Homo sapiens arrived roughly around 67, years ago, replaced Homo luzonensis , and laid the foundation for the development of belief systems.
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The Negrito peoples are theorized by some scholars to be the first Homo sapiens inhabitants of the Philippines although there is currently ongoing debate on the matter , and thus, the first peoples to formally establish belief systems in the archipelago. These Negritos, through the "Out-of-Sundaland model", were an early split-off from the first migration phase, which brought Homo sapiens from Africa, to mainland Asia, and finally to archipelagic Southeast Asia, where the Philippine archipelago is located. The Negritos brought basic forms of animism.
The second migration phase began when Austronesians arrived roughly about 5, years ago.
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Scholars theorized that Austronesians arrived through the "Out-of-Taiwan model", where Homo sapiens from mainland Asia crossed Taiwan, and later the Philippines, until furthering to other Malay islands south of the Philippines. The Austronesians are believed to have introduced more complex animist beliefs with shamanism , ancestor worship, totemism, and tattoo artistry. The beliefs on benevolent and malevolent spirits was also established by their arrival. By to CE, Hindu mythologies arrived in some areas in the Philippines through trade routes and more waves of ethnic migrations.
Hinduism brought in Indianized traditions to the Philippines, including indigenous epics such as Ibalong, Siday, and Hinilawod, folk stories, and a variety of superstitions which gradually established more complex indigenous polytheistic religions. Additionally, the concept of good and bad demons , which is prevalent in Indian societies, became widespread in the archipelago. These demons were viewed as both evil and good, unlike Western demons which are only evil.
Unlike other areas in Southeast Asia which were heavily converted to Hinduism, indigenous religions in the Philippines were not replaced by Hinduism, rather, those religions absorbed traditions and beliefs present in Hinduism. Gender-variant deities and shamans also became widespread during this period. Humanoid mythical creatures also developed alongside a variety of evolving belief systems.
Around CE, Chinese influence spread in some areas in the Philippines, inputting Sinified belief systems in the process, along with Buddhist mythologies. The most prominent belief that spread during this phase was the belief in ghosts , which is prevalent in Chinese societies.
By CE, Muslim trader arrived in the southern Philippines, bringing with them Islamic mythologies and its belief systems.
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Many natives in certain areas in the southern and western Philippines were converted into Muslims easily as much of the people had societies that had high acceptance towards foreign traditions. In the middle of the 16th century, the Spanish arrived and brought with them Christian mythologies and its accompanying belief systems. Some of the inhabitants were receptive to these myths, but most of which were against it as the Spanish wanted to conquer the lands and override their leaders, instead of simple tradition exchanges.
When the Spanish laid its foundations in the archipelago, a three-century purge against indigenous religions began, which resulted in much of the ethnic people's indigenous cultures and traditions being brutalized and mocked. The phase also replaced much of the polytheistic beliefs of the people into monotheism. Existing myths and folklores were retrofitted to the tastes of the Spanish, but many indigenous belief systems were hard to replace, and thus, were retained despite Spanish threats and killings.
In the late 20th century, the Americans colonized the country, and bolstered Westernization, greatly affecting the people's ethnic belief systems due to globalization. Since the 21st century, waves of more modern Filipino generations have begun a revival of indigenous belief systems in the country due to a heightened sense of nationalism and anti-imperialism. Among the things being revived today include the worship of indigenous deities and heroes, appreciation of the natural world including its spiritual realms and accompanied mythical races, and usage and enhancement of ethnic architecture, visual arts, weaving arts, pottery arts, films, basketry arts, music, dance, suyat calligraphy arts, and other art forms.
Indigenous shamans called babaylan , balian, katalonan , walian, machanitu, mumbaki, mandadawak, tao d'mangaw, bahasa, baglan, duwarta, and many other names depending on the associated ethnic group , were spiritual leaders of various ethnic peoples of the pre-colonial Philippine islands. These shamans, many of which are still extant, were almost always women or feminized men asog or bayok. They were believed to have spirit guides , by which they could contact and interact with the spirits and deities anito or diwata and the spirit world.
There were also various subtypes of shamans specializing in the arts of healing and herbalism , divination , and sorcery. Numerous types of shamans use different kinds of items in their work, such as talismans or charms known as agimat or anting-anting, curse deflectors such as buntot pagi , and sacred oil concoctions, among many other objects.
All social classes, including the shamans, respect and revere their deity statues called larauan , bulul , manang , etc. Shamans were highly respected members of the community, on par with the pre-colonial noble class. Shamans were held in such high regard as they were believed to possess powers that can block the dark magic of an evil datu or spirit and heal the sick or wounded. Among other powers of the shaman were to ensure a safe pregnancy and child birth.
As a spiritual medium, shamans also lead rituals with offerings to the various divinities or deities.
As an expert in divine and herb lore, incantations, and concoctions of remedies, antidotes, and a variety of potions from various roots, leaves, and seeds, the shamans were also regarded as allies of certain datus in subjugating an enemy, hence, the indigenous shamans were also known for their specialization in medical and divine combat. Unlike Christian priests or Buddhist monks, the shamans of the many ethnicities in the Philippines always have another role in the community, aside from being spiritualists.
