Plant and Animal Beginnings in the Philippines

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What is Wallace’s Line?
The Wallace Line runs up the Lombok Strait between Indonesian Islands Bali and Lombok. It continues north through the Makassar Strait that separates Borneo(Kalimantan) and Celebes (Sulawesi), turns east into the Pacific and then back north again to encompass the Philippines.
The so-called Wallace’s line refers to a biogeographic boundary that separates Asian animals from Australian ones. It defines most Philippine plants and animals. The boundary was named after the 19th-century English naturalist, explorer and writer Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913) who first noted the zoological and geographical differences between the Asian and Australian continents.
During his journeys through the Malay Archipelago, he noticed a sudden change in fauna after crossing a 35 km. (20 mi) strait between the Indonesian islands of Bali and Lombok. He noticed a region where the species present did not resemble one another despite the islands having similar climates and habitats. All species present on the islands east of the line owe their biological heritage to species originating in Australia and those to the west owe their heritage to species originating in Asia.
The Asian and Australian landmasses used to extend much farther than they do today. Around 13,000 years ago towards the end of the last Ice Age, rising sea levels from melted glaciers turned areas of both into a string of islands. However, the native species on these islands are dictated by the landmasses they were originally connected to.
When sea levels sank during the last Ice Age, a series of land bridges cut through the shallow waters between Philippines’ Palawan and Mindanao and Indonesia’s Sulawesi and Borneo. These land bridges made possible a temporary alliance of flora and fauna, which led to adaptations and mutations in isolation when the land links sank again.

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 Sixty species of Bornean plants are found in the southern islands of Mindoro, Palawan and Mindanao. Flora identified with Sulawesi and Moluccas of Indonesia are widespread in the Philippines, mainly in the form of ferns, orchids and a great wood, the dipterocarp, which makes up the country’s primary tracts of forests, as it also does in Thailand, Indochina and Indonesia.
The same species of mousedeer, weasel, mongoose, porcupine, skunk, anteater and otter are in the wilds of Palawan and nearby Calamian islands and in Borneo’s interior. Species of Palawan shrews, as well as a rare bat found in Mindanao, have kin in Sulawesi.
Fish in the waters of eastern Sumatra and western Borneo are like those in southwestern Philippines, as are the fish between Mindanao and Papua New Guinea. Many Malaysian and Bornean birds make their home in Palawan.
There is evidence of an even older land bridge that connected northern Philippines with Taiwan at a time when that island was itself connected to the Asian mainland. The remains of the stegodon, a pygmy elephant, have been dug up here as well as in Taiwan.

Insight Guide Philippines by Discovery Channel

Until next time. The Philippine story continues.

The Spaniards Discovered the Philippines - Part 2

Magellan's map

Magellan established friendly relations with the treacherous King of Cebu, Humabon, who professed Christianity in order to win the help of Magellan. The great navigator was induced to undertake an expedition to conquer the neighboring island of Mactan for the Catholic faith and the King of Cebu.
Lapu lapu by 
Lapu-lapu Statue. To the left is Magellan's shrine. Photo
At the muddy island called Mactan, their chieftain, Rajah Cilapulapu (Lapu-lapu) was not as friendly and accommodating. It’s unclear whether Magellan commanded Lapu-lapu to submit to Spanish sovereignty, or whether he became involved in a petty local dispute. Lapu-lapu was the first native leader to resist the attempt of the colonizing invaders to Christianize them. His people rebelled against the Rajah Humabon of Cebu and his foreign guests.
Battle of Mactan by 
Battle of Mactan - Photo Credit:
As Magellan waded ashore at Mactan with his 60 armor-clad Spanish men, he was met by Lapu-lapu and 1,000-2,000 defiant natives who defended their island. A fierce and confused battle ensued. During the skirmish, Magellan was killed on April 27, 1521 during the Battle of Mactan, driving the Spanish explorers away, only six weeks after saying his first mass on Philippine soil. Pigafetta, the expedition’s chronicler, wrote, “They killed our mirror, our light, our comfort, and our true guide.”
The King of Cebu afterwards got into his power several of the explorer’s most prominent men. Later, realizing that the visitors weren’t invincible, and angry over the repeated violation of their women, the disenchanted Humabon, and his men killed another 27 Spaniards in a skirmish.
The survivors, greatly reduced in numbers, departed hastily. They burned one of the three remaining vessels off Bohol for lack of crew and the remaining crew and two vessels made for Tidore in the Moluccas or Spice Islands. They loaded up with spices. One set sailed for Panama but after becoming leaky had to be abandoned. The other sailed for Spain.
Victoria, the last remaining vessel, laden with spices, at last rounded the Cape of Good Hope and in melancholy triumph dropped anchor in the harbor of Seville, Sept. 9, 1522. She was the first ship to circumnavigate the globe but so too had the dead commander, for on a previous expedition he had gone eastward to 130 degrees, and when he fell he was in 124 degrees west longitude.
In the history of discovery no name ranks higher than that of Magellan. He had done what Columbus set out to do – he had sailed westward to the Spice Islands, giving practical proof that the earth is round, and that it is possible to reach the east by sailing west.
The expedition had lasted nearly three years. Of the original 264 members, only 18 were left. But the sale of the single cargo of spices more than covered the entire cost of the venture. The Victoria’s return vindicated Magellan’s theory and whetted Spain’s appetite for spices and colonies in the Orient.
Four more expeditions were dispatched between 1525 and 1542, two of which touched Mindanao without impact. Villalobos, the commander of the fourth party, named Samar and Leyte “Islas Filipinas” in honor of Charles’ son, who became King Felipe II in 1556. The name was subsequently extended to the whole archipelago.
Magellan opened the Pacific Ocean to the civilized world. Due to his dauntless spirit all through the voyage, he discovered the Strait of Magellan, and he was not only the first European navigator to sail across the Pacific Ocean, but the first person also to discover a route over which ships could sail a complete circle around the world.
John Fiske, the American historian, says: “The voyage thus ended was doubtless the greatest feat of navigation that has ever been performed, and nothing can be imagined that would surpass it except a journey to some other planet.”

