Islas De Los Pintados

Islands of the Painted People

For the many times I've been to Leyte island to visit my mom I was lucky to be there during a Pintados festival. The celebration is in commemoration of when the Spaniards came to the Visayas in 1668 and found the inhabitants of islands to be heavily tattooed. The Spaniards called these islands "Islas De Los Pintados", the islands of the painted people.

Spanish missionaries found them to be scary and uncivilized at first and learned later that tattoos played an important role in their culture. Tattoos were a mark of courage for men and beauty for the women. Warriors earn tattoos with proof of fighting heroically in battle. The more tattoos awarded the more courageous the warrior endeavored in battle. The bravest warriors were heavily adorned with tattoos which can cover most of their bodies from head to feet and exalted to a higher rank among the warriors. The higher-ranking warriors wore the red bahag, (loincloth), to signify leadership among the warriors.

June 29th is the celebration date for the Pintados festival in Tacloban city, Leyte island. There is a large parade through town where participants representing their barangays are dressed up in brilliantly colored costumes inspired by the Pintados theme of events. Each barangay choreographed their own dance that tells a story about the barangay they come from. This instills pride within the township to represent there barangay in the Pintados festival on Leyte island.

The Waray People

These are the true descendants of the people the Spaniards first encountered. Celebrating this event keeps the history of their barangay heritage alive and helpful in passing down the history and traditions for generations to come, something that's not taught in schools. The people the Spaniards first established contact with are the Warays and because of their tattoos theses islands were called the islands of the painted people, Islas De Los Pintados.

The Warays are descendants of the Austronesian migration with masterful skills in seafaring. They were known to be pirates that raided neighboring coastal villages as far as the southern coast of Luzon and the northern coast of Mindanao. They would force their captives into agricultural slavery and as soldiers into the ranks of their tribe until the term of thier debt was paid. The ancient Waray warriors behaved in ways that are like the ancient Norse Vikings of Europe.
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Polynesian Point of Origin or just another Point of Trade

Research led by Dr. Alan Cooper, director of the Australian Center for Ancient DNA (ACAD) and lead author Dr Vicki Thomson, along with a team of researchers at the University of Adelaide, analyzed ancient DNA from chicken bones excavated at archaeological digs found on different islands around the Pacific including Hawaii, and Rapa Nui (Easter Island). Dr Vicki Thomson of ACAD stated "We have identified genetic signatures of the original Polynesian chickens, and used these to track early movements and trading patterns across the Pacific."  "We were also able to trace the origins of these lineages back to the Philippines, providing clues about the source of the original Polynesian chicken populations."

They found that Polynesian chickens had their roots in the Philippines, making the Philippines a candidate for the homeland of the Lapita people, believed to be the ancestors of the Polynesians. The area where they traced the chicken DNA is the ancient Lawan region of Samar located roughly between Laoang, Palapig, and Catubig. That area could be the ancestral homeland of the Polynesians, or it simply could have been just a stop over in the trade route of the Polynesian seafarers.

Philippines historians identified this region as the "Lakanate of Lawan" once headed by Datu Iberein. Archeologist and historian William Henry Scott mentioned this in his writings of the "Bingi of Lawan". In any case this region is within the islands of the Waray speaking people. Could it be possible for the Waray people to be the descendants of the Lapita people as well? All are Austronesian descendants and it would be interesting to find out if the Polynesians, and Waray people roosted from the same nest. Noticeable similarities are the tattoos and seafaring skills. Both have similar craftsmanship in building boats, a significant trait of the Austronesians.

We cannot say the Polynesians and Waray are ancestral to each other yet, but we do know there was trade, at least for chickens anyway. (smile)