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The Maragtas is a work by Pedro Alcantara Monteclaro titled (in English translation) History of Panay from the first inhabitants and the Bornean immigrants, from which they descended, to the arrival of the Spaniards. The work is in mixed Hiligaynon and Kinaray-a languages in Iloilo in 1907. It is an original work based on written and oral sources available to the author.[1]

The Maragtas is an original work by the author, which purports to be based on written and oral sources of which no copy has survived.[2] The author makes no claim that the work contains a transcription of particular pre-Hispanic documents.[3] The work consists of a publisher's introduction by Salvador Laguda, a foreword by the author, six chapters, and an epilogue.[4] The first chapter describes the former customs, clothes, dialect, heredity, organization, etc. of the Aetas of Panay, with special mention of Marikudo, son of old Chief Polpulan; the second chapter begins a narrative of the ten datus flight from Borneo and the tyranny of Rajah Makatunaw there, and their purchase of the island of Panay from Marikudo; the third chapter tells of the romance of Sumakwel, Kapinangan and her lover Gurung-garung; the fourth chapter concludes the tale of the ten datus, telling about their political arrangements and their circumnavigation of the island; the fifth chapter describes language, commerce, clothing, customs, marriages, funerals, mourning habits, cockfighting, timekeeping techniques, calendars, and personal characteristics; the sixth and final chapter gives a list of Spanish officials between 1637 and 1808; the epilog contains a few eighteenth-century dates.[5]

A Borneon leader was oppressing the 10 Datus. In 1212 the Visayas received the Sabahan 10 Datus.[6]

Use by historians

Philippine historians made little use of the Maragtas before the Japanese occupation, with references such as that by José Soncuya in his 1917 Historia Pre-Hispanica de Filipinas having been restricted to the Spanish-speaking elite.[7] In a book published in 1984, the historian William Henry Scott wrote in reference to an interesting research related to Maragtas. Scott said that in 1947, a book co-authored by historian H. Otley Beyer, founder of the Anthropology Department of the University of the Philippines, refers to Margitas and "the ancient writing in which it was originally inscribed.[8] Scott quoted Beyer stating: A remarkable document known as 'Margitas', dating probably from about 1225, was preserved in Panay and transliterated into romanized Visayan in early Spanish days."[9] The myth that the Maragtas was not an original work but rather a transcription of earlier works was later given wider circulation by various academics, as detailed by Philippine historian William Henry Scott.[10] Scott concludes that the Maragtas was an original work by Pedro Alcantara Monteclaro.[11]

Other Philippine historians, however, have other opinions. Their research led to an interesting theory that some of the data in the Maragtas is verifiable in other sources.[12]

In the year 2000, the Filipino anthropologist F. Landa Jocano, on his part wrote a quite different account about the findings of H. Otley Beyer. Jocano maintains that the manuscript that Beyer was referring to as "A remarkable document" was in fact the Maragtas, not the Margitas.[13] According to Beyer, the original text of the Maragtas was written in old syllabary, although the document was preserved in Romanized Bisayan in early Spanish days.[14] Beyer claimed that the Maragtas written in original syllabary "was brought to Spain in the early 19th century by a Spanish colonel, but it can no longer be traced".[15] On the other hand, the American Anthropologist seemed also sure in his description of the text, and he described it as follows:

Another feature of the Panay manuscript, now called "Maragtas", is the ancient writing in which it was originally inscribed. The Bornean Visayans, used a form of syllabic writing, which they introduced wherever they spread. In this syllabary, the vowels were written only when they stood alone or at the beginning of words. Each consonant sign stood for the consonant followed by the sound of "a". The characters were incised on bamboo or written on bark with cuttlefish ink.[16][17]

If the original manuscript was brought to Spain in the early part of 19th century, it appears that what Beyer described was actually a secondhand account of how the document would have looked like.

It also seems that what Monteclaro took hold of was an annotated and transliterated copy of that original manuscript that dates back to the early years of Spanish regime, which might explain the presence of internal inconsistencies. Could it also be an attempt (made during the later part of the Spanish rule) to transcribe what could have been retained in oral tradition based on that original manuscript or on the same common source from which the manuscript was based?

One could also argue from what the early Spanish explorer Miguel de Loarca wrote in his report (Relacion de las Yslas Filipinas) in June 1582. Writing in Arevalo (Panay), he says:

"... since these natives are not acquainted with the art of writing, they preserve their ancient lore through songs, which they sing in a very pleasing manner -commonly while plying their oars, as they are island-dwellers. Also, during their revelries, the singers who have good voices recite the exploits of olden times."[18]

In 1582, Loarca was not cognizant of any writing system used by the natives of Panay. Yet, at the later part of the Spanish colonization, it was discovered that various forms of ancient Filipino writing system existed. The Archives of the University of Santo Tomas in Manila, which contains the biggest collection of ancient documents in this writing system guarantees the proof of this.[19][20][21]

Loarca's observation establishes that the way by which ancient inhabitants of Panay recorded part of their history was through the "recitation of exploits of olden times". Whether some of them, like the Maragtas, were also preserved in writing is a probability that cannot be discounted, considering that ancient inhabitants of the archipelago did write important documents in various versions of their writing system.

Even if the Maragtas is taken as a folk history, the amount of annotations and errors in transliterating and/or transcribing, as well as the challenges in separating facts from literary conventions require studies. Still, theories and procedures in extracting vestiges of history from folklore would save important parts of the cultural heritage of a nation. Studies of contemporary anthropologists with actual experience of the Sulod of Panay show that what is pivotal for the construction of the identity of Panay's Budkidnon tribes are their epics. The anthropologist Patricia P. Magos, for example, says that "...the identity of the Panay-Bukidnon culture can be reconstructed through these epics which serve as their link to the ancient past".[22] Studying the culture of this tribe, which is the link between the present and Panay's pre-colonial history, seems to offer a key to finding the procedure in separating facts from literary conventions in the text of Maragtas.

