The legends surrounding the settling of the Philippines by Malay migrants are notably celebrated in the ati-atihan festival and perpetrated by hoaxers in the fraudulent documents containing the Maragtas chronicle and the Code of Kalantiaw.
According to one legend, at around 1250 A.D., ten datus and their families left the kingdom of Borneo and the cruel reign of sultan Makatunaw to seek their freedom and new homes across the seas. In Sinugbahan, Panay, they negotiated the sale of Panay's lowlands from the Negrito dwellers, led by their Ati king Marikudo and his wife Maniwantiwan. The purchase price consisted of one gold saduk (native hat) for Marikudo and a long gold necklace for Maniwantiwan. The sale was sealed by a pact of friendship between the Atis and the Bornean Malays and a merry party when the Atis performed their native songs and dances. After the party, Marikudo and the Atis went to the hills where their descendants still remain, and the Malay datus settled the lowlands. One of Aklan, Panay's fascinating festivals to this day is the ati-atihan, a colorful mardi gras celebrating the legendary purchase of Panay's lowlands. It is held in Kalibo annually during the feast day of Santo Niño in January. The riotous participants, with bodies painted in black and wearing bizarre masks, sing and dance in the streets, re-enacting the ancient legend of the welcome held by the Atis for the Malay colonizers. The Maragtas goes on to describe the formation of a confederation of barangays ("Madya-as") led by one Datu Sumakwel, who passed on a code of laws for the community. The fictitious story also alleges the expansion of the Malay datus to other parts of the Visayas and Luzon. Although previously accepted by some historians, including the present authors, it has become obvious that the Maragtas is only the imaginary creation of Pedro A. Monteclaro, a Visayan public official and poet, in Iloilo in 1907. He based it on folk customs and legends, largely transmitted by oral tradition.
Challenge to the Migration Theory:
The migration theory offered by H. Otley Beyer to explain the early settlement of the Philippines has been challenged by such scholars as Robert B. Fox and F. Landa Jocano. According to these scholars, Philippines prehistory is far too complex to be explained by "waves" of migration. It seems doubtful that early immigrants came in a fixed period of time and with a definite destination. Nor can archaeological and ethnographic data, show that each "wave" of immigrants was really a distinct racial and cultural group.
According to the other viewpoint, the early Filipinos were not passive recipients of cultures but also active transmitters and synthethizers of them. For example, comparative studies of Pacific cultures show that some of the inhabitants of Micronesia, Polynesia and other Pacific islands came from the Philippines. Moreover, by the time the Spaniards came to the Philippines, the early Filipinos had developed a distinctly Filipino, as opposed to Malayan civilization.
Whether one accepts the migration theory or not, it appears that out of the interracial mixture of the early settlers - indigenous tribes or Asian latecomers - was born the Filipino people. Prior to the arrival of the Europeans, the Filipinos where already enjoying rapid advances in its socio-economic development including a propensity for intermarriage with the assimilation of multiple races and cultures.