age is that whereas man was before only a food procurer, that is, he only gathers food from nature, now he has become a producer. He achieved this great leap by the simple fact that he learned how to domesticate plants and animals as food bases. And more visible proofs of this became clear during this period. The process took a long time – hundreds and even thousands of years. It begun, perhaps, from the early “incipient” kind of plant domestication by replanting the vine from which a tuber has been taken. It is also probable that the seeds of edible plants were dispersed by man himself about the areas where he lived when he eats these, thus helping in the growth of these plants.
It is not known which were the plants first domesticated. The earliest evidence of a probable cultivated plant is rice. This grass, however, need not be the earliest food plant tended by man for the simple reason that the different processes that the grain has to undergo before this could become edible is complex and needs other forms of knowledge like how to remove the grain from the husk and to separate these, how and in what vessel to cook the grain to make it digestible by man. One of the more common of the staples used by peoples in the hinterlands are the tubers of many kinds, like yams, taro and various others known in some localities as “name”, “calot” or “biking” which are various species of root plants that belong to the genus, Dioscorea. These tubers, however, have not been seen in archeological sites since these are highly perishable. Taro, for instance, has been cultivated by man for such a long time. At present taro can only be grown vegetatively, that is, by means of cuttings. Another evidence for the old age of taro in the cultures of the peoples of the Philippines is that this is the plant that plays a part in the native rituals, even having a different ritual name, and among the Cordillera mountain peoples, has been included as one of the items placed in the ritual boxes of ritual specialists.
The manner of tending to plants involves the use of small plots scattered in different places, and which are planted with different kinds of crops. These different varieties of plants are kinds that mature at different times of the year so that as one kind is consumed, the people can turn to another. This ensures that there will be food throughout the a year. This way of cultivating plants also assures that if ever one set of plants would suffers from some kind of pest, there will still be other food sources that can be used. The people subsist on what is known as a “broad spectrum” diet, that is, a food base that is composed of many varieties, and not dependent on only one staple.
The way of planting is the “kaingin” or slash-and-burn or dry cultivation. This kind of planting is called this because of how it is carried out. First a clearing is made in the forest by slashing down the vegetation within a chosen plot at the beginning of the cycle, usually at the start of the dry season. After a period allowing the slashed debris to dry, this is burned usually timed before the start of the wet season. Crops like taro may be planted at once, others are planted after the first rains came to soften the soil. The growth of the plants is dependent on rainfall, hence the name dry cultivation as against planting that makes use of man-made water sources as irrigation.
It is usual in this method to have several kinds of plants in the same plot. Also after one set of plants have been eaten others are planted in sequence. After a number of seasons of use, the plot is allowed to lie fallow, that is, to let natural growth again to take place in order that the soil may recover its original fertility. Usually this takes place for about ten years, before the plot is again used for cultivation, and the same cycle is repeated. During the time that the field is left to lie fallow, another area would have been cleared during the beginning of the planting season for another cropping, starting a new cycle. A number of fields in fact are kept under cultivation but staggered in time so that through the years the man cultivated several fields in cycles.
The effect of this is that the population is assured of a source of food that is reliable through the whole year, and located in places that are within easy reach, and with yields that can be predicted in terms of time and quantity. Modern studies have shown that this type of cultivation is very efficient – that in a ratio of effort spent in the cultivation, the yield is in fact higher than that from wet agriculture. The harvest very often is more than what the people could consume. Planting with root crops solves the problem of storage of surplus food, since the tubers can merely be left in the ground until needed – a method that further increases the yield of the crop.
The main source of food of man then comes from the yields of his fields. He adds to this additional food from the forest, specially those that he does not himself produce. Thus food gathering remains important in the society of man specially since there is little effort spent in this. The only drawback is that this is limited by the fact that particular food is seasonal in nature. The hunting, particularly the trapping, of game is continued to add to the protein needs of the people. There is no archeological evidence in the Philippines at this time for the domestication of animals. It is probable, however, that among the first animals to be domesticated are the pig, chicken and the dog which are indigenous to Southeast Asia; with the water buffalo during the later part of the New Stone Age which came probably with wet rice agriculture.