Use by artists

Despite the controversy on The Maragtas, it has definitely enriched the arts scene. Based on it, Ricaredo Demetillo wrote "Barter in Panay," which won the UP Golden Jubilee Award for Poetry in 1958. He would later extact from it the verse tragedy "The heart of emptiness is black," which won the Palanca Award in 1973, and produced by the UP Repertory Company and directed by noted stage director Behn Cervantes in June 1974.

Jeremias Elizalde Navarro (J. Elizalde Navarro), who is from San Jose, Antique, immortalized a scene from Maragtas with two versions of the mural "Bulawan nga Saduk," one of which could be viewed at the lobby of the Antique Provincial Capitol, and the other in the collection of an insurance company. Demetillo's play was later adapted by playwright Orlando Nadres as "Kapinangan," a drama musical presented at the Manila Metropolitan Theater in 1981. It was directed by Cervantes, with music by Ryan Cayabyab, and starred Kuh Ledesma as Kapinangan, Robert Arevalo as Datu Sumakwel, and Hajji Alejandro as Gurong-gurong.

Almost all the major writers in Panay, including Magdalena Jalandoni, Ramon Muzones, and Conrado Norada have written adaptations of the legend in the novel form. From the Maragtas, Alex C. Delos Santos wrote the one-act play "Pagtimalus ni Kapinangan" (Kapaningan's Revenge), based on the chapter on Kapinangan's adulterous relationship. Delos Santos, however, rethinks the story and views it from Kapinangan's point of view, suggesting that the act was deliberate on Kapinangan's part because she felt that Sumakwel was so engrossed with his obligations as chieftain, forgetting Kapinangan and their marriage. The play was presented in 2002 at St. Anthony's College, and as part of the trilogy "Tres Mujeres" presented at Iloilo National High School as part of the Duag Teatrokon Regional Theater Festival.

In dance, Ballet Philippines produced "Kapinangan," choreographed by National Artist Lucrecia Kasilag and Eddie Elejar at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. US-based dancer/choreographer Dulce Capadocia also used the Kapinangan strand of the Maragtas in her multi-media dance epic "Ma'I Lost," which premiered at the Luckman Fine Arts Complex in 1999.


  1. Originally titled Maragtás kon (historia) sg pulô nga Panay kutub sg iya una nga pamuluyö tubtub sg pag-abut sg mga taga Borneo nga amó ang ginhalinan sg mga bisayâ kag sg pag-abut sg mga Katsilâ, Scott 1984, pp. 92–93, 103.
  2. Ma. Cecilia Locsin-Nava (2001). History & Society in the Novels of Ramon Muzones. Ateneo de Manila University Press. pp. 46. ISBN 978-971-550-378-5.
  3. Scott 1984, pp. 91, 149.
  4. Scott 1984, p. 93.
  5. Scott 1984, pp. 94–95.
  6. Artemio R. Guillermo (16 December 2011). Historical Dictionary of the Philippines. Scarecrow Press. pp. 413–. ISBN 978-0-8108-7511-1.
  7. Scott 1984, p. 101.
  8. Scott 1984, pp. 101, 296, referring to Beyer & de Veyra 1947.
  9. Scott 1984, p. 151, quoting Beyer 1949, p. 296.
  10. Scott 1984, pp. 101–103.
  11. Scott 1984, p. 103.
  12. Sonia M. Zaide (1999). The Philippines: a unique nation. All-Nations Pub. pp. 39 and note 19 on p. 416, which cites Dr. Juan C. Orendain, Ten Datus of Madiaas (Manila: Mabuhay Publ. 1963), Dr. Manuel L. Carreon, Maragtas: The Datus from Borneo, Sarawak Museum Journal Vol. VIII (1957) pp. 51–99; and an 1858 manuscript by Fr. Tomas Santaren. ISBN 978-971-642-071-5.
  13. Cf. F. Landa Jocano, Filipino Prehistory: Rediscovering Precolonial Heritage, Manila: 2000, pp. 68-69.
  14. Cf. F. Landa Jocano, Filipino Prehistory: Rediscovering Precolonial Heritage, Manila: 2000, p. 69.
  15. Cf. F. Landa Jocano, Filipino Prehistory: Rediscovering Precolonial Heritage, Manila: 2000, p. 69.
  16. H.O Beyer, Outline Review of Philippine Archaeology by Islands and Provinces in Philippine Journal of Sciences, 77.3-4: p. 296.
  17. Cf. F. Landa Jocano, Filipino Prehistory: Rediscovering Precolonial Heritage, Manila: 2000, p. 69.
  18. BLAIR, Emma Helen & ROBERTSON, James Alexander, eds. (1903). The Philippine Islands, 1493–1803, Volume 05 of 55 (1582–1583), p. 121.
  19. Archives, University of Santo Tomas, retrieved June 17, 2012.
  20. "UST collection of ancient scripts in 'baybayin' syllabary shown to public", Inquirer, retrieved June 17, 2012.
  21. UST Baybayin collection shown to public, Baybayin, retrieved June 18, 2012.
  22. Magos, Alicia P. (June 1999), "Sea Episodes in the Sugidanon (Epic) and the Boat-building Tradition in Central Panay,Philippines." in DANYAG [UP in the Visayas Journal of Social Sciences and the Humanities] Vol.4.No.1. p.6.


Further reading

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