Luzones (Portuguese: Luções, pronounced [luˈsõjʃ]; also Luzones in Spanish) was a demonym[1] used by Portuguese sailors in Malaysia[2] during the early 1500s, referring to the Kapampangan and Tagalog people who lived in Manila Bay, which was then called Lusong (Portuguese: Luçon).[3][4][5][2] The term was also used for Tagalog settlers in Southern Tagalog region.

The Luzones were people from the island of Luzon in the Philippines.

Eventually, the term "Luzones" would refer to the inhabitants of Luzon island, and later on, would be exclusive to the peoples of the central area of Luzon (now Central Luzon).

None of the Portuguese writers who first used the term in the early 1500s had gone to Lusong themselves, so the term was used specifically to describe the seafarers who settled in or traded with Malay Archipelago at that time.[2] The last known use of the Portuguese term in surviving records was in the early 1520s, when members of Ferdinand Magellan's expedition, notably Antonio Pigafetta, and Rodrigo de Aganduru Moriz used the term to describe seafarers from Lusong whom they encountered on their journeys.[6] This included a "young prince" named Ache[6] who would later become known as Rajah Matanda.

There have proposals to rename the current Central Luzon region into Luções or an abbreviation of the current provinces of the region.[2][7]

Primary sources and orthography

Surviving primary documents referring to the Luzones (as Luções) include the accounts of Fernão Mendes Pinto (1614);[2] Tomé Pires (whose written documents were published in 1944);[2] and the survivors of Ferdinand Magellan's expedition, including expedition members Gines de Mafra[2] and Rodrigo de Aganduru Moriz[6][2] and the Italian scholar Antonio Pigafetta[8][2] who served as the expedition's primary scribe, and published his account in 1524.

These original references deferred to the Portuguese orthography for the term, which spells it out Luções. Later authors, writing after English had become an official language of the Philippines, spell the term out using the English and Spanish orthography, "Luzones."[9][10][11]

Maynila as “Luçon”

Portuguese and Spanish accounts from the early[6][12] to mid[2] 1500s state that the Maynila polity was the same as the "kingdom"[Notes 1] that had been referred to as the "Kingdom of Luzon" (Portuguese: Luçon (old) or Lução (modern),[13] locally called Lusong), and whose residents had been called "Luções".[6][12][2][7][1]

Magellan expedition member Rodrigo de Aganduru Moriz's account of the events of 1521 specifically describes[6] how the Magellan expedition, then under the command of Sebastian Elcano after the death of Magellan, captured of one of the Luções:[2] Prince Ache, who would later be known as Rajah Matanda, who was then serving as a commander of the Naval forces of Brunei.[6] Aganduru Moriz described the "young prince" as being "the Prince of Luzon – or Manila, which is the same.[6] corroborated by fellow expedition member Gines de Mafra[2] and the account of expedition scribe Antonio Pigaffetta.[12]

This description of Ache as "King of Luzon" was further confirmed by the Visayan allies of Miguel Lopez de Legaspi, who, learning that he wanted to "befriend" the ruler of Luzon, led him to write a letter to Ache, whom he addressed as the "King of Luzon".[2]

Kapampangan scholar Ian Christopher Alfonso,[1] however, posits that the demonym Luções was probably expansive enough to include even Kapampangan sailors, such as the sailors from Hagonoy and Macabebe who would later be involved in the 1572 Battle of Bangkusay Channel.[1]

Contacts with the Portuguese (1510s to 1540s)

The Portuguese first established a presence in Maritime Southeast Asia with their capture of Malacca in 1511,[14] and their contacts with the seafarers they described as Luções (people from "lusong"), the area now known as Manila Bay[2] became the first European accounts of the Tagalog people,[5] as Anthony Reid recounts:

The first European reports on the Tagalogs classify them as “Luzons”, a nominally Muslim commercial people trading out of Manila, and “almost one people” with the Malays of Brunei.[5]

Descriptions of culture, social organization and trade activities

Pires noted that the Luzones were "mostly heathen" and were not much esteemed in Malacca at the time he was there, although he also noted that they were strong, industrious, given to useful pursuits. Pires' exploration led him to discover that in their own country, the Luções had "foodstuffs, wax, honey, inferior grade gold," had no king, and were governed instead by a group of elders. They traded with tribes from Borneo and Indonesia and Philippine historians note that the language of the Luções was one of the 80 different languages spoken in Malacca[15] When Magellan's ship arrived in the Philippines, Pigafetta noted that there were Luzones there collecting sandalwood.[8] Pigafetta noticed the presence of Luzones who were loading their ship at Timor.[16]

