Long before Christianity and Islam arrived in our Country, our ancestors already have their belief system to the unseen and the Divine Force. Written History was recognized in our Country during 900 AD through the Laguna Copperplate Inscription which is a legal document that is known to be the earliest calendar dated document found in our country. And the date inscribed in this document was on April 21, 900 AD. The same date is what the modern revivalist of Babayin used to celebrate in advocating the use of Baybayin as National Writing Script in the Philippines. This proves that our Ancestors have our own civilization though this time period is under the influence of Hindu-Buddhist Empire which is the Srivijaya empire. During these days, the Deities known are the Diwata which is derived from the word Deva’s. This is the same thing that the written names of the known Diwata such as Bathala, Lakapati have their Hindu-Buddhist influence.
Though the existence of our ancestors does not start there. It goes beyond the Hindu-Buddhist Influence. So the Question now, if the Diwata is not our Original Deity who then is our God?
It is said that the Srivijaya empire started to flourish from the 7th to 13th century as a maritime and commercial kingdom. It reached out to the Philippines during the height of its power during the 12th century. However, Barter trade is already a common practice in the Philippines during the 9th to 12th Centuries. And from these trading activities, our ancestors developed good relationship with foreign traders that we also adopt their practices specially towards healthcare and spirituality. So it’s not only the Hindu-Buddhist influence that we adopt, but also it is mentioned in our history that we have good relationship with the Chinese People and this friendliness of our ancestors even reached towards Persian and Arab Traders as well that in the 1300 Islam came to the Philippines through the Arab Trader and Preacher Karim Al Makhdum in the Archipelago of Sulu. And our experience towards the Hindu-Buddhist Religion and Islam were very good and more friendly compared to the forced conversion to Christianity by the Spaniards. If you notice in Mindanao, there are many people who still practice their Indigenous Religion which is Animism and they co-exist in harmony with the Muslim of the South. Problem rise up in Mindanao when Christians start to convert people there, and that is one of the reason why we see Muslim as fierce like a warrior.
(Though this post is not about Islam nor Christianity, but I want share here the Deity of our Ancestors prior to the influence of Hindu and Buddhism in our country.)
The Angono- Binangonan Petroglyph which is located at Rizal Province in Luzon is one of the earliest evidence that our ancestors have their own spiritual beliefs and practices. According to experts this petroglyphs are curved during the late neolithic age or before 2000 BC. It is believed that it was associated into healing as well as a sympathetic magick. During those days there are no writers of History yet and no one can tell what religion do our ancestors practice. But this petroglyph shows that our ancestors have their own ways of prayer and that is writing it in the cave wall.
Though my playful mind thought of the Stone Tablet where God write his commandments through Moses, and when i checked the FactMonster, the time frame of Moses leading the people out of Egypt is during 1300 BC. So I am wondering if the Hand of God that writes the 10 Commandments on the Stone Tablet were the Hands of our Ancestors writing in the Cave wall. Anyway, this is just my thought and we will dig deeper to search for an answer to it.
Going back to our topic is that the Manunggul Jar is another archeological artifacts that shows that our ancestors have their own religious and spiritual belief as it shows their custom in Burial practice. It is said that the Manunggul Jar is a second burial jar excavated in Palawan that dates back from 890-710 BC. Usually what is inside the Jar are bones and Ashes of the cadaver like what we have in this day the urns. Usually when a person died, they place the body first in a wooden coffin then after years they transfer it to a clay jar. And from the lid of the Jar you can see that it has a boat, and the soul of the dead is the one seated on the forefront. And the ferry man is the one who is pedaling the boat towards the other world.
The Spiritual Practices and Beliefs of our ancestors are clinging more on to the after life. That is why the word Anito is much preferred term we use to call on our Indigenous God rather than the Diwata. As Anito means the Spirit of our Ancestors. Which if we dig deeper towards our Family Tree, we will find our connection to the Divine Creator which is our first Parents.
Engkanto was a term that we learn from the Spaniards. It literally means enchanted which now-a-days pertaining to unseen magickal beings and nature spirits. But to Islam, Engkanto are to them as Dyin or Jin of which one of the Flipino Imam in Saudi Arabia that I met literally translate it as a Demon.
The Engkanto has two kinds. The first one is the Good Engkanto which are called as Impakto, because these nature spirit has direct impact into human lives. (Read the fairy tale of the Elves and the Shoemaker). And the other one is the Bad Engkanto which is known as Maligno or the malevolent one. Before the Spanization of our country, these unseen beings are just called as Kaibigan or Friend. If these unseen friends can be felt in the land they are called as Lamang Lupa or if they are in the body of waters they are Lamang Dagat. For us in Luntiang Aghama, we do not see the Engkanto as Bad or Good. They are simply Kaibigan or Friend when you develop good relationship with them, they can be your Guide.