Genetic History Part 1: Filipino

I won’t rehash the popularity of commercial DNA testing but I will tell you about what I found and what I didn’t find.

Like so many, the reason for taking the test was to see if I could get some clues about my Filipino side’s genealogical history.  Are my filipino ancestor’s part of the peoples who were colonized by the Spaniards?  Am I part Spanish?  Most people assume that I am Spanish or Mexican because I have tan skin and brown hair and eyes.  I guess it depends on where I live though.

I grew up in Washington state and no one ever asked me that because up there, my skin was always pale from lack of sun, most just assumed I was some sort of exoctic white person,  Scottish or something like that even though I have a german name.

In Hawaii most people assumed I was a local.  I was definitely flattered by that and it wasn’t until I took the test and started my research about three, almost four years ago that I could understand why I assimilate into so many different groups.

First I will talk about my “asian” side.  I am definetly South East Asian but I still do not know which country it comes from.  All the testing sites are vague on that but GedMatch gives me more information about that but still not too detailed in regards to my families history.

The results are that I share about 35% of my DNA with the people of Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam.  I thought that was interesting since I always thought I looked similar to a neighbor kid I had when I was a kid.  He was Cambodian and the language seemed similar to tagolg even though I didn’t understand what they were saying.  I still cannot ascertain where my ancestors came from from that region.  So I use a different model to give me more information about my SEA origins and I get Indo-Tibetan, Malay aka Burma aka Myanmar.  That makes sense to me because I think my mom looks more like those people than Vietnamese or Thai or Cambodian even though Cambodian in some people is very similar.  Still for ethnicity  purposes, seeing as though Nationalist get very upset when people claim certain origins, I just leave it as Indo-Tibetan beause that IS the farthest back my research can take me to determine my origin of that line.

Next, this one was no surprise but was a surprise as to how much of it I had.  Polynesian. 15% Polynesian.  Ancestry had recently updated their regional stats because people who weren’t Polynesian were upset and confused about having even the slightest portion of Polynesian DNA.  Most of them being East Asian and after they updated their samples and regions, that portion disappeared for a lot of people but not for me.  It didn’t change and being half filipino,  it still didn’t surprise me.  I was curious, however, as to why 23andMe and Ancestry gave me such different reports with 23 giving me 0% Polynesian and 49% SEA.  So I take a closer look in GedMatch to see what I can find.

Now I have several regions there to research and determine the likelihood of geneological origins.  I run through a couple dozen models and research tons of papers on Polynesian origins and the Philippines and SEA and Indonesia and Papuan and Australia and Taiwan Aboriginals.

I read several papers on theories of the Austronesian peoples and diaspora etc., and from what I can make of it using the tools I have available along with researching my haplogroup which is E-2,  the farthest back I can go is to Indonesia about 10k years ago give or take 5k years.

I thought this group was particularly interesting because all the research available says that this group has very few mutations and was an isolated group probably due to glacial melt that trapped them on that portion of the the once connected archipelago known as Sundland.  That’s not hard to understand since there is plenty of evidence to prove that Indonesia was once connected by a land bridge.

But now I have Australian Aboriginal and Papuan to discern.  Papuan shows up in all the models but AA does not however depending on which models I use and whose DNA between my brother and I, Australian shows up often in my brothers.  I am just taking a wild guess that someone on my mother’s paternal side came from ancient Australian aboriginal origins then up to Papua NG since both are very close and also were at one time connected.

Now I have read on several papers that the Australian Aboriginals are the oldest civilization and I really don’t understand why Aboriginals from Australia and Papuans are different.  Different admixtures?  I don’t know the answer to that.  All I know is that somewhere a long, long time ago, my ancestors left Africa, journeyed up near south asia and split up.  Did the split happen in Indonesia where maybe some went off to hunt for food or explore were unable to make it back to their home because of some catastrophic event and split the male up from the female?  I wish I had an exact time and answer to that but I don’t.

What I do know is that the ones who were not trapped on the newly formed Islands set off for new lands eventually landing in what I assume are the Polynesian Islands like Fuji, Tonga and Samoa.  With them I also see similarities in features.  When I was a kid I had a friend who was from Samoan and I thought he and my mom looked similar.

Now I am at the Philippines.  From what I do know from my mom, she always said she was indigenous.  Seeing as though my mom has told me several stories that had changed over time, I didn’t fully believe her but it was the one story that never changed.  She said her parents came from Abra Province with is located in Luzon the most northern portion  closest to Vietnam/Cambdia etc.  She said they were Ilocanos.  Rice and Coconut farmers.