Inside Guide Philippines by Discovery Channel
Philippine Handbook by Carl Parkes
Compton’s Pictured Encyclopedia

Until next time. The Philippine story continues.

The Philippines Independence Day – Is it June 12 or July 4? What do you think?

Philippine Flag
June 12 is the Philippine Independence Day, recognized through Proclamation No. 28 signed by then President Diosdado Macapagal on May 12, 1962 citing Emilio Aguinaldo’s establishment of the Philippine Republic from Spain. Congress then formally designated June 12 as the date of Philippine independence by passing Republic Act No. 4166 in 1964.
Despite what Aguinaldo said that June 12 marked our people’s declaration and exercise of our right to self-determination, liberty and independence, the United States which gained control of the Philippines from the Spaniards, refused to recognize it so in essence Philippine independence was not won in 1898.
When I was growing up, Philippine Independence Day was July 4 which to me make more sense.
In 1935, the Commonwealth of the Philippines was established with U.S. approval and Manuel L. Quezon was elected the country’s first president. On July 4, 1946, the Republic of the Philippines was granted full independence by the United States.
In the book by Stanley Karnow “In Our Image: America’s Empire in the Philippines", it says there were so much corruption when President Diosdado Macapagal was in power and so:
Macapagal concocted nationalist issues as a distraction. Resorting to an old tactic, he expelled numbers of Chinese, many of them naturalized citizen. He deported an American businessman, Harry Stonehill, who had amassed an estimated $50 million from real estate, tobacco and other enterprises, allegedly with help from Filipino politicians, including members of Macapagal’s cabinet. To everyone’s relief, Stonehill took his secrets with him. Macapagal won nationalist applause by shifting the national holiday, July 4, the anniversary of independence from the United States in 1946, to June 12, the day in 1898 that Emilio Aguinaldo, chief of Filipino nationalists, declared Philippine sovereignty.
Years afterward, Macapagal told Karnow the real reason for the change: “When I was in the diplomatic corps, I noticed that nobody came to our receptions on the Fourth of July but went to the American Embassy instead. So, to compete, I decided that we needed a different holiday.”
June 12 is the date of our independence from the Spanish regime. But by then we were not totally independent. We went under the American rule and then the Japanese Occupation. The Philippines finally gained complete independence on July 4, 1946, a date chosen to coincide with Independence Day in the United States.
As usual, politicians made mockery of our history for their political gain.