With man now able to sustain himself with what food he produced from cultivated fields, the pressure for him to travel through a wide area, to move seasonally in search of food, became less and less. He now tended to remain within a limited territory with his household and those of others with whom he has close kin relationship.
The changing needs, too, created changes in his tools as described earlier. The new tools enabled him to be more efficient in changing the world about him, and making the process of change even faster, specially within the areas that he frequent. He has now become less dependent on nature for shelter, and since there is now the need to stay where his fields are, his homes were made about these. Structures more complex than those described in the earlier age could now be made. There is now a basic roof protecting an enclosure that may or may not be walled in depending on the need. Among the Tau’t Batu people who were studied in 1978 in southern Palawan, the smallest structure when they live in the cave during part of the year when the weather is bad, is a basic sleeping platform raised slightly off the ground with a fireplace beside it to provide warmth during the night. This is called a “datag”. Depending on the conditions, the “datag” is made more complex. If the place is windy, a wall is made in the direction of the wind, or all three sides are walled, leaving open the side where the fireplace is located. If drizzle enters the cave mouth to affect the “datag” a roof is provided. The houses of the Tau’t Batu near their kaingin when examined closely will show that these are really more complex “datag”. Each house is composed of several family units that form a kin group with the place of each family unit defined by the individual “datag”.
The more traditional Negrito of today ordinarily use a lean-to roof that they can move about to protect them against wind and rain with the ground level used as the living area. Each family unit has its own lean-to. Several lean-tos are often grouped in an area and the whole shows the number of family units in that kin grouping. The structures excavated in Dimolit suggested square enclosures with entrances on one side. The structures looked semi-permanent with the living areas on the ground level. During those times, there could have been a number of different kinds of structures build by man depending on his needs and environments. As time went by, these structures grew more and more complex, specially where skills are developed.
The grouping of living places closer together in single geographic units resulted in a different way of living, and in the way people look at their relationships with one another. One of the most telling effect is the increase in contact between individual persons apart from the immediate members of a family; between families and family groups. The circle of contact of a person is thus larger than that possible during the time when man was merely gathering and hunting for his livelihood. With closer and more intimate social exchanges, the characters of ethnic groups became more defined.
The concept of a community thus grew with the intimate daily inter-action between people, together with the feeling of belonging extended to the whole group: thus the idea of “us” as against “you”. It is probable that ethnic groups developed from this new relationships tied up with the growing permanence of where people lived, with people acting and reacting to similar situations in a more or less the same manner. Thus, the way of clothing, of trapping animals, and of doing many things, begun to be identified with a specific group of people who are referred to by a special name, for instance, Negrito, Tasaday, and so on. This feeling of belonging to a particular ethnic group still exists today when people say that they are Tagalog, Ilocano, Cebuano, Ifugao and so on. The most important aspect of belonging to a single group is the use of a single language by the group. A further subdivision of groups is formed and identified by the use of a specific dialect of a certain language.
The effect of close community living and the cultivation of fields is a lesser tendency for family units to move away to join other groups in times of scarcity. The different family members of the group tended to support each other, hence there is a tighter organization. There is specially a growing idea of group action and responsibility. It is probable that land is considered to be a free good among the members of the group within the territory. Although the idea of ownership of land by individuals may not be existing, the use is often extended to the current cultivator only. Others may use the land when abandoned by a previous farmer. The important thing is that the families are tied down to land, specially those places with more or less permanent cropping. There would then be some form of ownership for a period of time at least. Practices of this sort would lead to changes in the way people regard property and the way members of the family relate to one another with respect to how such items of property are handed down from individual to individual and from generation to generation – the concept of inheritance.
There might be a tendency for certain units to develop relationships that would trace inheritance through both father and mother; others through the mother and her line alone; through the father’s line, and so on. The different patterns of relationships would vary according to how each group would adapt itself. There would be groups that would think of themselves as related through the mother’s line or the father’s or in some other way, as the case may be, with regards to how properties are treated. In the Philippines the pattern that apparently developed due to the fragmented kind of societies here, is that the relationship is to both sides of the parent. In practice there is a bias to each side depending on the actual behaviour and relationships between individuals.
