The Inquirer and those "Bornean datus" Sunday, May 29, 2005
The Philippine Daily Inquirer, which almost always states double-checking of facts and inaccuracies, pegged as a main story "Atis recall 'Barter of Panay'" on its Regions page on Saturday.
The story here revolves around Aklan's Binirayan Festival and alleged efforts of the local government by correcting historical errors regarding the barter of Panay Island between indigenous Atis and "10 Bornean Datus". No, they did not correctly say the "10 Bornean datus" tale is fiction. The story merely says a barter of the island for gold and goods "did not probably occur because it was uncharacteristic for the Ati people."
The Inquirer story further claims Panay being the centerpiece of the origins of Philippine civilization.
The legend goes: "Researches on the history of the Barter of Panay and the Ati-Atihan revealed that the celebration started in 1212 when 10 Bornean datus, led by Datu Puti and their loyal subjects, escaped the tyranny of Sultan Makatunaw by boarding several barangays to seek peace in a new place. They found it in Aninipay (Island of Panay) which the datus named as the Island of Madyaas ("Paradise") in contrast to the island where they came from.
A peace pact between Ati chieftain Marikudo and Bornean leader Datu Puti was forged after several cordial offerings by the Bornean settlers of bales of cloth, precious jewels, a golden salakot and trinkets for Maniwangtiwang, the wife of Marikudo, and other material things.
Datu Puti and his wife, Pinangpangan, and the nine other datus, namely Sumakwel, Dumangsil, Lubay, Balkasua, Bangkaya, Paiburong, Dumangsul, Dumalugdog and Paduhinog, with their respective wife and subordinates, were then allowed to settle in the lowlands and a glorious celebration followed.
In their efforts to show appreciation and sincerity, the Borneans, who had fairer skin, smeared themselves with soot from their cooking utensils to look like Aetas, a gesture to further befriend their hosts, while spontaneously dancing to the beat and music of the native bagroes (drums), drinking and merrymaking until the wee hours of the morning."
The Department of Tourism has been making merriment and money over the "Barter of Panay". The local government says the barter did not occur, but the arrival of the "10 Bornean datus" is fact. We, meanhwile, enjoy ourselves with the Ati-atihan festival that traces its origins to the alleged historical incident.
If you've read my earlier posts on those pesky "Bornean datus" and their clans who are supposedly the ancestor of all Filipinos, you know why the Inquirer story is more than a tad irritating.
First and foremost, the Maragtas, which is the source of the Panay hulabaloo, is a book of legends - nothing more and nothing less. It is not a historical fact, but rather part of folklore that seems to get spiced up with every telling.
Pedro Alcantara Monteclaro, who wrote Maragtas in 1907, did not translated the work from an ancient prehispanic manuscript but clearly said in the preface of the book that he himself was its author. And although he did refer to two old written documents, he said that he did not publish them due to their poor condition and he did not imply that they were transcribed in his book.
The publisher of Maragtas, Salvador Laguda, even noted that, "According to the author, this Maragtas should not be considered as containing facts all of which are accurate and true, because many of his data do not tally with what we hear from old men."
The misconceptions surrounding Maragtas were further reinforced when even the highly respected historian, Dr. Henry Otley Beyer called it "a prehispanic document." In Philippine Saga which he wrote with Jaime C. de Veyra in 1947, he mentioned a manuscript from Panay known as Maragtas and “the ancient writing in which it was originally inscribed". Then in his Outline Review of Philippine Archaeology of 1949 he wrote the following:" A remarkable ancient document known as the “Maragtas,” dating probably from about 1225, was preserved in Panay and transliterated into romanized Visayan in the early Spanish days."
Unfortunately, lesser historians have accepted these statements without question and many teachers still repeat them confidently today.
In 1957 anthropologist Tom Harrison wrote a preface to a translation of Maragtas by Manuel Carreon wherein he referred to Monteclaro not as the author of Maragtas but merely the transcriber of an ancient Philippine legend.
In Maragtas, Monteclaro also told the story of the creation of the Confederation of Madya-as in Panay under the rule of Datu Sumakwel and he gave the details of its constitution. In spite of the importance that should be placed on such an early constitution and his detailed description of it, Monteclaro gave no source for his information. Also, it appears that the Confederation of Madya-as is unique to Monteclaro's book. It has never been documented anywhere else nor is it among the legends of the unhispanized tribes of Panay.