The Spaniards Discovered the Philippines – Part 1

The archipelago’s recorded history began half way around the world in a small, dusty town in southwestern Spain. The Treaty of Tordesillas was signed on June 7, 1494, dividing the yet-unexplored world between Spain and Portugal. To the east of meridian 370 leagues (unit of length) west of the Cape Verde islands in the Atlantic, every land would belong to Portugal and to the west the every land would belong to Spain.
The Portuguese set off to navigate Africa’s Cape of Good Hope in search of the riches of the Spice Islands, while the Spanish headed across the vast Pacific in search of new trade routes to the Orient and its spices and to convert the natives to Catholicism.
Photo Credit: Compton’s Encyclopedia
The captain of Spain’s search was a Portuguese who had taken up the flag of Castile and the Spanish name Hernando de Magallanes. To the English-speaking world, he is Ferdinand Magellan, the son of a Portuguese nobleman, who early on served in the Indies and Morocco with distinction.
Magellan believed that the Orient could be reached by sailing west. After the king of Portugal rejected his plan to search the route and believing his king had not rewarded his services justly, he renounced his nationality. He then approached King Charles V of Spain who agreed to finance an expedition. This ruler, remembering the discoveries of Columbus and other bold sailors finally accepted Magellan’s proposal.
On Aug. 10, 1519, Magellan together with his men and a large wooden cross set sail from Seville in command of five small vessels (Trinidad, the lead ship, San Antonio, Conception, Victoria and Santiago) on what was to be one of the greatest single voyages in history. In Sept. 1519, they crossed the Atlantic and just over a month, they reached the coast of South America. They sailed until very cold and stormy weather forced him to seek winter quarters. They stopped at Port San Julian where the crew mutinied on Easter Day in 1520. Magellan quickly quelled the uprising, executing one of the captains and leaving another mutinous captain behind.
Magellan's ship by
Magellan’s ships – Photo credit:
Sailing on again in the spring, (September in the southern hemisphere) Magellan’s fleet rounded a promontory. On October 21, 1520, he sighted what he guessed to be the sought-for-strait. Two ships went ahead and reported that the strait led to an ocean beyond; so the fleet proceeded. The “oceans” proved to be only a large bay in the strait; but at a council held with his navigators Magellan declared his purpose of going on.
For over a month he battled his way through this stormy 360-mile treacherous passage known today as the Strait of Magellan at the tip of South America to cross into the Pacific Ocean. Santiago was shipwrecked during a terrible storm and San Antonio stole away and sailed back to Spain; but still Magellan persevered.
On Nov. 28, 1520, he reached the ocean that Balboa discovered seven years before, and which Magellan named the Pacific Ocean because it looked so calm.
At first, the voyage on the Pacific went well, save for monotony. But after a month of sailing, terrible hardships assailed the fleet. The provisions ran low, and rats and leather were choice foods. The drinking water turned thick and yellow, and dozens died of scurvy.
After 14 more weeks of hunger and disease, they reached Guam, where they took on fresh supplies before continuing west. Somehow, he managed to miss every island in this vast body of water, save the tiny atoll of Poka Puka and Guam. In all, the fleet sailed 93 days before discovering Guam and a week later the Philippines.
On March 16, 1521, the Day of Lazarus, Magellan sighted Samar. The following day, he and his Spanish crew made a landfall on the tiny island of Homonhon, an uninhabited island in Leyte Gulf, calling the new lands Lazarus, after the saint’s day on which he first sighted them. After a few days rest, Magellan sailed on through the Gulf of Leyte to Limasawa, an island south of Leyte.
While Magellan was credited with the discovery, it was his Moluccan slave, Enrique de Molucca who uttered the first greeting between the Spaniards and the Filipinos. Friendly natives greeted the Spaniards with offerings of fish, bananas, coconuts and tuba, a kind of palm wine. Its ruler, Rajah Kolambu, was being visited by his brother, Rajah Siagu of Butuan at that time, and they welcomed Magellan.
Magellan explored other islands and then sailed to the flourishing trading port of Zubu (now Cebu). There he was greeted by another friendly chieftain called Rajah Humabon whom he established friendly relations. Magellan told Rajah Humabon that he had a gift for the queen and asked Antonio de Pigafetta, the chronicler of the expedition to present the queen with a statue of the Christ Child. At first, Rajah Humabon was skeptical but seeing that his queen’s eyes brightened upon seeing the statue, he shook hands with Magellan and welcomed him to his island. The queen promised that the little one, Santo Nino of the Spanish people, would replace the anitos (idols) of her people.
A week later, Humabon, with his family and 800 of his followers, converted to Roman Catholicism. Magellan erected a large wooden cross and celebrated mass and baptized all the natives. At the end of the mass, Magellan claimed the land for Spain and called the new lands Islas de San Lazaro in honor of the saint’s day when he first sighted the island. The first mass was celebrated on Limasawa, the first one in the Philippines’ history on an Easter Sunday. A controversy had arisen over whether the mas was actually held over Butuan, which was then called Masawa, a name sufficiently similar to Limasawa to have possibly confused a Spanish chronicler.

Inside Guide Philippines by Discovery Channel
Philippine Handbook by Carl Parkes
Compton’s Pictured Encyclopedia

Until next time. The Philippine story continues.

On Writings - Quote 1