While what food produced is consumed largely by the same family unit, some are exchanged for things made by others. It is probable that some individuals make only certain things, like tools, ornaments and the like. Some people would then barter for things they themselves do not produce. For example individuals who knew how to make earthenware pottery would exchange some of these for food that he himself could not produce or for cloth he could not weave. The same would be true in the making of stone tools for this kind of work needs special skills which few individuals have. Cloth would be extremely difficult to get during these early times and most would rely on the more easily made bark-cloth. However, there would be persons with surplus food who will be willing to part with this in exchange for cloth.
The systems of trade during this period it seems are not limited to barter between individuals or between communities only. The reach of the trade seemed to cover long distances.Jade beads, for instance, have been found in the Manunggul Cave in Palawan during the latter part of the New Stone Age about 1000 years B.C. There is no evidence that jade beads were ever made in Palawan much less were there jade deposits found in that area nor anywhere else in this country until the recent times. This suggests contacts involving trade with the mainland of Asia.
A more telling evidence of the reach and breadth of the network of contact between the different places in Asia is that given by pottery. By the 11 thousand B.C. pottery was already being used in Japan to the east and as far as Burma to the west. The general methods of pot-making, and the different forms and decorations were so similar throughout the area such that it would be difficult to deny that by this time there was already a great amount of contact and exchanges between the different groups of people. The presence of pottery by 6 thousand B.C. in both ends of the Philippines suggests the early extent of the possible scatter of the knowledge of pot-making through the islands which were already separated by bodies of water. Trade was made easier with the use of boats which enabled people to carry large numbers of goods to distant places with ease and speed that if these things were carried on their backs by way of land routes.
Another aspect that made trade easier was the growth of communities where the houses were built close to one another which grouped large numbers of people as a ready market for quantities goods that could be sold in one place. This made things more profitable for traders since he can load into a boat goods that he is more or less sure of being able to dispose in a particular place instead of wandering about from place to place seeking buyers who are widely scattered. Continual trade between individual merchant and buyer, too, leads to “suki” relationships, a tacit agreement for a buyer to prefer to deal with a particular seller. This relations can lead to continuous and increased trade which will also have a tendency to branch off to other individuals when the good word about the trade spreads around.
An interesting feature of life during the New Stone Age in these islands is the appearance of the first signs of man’s beliefs in the reality of things that are different from the sensible world. From its complete absence in the past periods, man-made things begun to be found together with the remains of the dead like the polished stone and shell adzes, the shell disc pendants, and shell lime container found in the Duyong Cave burial in Palawan, and similar other things found in other graves dating to the same period in different sites in the country mentioned earlier. All these show that by this time there is already a concept of different worlds: the present physical world, and another one after life. The things left with the remains of the dead suggest that there are goods, too, that the person would need to have in the other world, thus probably the things that he owned that were essential to him are placed with him in the grave. There are other things that likewise showed this belief in an after-life, or at least something that is beyond this life. There were instances when the bones of the dead were recovered after first burial and these were covered with red earth, and then reburied in some protected place or kept inside jars in caves where these will be safe. This practice show that even a long time after a loved one has departed, the people he left behind still regard him in some respect that seemed to be important in their own lives. This concern for the dead is practiced in many different ways even among the present-day Filipinos when the dead is remembered on the 1st of November of each year.
The society that existed during the New Stone Age in these islands served as the base for the growth of the populations later to inhabit the country with cultures that are different yet similar in some ways with each other as members of one family. It is known that the basic populations here were composed of some aboriginal groups before the Negrito came to be recognized as a separate ethnic population. It has been suggested, for instance, that the Tabon Man has close relationships with Bushmen of Australia in a number of physical characteristics. The scatter of items of material culture in the islands as well as the whole of Southeast Asia showed continuous movements of people over wide areas both on land and over water spreading items of culture, language and people themselves, not in waves of migration, as was thought of before, but slowly through a long period of time, and in many directions. The peoples of the Philippines speak different variations of one mother language known as the “Austronesian” family of languages that spread from South Asia eastward and on to the Pacific world. Some of these languages have many dialects depending on the amount of separation of one group of people from one another. And the different languages, too, differ in degree from one another again depending on the amount of time and distance between different culture groups.