On Hiatus

We are currently on hiatus because of heavy work load.

I’m very, very sorry. I’ll try to return and post more regularly once my research project is over. Meanwhile, I’ll try to post “Around the Web” every now and then.

Yours truly,
Kert of Spawn of Anthro


Out-of-Taiwan (On the Spread of Austronesians in Southeast Asia)

The main model taught today in schools (as well as more than a decade ago when I was still in elementary) on constructing the origin of the Filipinos is Beyer’s Wave Migration TheoryH. Otley Beyer is one of the “big boss” in Philippine Anthropology. In fact, he taught the first Anthropology class in the Philippines and established the first Anthropology Department in University of the Philippines Diliman. You can say that he is well-respected and he did a lot of contributions to Philippine Archaeology. (Oh and he was the mentor of one of the best Filipino anthropologists, F. Landa Jocano).However, his wave-migration theory is considered outdated among the community of scholars. It’s primarily because he had no specific and tangible data to back up his theory.There are currently two opposing studies on the peopling of Southeast Asia — which of course, includes the Philippines. The Out-of-Taiwan theory of Peter Bellwood and Robert Blust, and the Nusantao Maritime Trading and Communication Network by Wilhelm Solheim II. What I’m gonna discuss here (briefly) is the Out-of-Taiwan theory.In Peter Bellwood’s “The Origins and Dispersals of Agricultural Communities in Southeast Asia” , he says that individual islands from Southeast Asia did not develop agriculture within their boundaries. However, the dispersal of agriculture coincides with the migration of the Austronesians from Taiwan 5,000 years ago to the Philippines and Indonesia, then to the west reaching as far as Madagascar and then to the east populating much of Oceania. Peter Bellwood drew theories and data on Archaeology, Comparative Ethnography, Genetics and Linguistics – specifically from Robert Blust‘s model of the dispersal of the Austronesian language.

(image via www.smallislandnotesan.blogspot.com)

Taiwan, being the host of Austronesian language-diversity could’ve been the origin, as linguists would argue. Austronesian languages also have a lot of similarities that when reconstructed would trace back to Taiwan. Peter Bellwood also has evidenced of carbon dating of materials used by the Austronesians — pottery, adzes, spindle whorl, etc. — and it shows that there is indeed an emerging pattern. The oldest ones are from Taiwan, next is in the Philippines and Indonesia, and the youngest ones are in Oceania. And also evidently, there are close similarities in the cultures of people from Madagascar in the west to Easter Island in the east. There are however problems with using genetic evidences since there had been mixes among the Southern Mongoloid Austronesian speaking people and the Australo-Melanesians, which had inhabited some islands such as Philippines but never really conquered vast areas or islands.

Now all that remains is the question, why? Why did the Austronesians migrated and conquered a vast area. Peter Bellwood also answers this question.

Bellwood says that there is demographic advantage in maritime traveling among Austronesians as they were near a chain of islands. Hence, they were able to enhance and develop their maritime skills. Their agricultural skills also gave them an advantage in conquering other islands, since they could practically live anywhere. Being able to cultivate means that they would have stable supply of food once they move to another island. Also, there is a prestige factor in colonizing a different land. He called it the “founder-focused ideology”. However, the main thing – according to Bellwood – that pushed the migration of the Austronesians could have been the rising population densities of agriculturalists from China (the pre-Austronesians were said to be from Southern China) pushing these Austronesians to get in their boats and move out. But of course, this “moving out” isn’t like the exodus from Egypt. There might’ve been separate sailings from groups followed by another and another. Later on, there might’ve been also backward routes.

Bellwood says that the dispersal of the Austronesians is one of the most amazing feats in the world as they covered half of the world. In fact, Austronesian languages have the most number of speakers. However, as was said, the Out-of-Taiwan theory is still not accepted by all scholars. Wilhelm Solheim proposes a different theory — which I’ll try to discuss later.


Bellwood, P.(2004) “The Origins and Dispersals of Agricultural Communities in Southeast Asia” in P. Bellwood, I. Glover (eds) Southeast Asia: From Prehistory to History, pp.21-40, Routledge

More stuff on the Out-Of-Taiwan theory:

Gut Bacteria, Language Analysis Solve Pacific Migration Mystery by Brandon Keim (Wired Science)

Out of Formosa (David from Formosa)

Dead Hand of the Comparative Method – 1
Dead Hand of the Comparative Theory – 2 – Out-of-Taiwan? (Austronesian Numbers Project)

Taiwan’s Gift to the World
 by Jared Diamond

Science: DNA goes missing in Polynesian triangle by Michael Brooke
Bugs and tongues reveal human march across Pacific by Ewen Callaway (NewScientist)

Terry Moore’s Strangers in Paradise

(Image via Comixology)

Strangers in Paradise is a comic book written and drawn by Terry Moore. It’s a story about two best friends — Francine and Katchoo — their lives, their relationships and their love for each other.