When the Portuguese arrived in Southeast Asia in the early 1500s, they witnessed the Luzones' active involvement in the political and economic affairs of those who sought to take control of the economically strategic highway of the Strait of Malacca. For instance, the former sultan of Malacca decided to retake his city from the Portuguese with a fleet of ships from Lusung in 1525 AD.[17] One famous Luzones was Regimo de Raja, who had been appointed by the Portuguese at Malacca as Temenggung (Jawi: تمڠݢوڠ [18]) or Governor and General. Pires noted that Luzones and Malays (natives of Malacca) had settled in Mjmjam (Perak) and lived in two separate settlements and were "often at variance" or in rivalry with each other.[19]

Pinto noted that there were a number of Luzones in the Islamic fleets that went to battle with the Portuguese in the Philippines during the 16th century. In 1539 Filipinos (Luções) formed part of a Batak-Menangkabau army which besieged Aceh, as well as of the Acehnese fleet which raised the siege under command of Turkish Heredim Mafamede sent out from Suez by his uncle, Suleiman, Viceroy of Cairo. When this fleet later took Aru on the Strait of Malacca, it contained 4,000 Muslims from Turkey, Abyssinia, Malabar, Gujarat and Luzon, and following his victory, Heredim left a hand-picked garrison there under the command of a Filipino by the name of Sapetu Diraja. Sapetu Diraja, was then assigned by the Sultan of Aceh the task of holding Aru (northeast Sumatra) in 1540.

Pinto also says one was named leader of the Malays remaining in the Moluccas Islands after the Portuguese conquest in 1511.[20] Pigafetta notes that one of them was in command of the Brunei fleet in 1521.[8]

However, the Luzones did not only fight on the side of the Muslims. Pinto says they were also apparently among the natives of the Philippines who fought the Muslims in 1538.[20]

On Mainland Southeast Asia, Luzones aided the Burmese king in his invasion of Siam in 1547 AD. At the same time, Luzones fought alongside the Siamese king and faced the same elephant army of the Burmese king in the defence of the Siamese capital at Ayuthaya.[21] Luções military and trade activity reached as far as Sri Lanka in South Asia where Lungshanoid pottery made in Luzon were discovered in burials.[22]

Scholars have thus suggested that they could be mercenaries valued by all sides.[5] The Luzones had military and commercial interests mainly across Southeast Asia with some minor reach in East Asia and South Asia, so much so that the Portuguese soldier Joao de Barros considered the Luções who were militarily and commercially active across the region, "the most warlike and valiant of these parts."[23]

Luzones as sailors

The Luzones were also pioneer seafarers, and it is recorded that the Portuguese were not only witnesses but also direct beneficiaries of Lusung's involvement. Many Luzones chose Malacca as their base of operations because of its strategic importance. When the Portuguese finally took Malacca in 1512 AD, the resident Luzones held important government posts in the former sultanate. They were also large-scale exporters and ship owners that regularly sent junks to China, Brunei, Sumatra, Siam and Sunda. One Lusung official by the name of Surya Diraja annually sent 175 tons of pepper to China and had to pay the Portuguese 9000 cruzados in gold to retain his plantation. His ships became part of the first Portuguese fleet that paid an official visit to the Chinese empire in 1517 AD.[24]

The Portuguese were soon relying on Luzones bureaucrats for the administration of Malacca and on Luzones warriors, ships and pilots for their military and commercial ventures in East Asia.

It was through the Luzones who regularly sent ships to China that the Portuguese discovered the ports of Canton in 1514 AD. And it was on Luzones ships that the Portuguese were able to send their first diplomatic mission to China 1517 AD. The Portuguese had the Luzones to thank for when they finally established their base at Macao in the mid-1500s.[25]

The Luzones were also instrumental in guiding Portuguese ships to discover Japan. The Western world first heard of Japan through Marco Polo and then the Portuguese. But it was through the Luzones that the Portuguese had their first encounter with the Japanese. The Portuguese king commissioned his subjects to get good pilots that could guide them beyond the seas of China and Malacca. In 1540 AD, the Portuguese king's factor in Brunei, Brás Baião, recommended to his king the employment of Lusung pilots because of their reputation as "discoverers."[26] Thus it was through Luzones navigators that Portuguese ships found their way to Japan in 1543 AD. In 1547 AD, Jesuit missionary and Catholic saint Francis Xavier encountered his first Japanese convert from Satsuma disembarking from a Lusung ship in Malacca.