Okay so I research that in GedMatch and look!, I finally have something I can positively ID.  Because my folks come from completely different regions of the world, my dad being fully European and my mom fully Filipino, it’s not hard to discern who gave me what.  So I finally have something that I know to be true that my ancestors are from Luzon, Ilocanos, Aeta’s and Igorots and it makes sense because my mom is Negrito.  Meaning, for all intents and purposes, she has very dark skin, almost black but she would smack my face if I called her black.  I don’t think it’s a racial dislike, after all her skin is almost black but I think an ancestral thing and for some reason they know they are genetically the farthest from African as DNA research suggest.  That being because Negrito’s being of the first groups to leave Africa without recombining and through all the time became genetically different even though many of their features are similar to Africans and I think it had to do with the environment and the amount of melon in their skin which started to delete with the Europeans with the invent of agriculture.

Now I have some story to tell about my Island ancestors, also before I forget.  After all the research I have done over the last few years, I think it really is more accurate to say that Filipinos are Pacific Islanders instead of SEA EVEN though culturaly we share more with East Asians than we do with the Polynesians and Indonesians UNLESS were are speaking about of modern ancestors who practiced and continue to practice their old religion and ways of life.  THEN you can see how similar they are in culture.

So the Aetas are considered Negritos and are among the earliest inhabitants of the Philippines some of whom still are naturally blonde born which is similar to the Australian Aboriginals who also carry that trait.

These people did what they could to protect themselves from Spanish invasion which is where the Igorots come in.  Now the Igorots are a notorious group of headhunters most feared in the Islands if for no other reason than they literally ate Spanish people.  I laugh a little because it’s strange to think about my ancesetors eating Spanish people.  Maybe it’s no wonder I love Spanish food so much.  Hahahah.  Okay, maybe that’s a distasteful joke.  But seriously, from what I read about them, they hunted and ate Spaniards as a deterrent.  They wanted to scare them away and it must have worked because the Spanish were unable to take them and the Spanish left them alone.  In case you were wondering.  No, Spanish did NOT turn up on my mom’s side so on my mom’s side, they were not raped or taken into slavery however their names were still taken from them as with nearly all filipinos.   My new family name became Leonardo at some time.  From there I don’t have much more of a story.  It’s the one peice of geneological history that I WISH so much that I could have but it’s gone forever.

Now, these people are also known as Ilocano or Iloko (sp?) and when the Spanish came many of them left the Philippines and landed in Hawaii which is why 90% of the filipinos on the Island are Ilocanos and I do indeed have reletives native to the Island as Ancestry suggest with extreme confidence but because all of our shared ancestors are now resting in peace, we have no way to determine whom we share our heritage with.  That makes me sad by the way.   Finding my family on my filipino side was the very reason I even did this.

For some people, they don’t understand why this is so important to me or others like me. For me, it comes from having a deeply connected “feeling” of something I cannot put my finger on.  Like a place where I belong, a family I want to see or to remember and a history to share with my kids before they become washed altogether leaving only traces of  us that will be forgotten or unknown in the next couple generations.

I do believe that people carry a story with them in their DNA that is more than just a genetic sequence, as if to say parts of an ancestors story is being told in your brain even though you don’t know where it is coming from.

For instance, I have a fear of water.  That’s not to say that I don’t go swimming or anything.  I also love fishing of all things.  What I mean is, I have an unreasonable fear drowing in the ocean, not a lake or a river, it’s the Ocean specifically.  Where does it come from?  I love the ocean and have a deep respect for it, so much so I fear it.  I hate being apart from it too.  I grew up always near the ocean but the last 7 years I am about 3 hours away from it and it bothers me even though I don’t want to go in it.

I have a natual skill for martial arts too.  I don’t know why.  My brother is the same.  Like we carry some sort of muscle memory that was passed down to us.  Was it perhaps from the SEA we carry with us?  Were our Tibetan ancestors warriors, skilled fighters or something?  I don’t know the real answer to that.  And why have I always, always, always been in touch with Buddhist teachings than Christian ones even though I grew up Catholic but since a young age have always found myself preferring meditation and feeling more kinship with Eastern philosophies than Western ones?

Perhaps the next portion of my genetic story can shed light on that when I tell you about my European history which is far more complicated and brutal than my “savage” Spanish eating ancestors.  Hahaha, still makes me laugh.

All I can say is that there is something that drives me to know.  I feeling I have never been able to suffice and it keeps pulling me back saying, “keep looking” as if there is some sort of ghost speaking in my ear wanting as desperately as myself to reconnect and be remembered for something.

I also don’t believe I am the only person in the world to feel this way.   I know my mom doesn’t.  She would rather forget her history because even in current times, the conditions and suffering she endured is a hard pill, one that I have many sympathies for because no one, especially children should have to be witness or victims to the horrid abuses of mankind.  I say this from the protected suburbs and a life I feel genuinely blessed to have even when it’s unremarkable.  I play these scenarios in my head about all that I know and wonder with great appreciation, all the horrific things that must have transpired just for me to be alive today.

It’s an epic tale of survival and love.  I can see it no other way.  The heartache that they all must have felt is like a blade in my side and because of that, they should be remembered.










































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