Wednesday, December 08, 2004

The Long Search

If you have perused the articles in the link I provided in my last post, you many be either ready for more or a bit confused. If the latter, do not worry as I will try to explain things as I go.

I've also provided some links on the sidebar of this blog for those interested in further research.

The search for answers to the questions that we will explore in this blog began many years ago in the land of my birth -- the province of Pampanga in the Philippines. I was born in the former Clark Air Force Base hospital at the foot of the Zambales Mountains. This was well before the hospital and base were buried under ash from Mt. Pinatubo, the second highest peak in the Zambales range and readily visible from the old hospital.

Mountains were considered sacred by the local people and Pinatubo, or Pinatubu as it is known by the locals, is one of the most sacred. It was also considered forbidden to an extent. People living on the this mountain and nearby Mt. Arayat acted as unofficial guardians discouraging people from desecrating the area. This practice continued even after this region (Arayat) had been Christianized.

There had always been a core of people who had held unto indigenous beliefs to some extent or another in this area. This was especially the case among the native healers who till this day continue to provide a large percentage of health care to the poor and also to the "superstitious" among the rich. When I was a teen, my peers who decided to cling to the old ways were looked at rather cautiously but with respect by the more Westernized ones.

The name Pinatubu itself indicates a volcano although prior to the eruption in 1991 it had been 600 years since an earlier eruption. The mountain was thought of by local people to have never been colonized although from an international legal standpoint it was part of an American territory for a period. Locals would retreat to Pinatubu during colonial times to be in a sanctuary free from foreigners.

My paternal great-grandmother and maternal great-grandfather knew much of the local lore. My maternal great-grandfather would go on retreat regularly to Mt. Arayat walking from his home in Angeles City. He would pick sweet potatoes and yams to eat along the way. He was very skilled in the indigenous healing arts.

Even my paternal grandfather had some native knowledge. When my grandmother suffered a foot infection, the local doctors wanted to perform amputation. My grandfather thought this was ludicrous and promptly began to heal the infection using indigenous methods.

The Aeta people of Pinatubu would come down during harvest time to make extra money harvesting crops. They were known as very hard workers. They also had an intricate knowledge of nature and old-time Philippine spiritual beliefs. When I was a teen I had Aeta and part-Aeta friends who loved to talk about these traditions.

This was the start of my own quest for knowledge about the ancient history of this area and the surrounding regions.

For some 26 years I have learned and researched, traveling to various parts of the world in my search.

That brings us to the beginning of the subject to be discussed here -- the ancient Sundaland floods. Stephen Oppenheimer's book Eden in the East discusses these floods in detail. I first encountered Stephen over the internet when he was writing this book. He was interested in my research on Austric languages. We have been corresponding off and on ever since.

Sundaland is the name for a large sub-continent in Southeast Asia that is now mostly underwater.

Image from Dr. Sunil Prasannan

The Austric languages are a proposed language family that is thought by people like Oppenheimer, Wilhelm Solheim and myself to have occupied Sundaland before the three great rapid rise floods. The Austric languages eventually split into two families -- the Austro-Asiatic and the Austronesian.

We will be mainly concerned with the Austronesian. Wilhelm Solheim uses the term Nusantao to describe a particular group of people mostly Austronesian speakers who established a vast maritime trading network during the Neolithic. The Nusantao will become more prominent as the discussion goes on.