Contact with the survivors of Magellan's expedition (1521)

Aside from the Portuguese, the Luzones were also encountered by the survivors of the Magellan Expedition, who were under the command of Sebastian Elcano, in 1521.[8][2] This encounter was mentioned by expedition scribe Antonio Pigafetta and extensively described in an account by expedition members Gines de Mafra, Rodrigo de Aganduru Moriz, among others.[2]

The Aganduru Moriz account[6] describes how Elcano's crew was attacked somewhere off the southeastern tip of Borneo[7] by a Bruneian fleet commanded by one of the Luzones.[2][7] Historians such as William Henry Scott and Luis Camara Dery assert that this commander of the Bruneian Fleet was actually the young prince Ache of Maynila,[2][7] a grandson of the Bruneian sultan who would later become Maynila's Rajah Matanda.[2][7]

Under orders from his grandfather the Sultan of Brunei, Ache had previously sacked the Buddhist city of Loue in Southwest Borneo for being faithful to the old religion and rebelling against the authority of Sultanate.[27] Ache had then just won a naval victory at the time,[7] and was supposed to be on his way to marry a cousin[7][2] – a typical custom by which Tagalog nobles at that time gained influence and power.[2][28]

Dery suggests that Ache's decision to attack must have been influenced by a desire to bring Elcano's ship back to Manila bay,[7] for use as leverage against his cousin, the ruler of Tondo,[7] who was usurping territory from Ache's mother,[6] who was ruling Maynila at the time.[6]

Elcano, however, was able to defeat and capture Ache.[6] According to Scott, Ache was eventually released after a ransom was paid.[2] Nevertheless, Ache left a Spanish speaking Moor in Elcano's Crew to assist the ship on the way back to Spain, "a Moor who understood something of our Castilian language, who was called Pazeculan."[29] This knowledge of the Spanish language was scattered across the Indian Ocean and even into Southeast Asia after the Castilian conquest of the Emirate of Granada forced the Spanish speaking Granadan Muslims to migrate across the Muslim world even until Islamic Manila.[30]

End of historical references (after 1571)

Portuguese references to the "Luções" ended after the arrival of Miguel Lopez de Legaspi to Manila, notes Anthony Reid:[5]

"Luzons disappear from descriptions of the archipelago after the Spanish conquest of Manila in 1571, presumably assimilating to the Malay diaspora."[5]

The Spaniards together with their Mexican and Visayan allies had exploited political divisions in Luzon to support one faction against the other. The grandson of Miguel Lopez de Legaspi, a conquistador born in Mexico, Juan de Salcedo, pursued a romance with the Tondo princess Gandarapa (As Tondo was a rival Hindu Polity of Muslim Manila).[31][32] The Luções easily switched allegiance from the Ottoman Caliphate to the Iberian Union after the Spanish incorporation of Luzon.

The book "Wakan Sansai Zue", a Japanese translation of Ming era history, recorded that before Spain came, the Emperor of China referred to the rulers of Luzon as "Kings" (呂宋國王). However, after Spanish occupation, Luzon's rulers were only referred to as lords or princes (呂宋國主).[33]

See also


  1. Scott (1994) notes that Spanish chroniclers continued to use the terms "king" and "kingdom" to describe the polities of Tondo and Maynila until late 1571, when Martin de Goiti's first forays into Bulacan and Pampanga clarified to the Spanish that the alliances of the Tondo and Maynila polities with the Kapampangan polities did not include territorial claim or absolute command. San Buenaventura (1613, as cited by Junker, 1990 and Scott, 1994) later noted that Tagalogs only applied the term hari (king) to foreign monarchs, rather than their own leaders.