What’s interesting about the story is the characters. Both Francine and Katchoo defy the gender norms usually attached in comic book female characters. Both women are given the chance to portray strong wills and strong voices. It’s a far cry from the female trope embedded in comic books, that is a female character who is treated like a second-rate person and always needs to be saved by the hunky male lead.

Francine and Katchoo live ordinary lives. They have the same fears and joys as you and me. But they are also heroes in their own right. They inspire hope. Francine deals with her issues about herself and her relationships but still find strength within her. Katchoo, on the other hand, is haunted by her difficult past but she battles it head-on.

They are ordinary women with extraordinary will to live their lives — something that needs to be emulated by everyone.

The following is a video in which Terry Moore talks and answers questions about Strangers in Paradise. Here he talks about the inspirations behind the story and the story development among others.

Around the Web


Drugs by Bryan Lewis Saunders

Bryan Lewis Saunders takes different sorts of drugs and expresses his experiences through art.


100 mg Seroquel

I’m surprised he can still draw after taking Seroquel. I used to take 10mg of it for my manic depression and it always made me feel dizzy, lethargic and all around crappy. Nevertheless, props for this man for being so brave in trying those drugs and chronicling his experiences. I wonder how far should a man go in the name of art?


The Internet is a surveillance state by Bruce Schneier

Welcome to an Internet without privacy, and we’ve ended up here with hardly a fight.

Bruce Schneier writes about how panopticons are now everywhere through the internet and it’s almost an impossibility to stop them. George Orwell would be surprised how efficiently his work of fiction has come to life. After I publish this, companies and government agencies are probably analyzing what I have written in this post. Unwanted collection of personal data really is creepy and rather scary.


Essentialism Revisited by John Wilkins

In fact it is my opinion that essentialism in biology postdates Darwin, and was in fact due to the revival of Thomism among German and French speaking Catholic biologists who were reacting to the metaphysical views of people like Herbert Spencer and Ernst Haeckel.

John Wilkins talks about how essentialism in evolution is most probably not what we think it is. For one, he’s of the opinion that essentialism was not the norm in the pre-Darwinian era as most people believe and as stated by Ernst Mayr. In fact, it may be more of a post-Darwinian thing and even so, only a few people held it to be true.

If that’s the case, we have to change a whole bunch of textbooks. It would also give us a different perspective of the history of evolution. I wonder, if not essentialism, then what was the general paradigm before Darwin’s evolution? And was it really a backward paradigm compared to the Darwinian thinking?


Banned and Challenged Comics Revealed! by Betsy Gomez

Click on the link to see the list of banned and challenged comic books in the US. In all honesty I believe comic books are more than just a piece of entertainment. It is a reflection of life and reality so I don’t see the point of removing it from shelves. It may actually teach people a thing or two.



On the Conflict in Sabah

By Kert

“… ‘nation’ is a fundamentally contested concept that defies easy definition or explanation.”

“when we locate and define a ‘nation’s origins’ we are in effect also mapping, often literally, it’s current political claims and aspirations”

(Jackson-Preege 2010)

(Image Via GMA News Online)

Presently, the talks and arguments I hear on Sabah from Filipinos revolve around the legitimacy of Sulu’s claim over Sabah. Different figures are maneuvering in relation to Sulu’s claim — the Malaysian government, the Philippine government and the Sulu sultanate.

But other things are also wanting of discourse here. First is how Malaysia was threatened as armed men from Sulu landed in Sabah, which the two parties consider their territory. As a nation, Malaysia has to protect if not their people, but their political claim towards Sabah. Second is the human rights violation the Malaysian government had done towards Filipino citizens (and the Philippine president’s inaction). The brutal response of the Malaysian government with sixty three people dead cannot and must not be overlooked.

There is another dimension to it that is absent in most conversations about the issue. Everyone seems to have forgotten the actual people living in Sabah and how they consider their nationality. How do they define their identity? Which nation do they consider “home”? We talk so much about the sultan of Sulu’s claim, but what about the claim of the people actually living in Sabah? Would they consider themselves Malaysians or members of the Sultan’s people? And if we take into account the definition of territoriality back in the time of the Spanish, what sort of national identities should we follow? — and I mean this not only for Sabah but for the entire Insular Southeast Asia.

Voices of the ordinary people are seldom heard in the conversations. But the people of Sabah should be at the heart of this issue.  At the moment, the lives of the people in Sabah will be the most affected by the recurring changes of the decisions of the nations. They’re in the middle of the game set between Malaysia, Philippines and the sultanate of Sulu. And as the tension gets higher, they’re the ones left in a difficult situation.