Saturday, August 6, 2011

Tracing the Ethymology of Luzon and Maharlika

Pyrard De Laval, a French Navigator (1578-1623) in his book entitled Suma Oriental described how the Europeans particularly the Portuguese mariners knew about the existence of an archipelagic island called Lucoes situated from its north western-most island –present day Luzon. The Indians referred to the biggest island as Lucon. In 1545, a Portuguese called Pero Fidalgo left Borneo on a junk and where he was driven northward by the wind (9 or 10 Degrees) to an island called dos Lucoes as the islanders called themselves. This voyage was recorded in the atlases of Luis and Dorado’s beautiful inscription drawing called Costa De Lucoes (Luis, 1563) or OS Lucois (Durado, 1580). This is the first time Lucoes appeard on a map of the Europeans. In 1522, the south-east portion of the nation was included in the Torrens Map as a consequence of Magellan’s voyage. Around 1540, better maps of the islands were represented on the Penrose Map. The Genoese Pilot Leon Pancaldo said that when Magellan landed in an island called Malhou in the south-eastern part of the Philippines they said they have already been visited (Cardeal Saraiva edition, Obras Completas, VI, 126) by Caucasian people like them even before 1521.

Tom Pyres describes in his notes that the land of Lucoes is ten days of sail from Borneo. The Lucoes do not believe in God and they have no king but ruled by different leaders. The locals were robust people who came to Borneo sailing in two or three junks to trade before heading to Malacca. The Borneans described how they also would sail to trade in the land of Lucoes and its surrounding islands which abound with gold and food stuff. The increasing number (about 500) of the traders from Lucoes who lived in Malacca were depicted by Pyres
as one people who are hard-working and very useful people. Many among them are reported as important men and good merchants.

During the early stages of the European colonization of the world the existence of the biblical El Dorado of Tarshish and Ophir captured the imagination of the European mariners. Tarshish and OPhir are the biblical lands (I Kings 10:11, II Chronicles 9:21) believed to be the final destination of the Lost Tribe of Israel which possess untold wealth. Samuel Purchas (1575? – 1626) was a well-known English travel writer who published the book Purchas His Pilgrim and devoted the entire first chapter to a discussion of Tarshish and Ophir.

The Italian Advernturer/Traveler Giovanni Francesco Gemelli Careri (1651–1725) stayed two months in the Philippines and reportedly said that he would not go into any arguments whether the Philippines was inhabited by the descendants of the biblical Tarshish. Early Europeans believed that Tarsis and Ofir were some lands far to the east of biblical Israel since King Solomon built a port at Ezion-Geber on the coast of the Red Sea and the ships took three years to return from the east. Duarte Barbosa also wrote that the natives of Malacca described to him a group of islands they call the island of Lequios which was inhabited by people "rich and more eminent than the Chins (Chinese)," that traded "much gold, and sliver in bars, silk, rich cloth, and much very good wheat, beautiful porcelains and many other merchandises." A decade after Magellan’s journey, Ferdinand Pinto while sailing across the Malayan archipelago was shipwrecked in Lequios and described it as a group of islands rich in gold and silver. Pinto even recorded the exact nautical location of the island group as being in the same meridian as Japan. Ferdinand Magellan himself rewrote part of Duarte Barbosa's book referring to the Lequios, and in his version Magellan substituted "Tarsis" and "Ofir" for the world "Lequios”, and this would play a great role in the rediscovery of the Philippines by the Europeans. Other names referred to the island of gold from the far east were Chryse “The Golden One” (Greek) situated east of India, Chin-lin (Chinese) or Golden Neighbour, Medieval Muslims called the eastern islands of the Malayan Archipelago (Indonesia, Philippines) as the Kingdoms of Zabag and Wakwak.

The Luzon Empire was first noted in the Laguna Copper Plate in the year 900 AD. The next historical reference to it can be found in the Ming Shilu Annals which record the arrival of an envoy from Luzon to the Ming Dynasty in 1373 AD. Her rulers, based in their capital, Tondo (Pinyin in Chinese) and were acknowledged not as mere chieftains, but as kings. According to Zhufan Zhi (Description of the Barbarous People) written in the year 1225 during the Song Dynasty, there was a group of islands called Ma-i. Claudius Ptolemy (AD 90-168) a Roman geographer astronomer and astrologer noted in his maps the beautiful islands in the far east south of China called Maniolas.

What was real name of the archipelago of the Philippines before the Europeans arrived. Where the early Filipinos united politically and ruled by a single ruler? What is the ethymology of the name Luzon and Maharlika? Is Luzon truly the biblical El Dorado whose inhabitants are called Lucoes or Lequois? How about Liu Song which possibly can be traced as people from the remaining empire of the Song Dynasty of 1279?

PRABHAT RANJAN SARKAR, Indian philosopher, historian, spiritual leader, and seer said that the pre-colonial name of the Philippines is Maharlika. MAHARLIKA came from the following Sanskrit derivative: MAHA means good and great. MAHAR is used when referring to something with many good and great qualities, resources and attributes. MAHA became MAHAR , LA means a cup or container, IK means small, and A as a suffix puts it in the feminine gender. So MAHARLIKA comes from MAHA + R + LA + IK + A means small entity or country containing good and great qualities and resources in the physical, mental and spiritual sense. And since a beautiful country is referred to as motherland, the suffix A puts it in feminine gender form. - MAHARLIKA, (Wikepedia)

Whatever the source of the name maybe, the island nation of the pre-colonial Maharlika captivated the eyes of many travelers for thousands of years and her charm, wealth, and beauty motivated many kingdoms to launch a thousand ships just to win her.