  1. Alfonso, Ian Christopher B. (2016). The Nameless Hero: Revisiting the Sources on the First Filipino Leader to Die for Freedom. Angeles: Holy Angel University Press. ISBN 9789710546527.
  2. Scott, William Henry (1994). Barangay: Sixteenth Century Philippine Culture and Society. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press. ISBN 971-550-135-4.
  3. Pires, Tomé (1944). A suma oriental de Tomé Pires e o livro de Francisco Rodriguez: Leitura e notas de Armando Cortesão [1512 – 1515] [The Summa Oriental of Tomé Pires and the book by Francisco Rodriguez: Reading and notes by Armando Cortesão [1512 – 1515]] (in Portuguese). Translated by Cortesão, Armando. Cambridge: Hakluyt Society.
  4. Lach, Donald Frederick (1994). "Chapter 8: The Philippine Islands". Asia in the Making of Europe. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-46732-5.
  5. Reid, Anthony (1995). "Continuity and Change in the Austronesian Transition to Islam and Christianity". In Peter Bellwood; James J. Fox; Darrell Tryon (eds.). The Austronesians: Historical and comparative perspectives. Canberra: Department of Anthropology, The Australian National University.
  6. de Aganduru Moriz, Rodrigo (1882). Historia general de las Islas Occidentales a la Asia adyacentes, llamadas Philipinas. Colección de Documentos inéditos para la historia de España, v.78–79. Madrid: Impr. de Miguel Ginesta.
  7. Dery, Luis Camara (2001). A History of the Inarticulate. Quezon City: New Day Publishers. ISBN 971-10-1069-0.
  8. Pigafetta, Antonio (1969) [1524]. First Voyage Round the World. Translated by Robertson, J.A. Manila: Filipiniana Book Guild.
  9. Customs and Culture of the Philippines. Tuttle Publishing. 1970 [1963]. ISBN 9781462913022.
  10. Fluckiger, Steven James (2018). "The Will to Trade: The Bruneian Incorporation of the Pre-Hispanic Manila Region". Explorations. 14: 18–36. hdl:10125/56603.
  11. Woods, Damon L. (2006). The Philippines: A Global Studies Handbook. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9781851096756.
  12. Pigafetta, Antonio (1524). Relazione del primo viaggio intorno al mondo.
  13. p. 12:
  14. Newton, Arthur Percival (1929) The Cambridge History of the British Empire p. 11
  15. Rosey Wang Ma. "Chinese Muslims in Malaysia, History and Development".
  16. The Mediterranean Connection By William Henry Scott (Published in "Philippine Studies" ran by Ateneo de Manila University Press)
  17. Barros, Joao de, Decada terciera de Asia de Ioano de Barros dos feitos que os Portugueses fezarao no descubrimiento dos mares e terras de Oriente [1628], Lisbon, 1777, courtesy of William Henry Scott, Barangay: Sixteenth-Century Philippine Culture and Society, Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1994, page 194.
  18. Turnbull, C. M. (1977). A History of Singapore: 1819–1975. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-580354-X.
  19. The Suma Oriental of Tomé Pires: An Account of the East, from the Red Sea to Japan, Volume 2
  20. Pinto, Fernão Mendes (1989) [1578]. The Travels of Mendes Pinto. Translated by Rebecca Catz. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  21. Ibidem, page 195.
  22. "Quest of the Dragon and Bird Clan; The Golden Age (Volume III)" -Lungshanoid (Glossary)- By Paul Kekai Manansala
  23. The Mediterranean Connection by William Henry Scott Page 138 (Published By: Ateneo de Manila University) Taken from "Translated in Teixera, The Portuguese Missions, p. 166."
    • 21. Ibidem, page 194.
  24. Pires, Tome, A suma oriental de Tome Pires e o livro de Francisco Rodriguez: Leitura e notas de Armando Cortesão [1512 – 1515], translated and edited by Armando Cortesão, Cambridge: Hakluyt Society, 1944.
  25. Bayao, Bras, Letter to the king dated Goa 1 November 1540, Archivo Nacional de Torre de Tombo: Corpo Cronologico, parte 1, maco 68, doc. 63, courtesy of William Henry Scott, Barangay: Sixteenth-Century Philippine Culture and Society, Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1994, page 194.
  26. Tom Harrisson, Brunei's Two (or More) Capitals, Brunei Museum Journal, Vol. 3, No. 4 (1976), p. 77 sq.
  27. Santiago, Luciano P.R. (1990). "The Houses of Lakandula, Matanda, and Soliman [1571–1898]: Genealogy and Group Identity". Philippine Quarterly of Culture and Society. 18 (1).
  28. 'El libro que trajo la nao Vitoria de las amistades que hitieron con 10s Reyes de Maluco" (Archivo General de Indias, Indiferente General 1528), text in Mauricio Obregon, La primera vuelta al Mundo (Bogota, 1984), p. 300.
  29. Damiao de Gois, Cronica do felicissimo rei de. Manuel (Lisboa, 1566), part 2, p. 113.
  30. Ordoñez, Minyong (2012-08-19). "Love and power among the 'conquistadors'". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved 2017-09-28.
  31. Besa, Emmanuel (22 September 2017). Tales of Intramuros. ISBN 9781365753626. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
  32. Wakan Sansai Zue, Paginas 202-216

Additional sources

  • Scott, William Henry (1994). Barangay: Sixteenth Century Philippine Culture and Society. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press. ISBN 971-550-135-4.
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