Maragtas was finally placed in its proper perspective as a book of legends rather than historical fact in 1968 by William Henry Scott. For his doctoral dissertation at the University of Santo Tomas, Scott made a painstaking investigation into all the sources of information about the Philippines before the coming of the Spaniards.
Rather than merely plagiarizing past historians, Scott examined the original documents and searched archives and museums the world over for supporting documents and artefacts. He questioned the top historians of the day about their sources of information and consulted with many experts in other fields such as language, geology, archaeology and anthropology. He scoured the vast collection of prehispanic material amassed by his personal friend, Dr. H. Otley Beyer. He interviewed the friends, colleagues and relatives of the figures behind the stories such as Pedro Monteclaro and Jose E. Marco and he examined their correspondence.
William Henry Scott proved in his dissertation that Maragtas and the Confederation of Madya-as were not actual ancient documents from long ago but only legends that were collected and in some cases possibly concocted by Pedro Monteclaro and published in 1907 in his book entitled Maragtas. As for the Maragtas Code, Scott found that it was merely an invention of Guillermo Santiago-Cuino's mind which was probably based on Monteclaro's book and published in 1938.
Scott successfully defended his dissertation before a panel of eminent Filipino historians, some of whom had formerly endorsed and promoted the erroneous facts of Philippine history. The panel included Teodoro Agoncillo, Horacio de la Costa, Marcelino Forondo, Mercedes Grau Santamaria, Nicholas Zafra and Gregorio Zaide. Scott's meticulous research was published in 1968 in his book Prehispanic Source Materials for the Study of Philippine History and since then no historian has contested his conclusions.
By the 1960's the better scholars already had some doubts regarding Maragtas and they avoided mentioning it in their works. Scott's thesis confirmed their suspicions. However, it was many years before the writers of school textbooks noticed Scott's findings. Most continued to reprint their old texts while others wrote new books that still contained the old mistakes. Take for example this quote from Ang Pagsulong ng Pamayanan (1981):
Maragtas' Code is the premier example of written law and it has been considered the oldest because it was in effect from 1250.
Not only is this statement wrong but its authors seem to believe that Maragtas was a person and not a book.
Jose Villa Panganiban used Maragtas to trace the origin of the Tagalog language in the preface of the very popular English-Tagalog Dictionary by Fr. Leo James English in 1965. To this day it remains unrevised in spite of many reprintings.
Even one member of Scott's dissertation panel did not appear to be eager to set the record straight. Gregorio Zaide continued to include information from Maragtas in works such as Pageant of Philippine History in 1979, History of the Republic of the Philippines in 1983 and Philippine History 1984 which he co-authored with his daughter, Sonia Zaide.
While making an effort to correct the errors of the past, some historians mistook Maragtas to be one of the many hoaxes of Philippine history rather than a mere legend. When Sonia Zaide revised History of the Republic of the Philippines in 1987, she mistakenly described Maragtas as a fraudulent document:
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.Zaide clarified her opinion on the following page:
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.It would be unfair to brand Pedro Monteclaro a hoaxer or his book a fraudulent document because he never claimed that Maragtas was anything more than a collection of legends.
Any frauds involving his book are perpetrated by other later writers who misrepresented it as an authentic ancient document.
posted by Jojo Malig @ 3:42 PM,
- At 4:33 PM, Jardine Davies said...
I completely agree with your sentiments.
- At 8:51 AM, Ronald said...
Hi! I a student doing research and just wanna ask if where could i posibly find an academic source material (book or journal) about Scott proving the Maragtas as a fiction created by Monteclaro. Thanks a lot.
- At 11:45 AM, piloto_dos_pacficos said...
Great post. Despite whether the "Maragtas" was a legend or not, i would say, the fact still stands that there was an interaction between the Malay Datus and the Ati people in Panay Island. I wonder how the Ati people and the Malay newcomers interacted before the arrival of the Spaniards and other newcomers. Though, it's a shame that many Atis / or labeled as Atis are treated like/as second class citizens.
- At 11:22 PM, Aa_alleex_xX said...
.. I d0 n0t kn0w if thAt is rEally c0rREct. BUt thAnk y0u bc0z I n0w hAvE an idEA and cAn AnswEr my AsSignmEnt!! thAnkS a l0t!! I h0pE y0u cAn mAKE an0thEr nicE EsSAy. 0k, tiL hErE! byE. .keEp Up thE go0d w0rK!! G0d blEsS. .= ))