Similar to the Shinto kannushi , among the jobs of the shaman range from being a merchant, warrior, farmer, fisherfolk, blacksmith, crafstfolk, weaver, potter, musician, and even as a barber or chef, depending on the preference of the shaman, skill of the shaman, and the need of the community. Some shamans have more than two occupations at a time, especially if a community lacks people with the needed skills to take upon the role of certain jobs. This tradition of having a second job or more than two jobs has been ingrained in certain cultural societies in the Philippines and is still practiced today by certain communities that have not been converted into Christianity.
Specific communities that have been converted into Islam have also preserved this tradition through Muslim imams. Historical evidence suggests that the religious realm was predominated by female shamans, with various accounts being specific about the fact that in the Philippines the majority of Animist shamans were women whose ranks were swelled by a few males who dressed as women.
The negative counterparts of the shamans are collectively called as witches , however, these witches actually include a variety of different kinds of people with differing occupations and cultural connotations which depend on the ethnic group they are associated with. They are completely different from the Western notion of what a witch is.
Notable examples of witches in a Philippine concept are the mannamay, witches known to the Ibanag people, mangkukulam , witches that use materials from nature and the cursee as a form of curse, and the mambabarang , witches that utilize insects as a form of curse, while notable sorcery tactics enforced by witches include barang insect magic , usik sharp magic , hilo poison magic , paktol doll magic , laga boiling magic , and sampal sea creature magic.
Aside from the shamans, there are also other types of people who can counter specific magics of witches, such as the mananambal, which specializes in countering barang. This gap in physical strength is usually bridged by a dynamics of knowledge and wit. Their influence waned when most of the ethnic groups of the Philippines were gradually converted to Islam and forcefully converted to Catholicism.
Under the Spanish Empire , shamans were often maligned and falsely accused as witches and "priests of the devil" and were persecuted harshly by the Spanish clergy. The Spanish burned down everything they associated as connected to the native people's indigenous religion including shrines such as the dambana , even forcefully ordering native children to defecate on their own god's idols, murdering those who disobey. Like most mythologies or religions in the world, the concept of realms focuses greatly on heaven, earth, and hell.
These worldwide concepts are also present in the many mythologies of the Philippines, although there are stark differences between ethnic groups, with ethnic-endemic additions, subtractions, and complexities in the beliefs of ethnic realms. Additionally, unlike the general Western concept of heaven and hell, in the Philippine concept, heaven may be located in the underworld, while hell may be located in the skyworld, depending on the associated ethnic group.
These differences are notably caused by both cultural diffusion where portions of cultures are introduced through various activities such as trade and cultural parallelism where portions of cultures develop independently without foreign influences. These diffusions and parallelisms are also present in the many story motifs of Philippine mythologies.
Some examples of the concept of realms in the many ethnic groups in the Philippines are as follow: . Each ethnic group in the Philippines, which number more than a hundred, has their own indigenous concept of realms.
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The diversity of ethnic groups in the country contributes to the unique diversity of realms believed to be found endemically in specific ethnic domains and mythologies. Each ethnic group in the country has their own distinct pantheon of deities and belief systems. The usage of the term " diwata " is mostly found in the central and southern Philippines while the usage of " anito " is found in the northern Philippines.
There is also a 'buffer zone' area where both terms are used interchangeably. The etymology of diwata may have been derived from the Sanskrit word, devata , meaning "deity", while anito ' s etymology may have been derived from the proto-Malayo-Polynesian word qanitu and the proto-Austronesian qanicu , both meaning "ancestral spirits". The concept of both diwata and anito are similar to the concept of the Japanese kami. However, during the colonization era between the 16th century to the 19th century, the Spanish intentionally modified the meaning of both diwata and anito as both terms were not in line with the monotheistic concept of Christianity.
Each of the supreme deities per ethnic people is completely distinct, even if some of their names are the same or almost the same. The supreme deities of various ethnic groups in the Philippines must be treated as existing and prevalent , as they are still believed by many societies, the same way Christians believe in a supreme god they refer as 'God' and the same way Muslims believe in a supreme god they refer as 'Allah'.
Below are some of the supreme deities head of an ethnic people's divine pantheon of deities in the Philippines:   .
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Some ethnic peoples have a multitude of deities or nature spirits but do not consider any deity or spirit as 'supreme' from the rest, despite having a deity which 'created the world'. Research on various ethnic peoples throughout the country are continually being conducted by students, government officials, and scholars to further document, acknowledge, protect, and promote the mythology, folklore, and pantheons of more than a hundred different ethnic peoples. Cosmogony or creation myths usually tell how the world was created, and most of the time, also includes how mankind came into existence.
Each ethnic group in the Philippines has their own creation myth , making the myths on creation in the Philippines extremely diverse. In some cases, a single ethnic group has multiple versions of their creation myth, depending on locality and sub-culture from a larger 'mother' culture. A few of the many cosmogonies known to specific ethnic groups in the Philippines are as follow:.
Each ethnic group in the Philippines has its own set of stories depicting their mythical heroes, notably through oral traditions such as epics and verbal poems. Many of these stories have now been published in scholarly works and books by various folkloristic and anthropological scholars and researchers throughout the country. Due to Spanish and American colonialism, some of the stories have been retrofitted with minor changes, notably in the heroes' names. Among these heroes are as follow:. Aside from the deities and heroes, numerous human figures, either full humans or demigods which may be mortals or immortals, in Anitism have been attributed as causers or helpers of various events in epics and poems, and their actions supplement some explanations on why things have become to what they are today.
A few of these figures are:. There are also specific figures in Anitism which are not humans.