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by: Patrick Rey Bulseco

Undoubtedly, the Tagalogs have always been a regional entity by themselves. But their contact and co-mingling with the other peoples of the islands have been so extensive, their identification with national concerns so intense, the transformation of their region into a virtual melting pot of the many cultural troupes so pervasive, that all too often, what is claimed for Tagalog culture, for instance, can also be said of the whole Philippines.
This perspective is the major theme of this research work. I have sought to capture and portray what is vital and compelling in the Tagalog region, by attempting to trace how the Tagalogs founded and established strong settlements in Central and Southern Luzon; to relate how their history has intertwined with the birth and evolution of the Filipino nation and to show those aspects of contemporary life that make the Tagalogs and the Tagalog region the core of Philippine life today.

Nowhere are the traits and characteristics of the Filipino cultural groups more pronounced than in their arts and literatures. In the case of the Tagalog - who prefers his "native soil" to any other, and takes himself seriously and often without irony - his art and poetry are a virtual romantic symphony, heavily sentimental, sometimes agonizing, always passionate, and on occasion coated by fierce patriotism. The Tagalog literary tradition has been shaped by indigenous literature and by the varying nature and degree of his encounter with different cultural and political milieu. His creativity first found expression in songs and verses, myths and legends, maxims and proverbs, and mind tickling riddles. Joy and sorrow, triumph and despair found their way into songs and dances.
Tagalog tradition remains no doubt a source of inspiration and support for the Tagalog artists and writers of our time, but the direction of their work points beyond that tradtion toward the larger national culture. In this, their constituency is no longer merely their regional brothers but their entire countrymen. They are the pride and honor of the Tagalogs and above all - of the nation.


Of the Tagalog, it is said that he got his name from the word "taga-ilog"  -- a term by which his neighbors described his preference to settle along the riverbanks and waterways. This is a valid description of his beginnings. In fact, there is ample evidence found in archaeological records as well as in the chronicles of historians, that the mode of living of the early Tagalogs honed closely to this image of being a riverine people.

Researchers in the Tagalog region have uncovered the presence of many ancient settlements and burial sites located close to streams and rivers. This discovery conforms to the history of their settlement in this part of Luzon which they claim as home.
Theory has it that the Malays, who settled in the Philippines, following the Aetas, were originally part of the great migration from mainland Asia some 10,000 years B. C., when people from Southwestern China moved south towards the islands of South East Asia, upon learning the ways of the wind and the sea. From island to island they came; some settled and some moved on.

The settlement started with a mini-epic migration of ten noblemen and their barangays or households. Arriving first in Panay, they moved further northward until they sighted the land rimming Manila Bay. It is said that they must have envisioned the land as one that should hold a city, so as they probed farther they found the mouth of the Pasig River. Here, on a tongue of land between sweet and salt water, they built their village.

These were the first Tagalogs. Eventually thousands of others from the Southern parts of the archipelago, drawn by rumors of the prosperity of the new settlement joined them. As they grew in number, they fanned out farther inland, founding settlements beside the rivers and sea. And when the white men arrived on the shores of Manila, they found the settlers a fairly large community that expanded out to the plains of Central Luzon toward the north and to the hills and mountains of Southern Luzon; a community bound by a common language and culture.

What began as riverine settlements along the banks of the Pasig Riverbecame in the course of centuries a very large community and region. And if at the start, it inevitably attracted other settlers from the other parts of the islands, so did it continue to do in the following centuries, growing larger and larger even up to the present day. If at the start, the pioneers saw on the shores of Manila the configuration of a future city, so did the region become the natural center and capital for the entire archipelago.

These two motifs - of a center for commerce and activity growing constantly, and of a cultural group becoming ascendant and influential in the affairs of the archipelago - are the touch stones to understanding the throbbing vitality of the Tagalogs, and of the region they regard as their home.

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The traditional homeland of the Tagalog lies spread-eagled across the uneven landscapes of western, central and southern Luzon, and several outlying islands rimming the Batangas peninsula. The land is divided into three (3) regions: Central Luzon or Region 3 toward the north, Southern Tagalog or Region 4 toward the south, and Metropolitan Manila or National Capital Region. Despite the demarcations imposed by geography and administration, there is a coherent unity held together by the force of a common language, common traditions, and the sense of shared experiences dating back to its settlement in prehistoric times. The total area of diverse landforms is 45,200 square kilometers.
Its physical environment is varied. In some areas, lush vegetation abounds; in others, a totally man - made world. In some parts of the region, streams and rivers provide the basic means of transportation; in others, a complex network of highways and dirt roads sets the pace of mobility. Marks of rapid urbanization have become clearly visible as commercial towns and manufacturing centers emerge from rice fields and mountainsides.

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Larawan: the Tagalogs and Metropolitan Manila 1st edition 1978
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