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]

Pre-colonial history of the Philippines
Barangay state
Social classes
Ruling class (Maginoo, Ginu, Tumao): Apo, Datu, Bagani, Lakan, Panglima, Rajah, Sultan, Thimuay
Middle class: Timawa, Maharlika
Commoners, serfs and slaves (Alipin): Aliping namamahay, Alipin sa gigilid, Bulisik, Bulislis, Horohan, Uripon
States in Luzon
Rajahnate of Maynila
States in the Visayas
Kedatuan of Madja-as
Kedatuan of Dapitan
Rajahnate of Cebu
States in Mindanao
Rajahnate of Butuan
Rajahnate of Sanmalan
Sultanate of Maguindanao
Sultanates of Lanao
Sultanate of Sulu
Key figures
List of recorded datu in the Philippines
Religion in pre-colonial Philippines
History of the Philippines
Portal: Philippines

Nonetheless, whether the work is purely fictional has been debated.


The Maragtas is an original work 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, to the island of Panay. The datus bartered with a local Ati chieftain Marikudo for the plains and valleys of the island, offering gold in return. One datu, Paiburong, was given the territory of Irong-Irong, which is now the province of Iloilo in the Philippines; 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]

Use by historians

Philippine historians made little use of the Maragtas before the Japanese occupation, with references such as that by Josué Soncuya in his 1917 Historia Pre-Hispanica de Filipinas having been restricted to the Spanish-speaking elite.[6] 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.[7] 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."[8] 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 Scott.[9] Scott concludes that the Maragtas was an original work by Pedro Alcantara Monteclaro.[10]

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.[11]

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.[12] 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.[13] 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".[14] 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.[15][16]

Early Spanish explorer Miguel de Loarca wrote in his report titled Relacion de las Yslas Filipinas in June 1582, writing in Arevalo (Panay):

... 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.[17]

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 were existing, including those used in the Visayas.[18] 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]

Scott himself had no doubt regarding the historicity of an event that led to the transmission of an oral tradition that came to be known as the "Maragtas". He said in the revised version of his doctoral dissertation, published in 1984:

There is no reason to doubt that this legend preserves the memory of an actual event, but it is not possible to date the event itself or to decide which of its details are historic facts and which are the embellishment of generation of oral transmission. [22]

Anthropologist Patricia P. Magos asserts,

...the identity of the Panay-Bukidnon culture can be reconstructed through these epics which serve as their link to the ancient past".[23]

The text contains native language names of old settlements in Panay which were later hispanized and lists of stream and river deltas where the Malay settlers established coastal villages and cultivated with seeds of plants brought with them from the southern islands.[24]

This oral legend of ancient Hiligaynons rebelling against Rajah Makatunao as written in the Maragtas have corroboration in Chinese records during the Song Dyanasty when Chinese scholars recorded that the ruler during a February 1082 AD diplomatic meeting, was Seri Maharaja, and his descendant was Rajah Makatunaw and was together with Sang Aji (grandfather to Sultan Muhammad Shah).[25] Madja-as could have an even earlier history since Robert Nicholl stated that a Bruneian (Vijayapuran) and Madjas (Mayd) alliance had existed against China as early as the 800s. Historian Robert Nicholl implied that the Srivijayans of Sumatra, Vijayans of Vijayapura at Brunei and the Visayans in the Philippines were all related and connected to each other since they form one contiguous area.[26]

The notion that the Maragtas is an original work of fiction by Monteclaro is disputed by a 2019 Thesis, named "Mga Maragtas ng Panay: Comparative Analysis of Documents about the Bornean Settlement Tradition" by Talaguit Christian Jeo N. of De La Salle University[27] who stated that, "Contrary to popular belief, the Monteclaro Maragtas is not a primary source of the legend but is rather more accurately a secondary source at best" as the story of the Maragtas also appeared in the Augustinian Friar, Rev. Fr. Tomas Santaren’s Bisayan Accounts of Early Bornean Settlements (originally a part of the appendice in the book, Igorrotes: estudio geográfico y etnográfico sobre algunos distritos del norte de Luzon Igorots: a geographic and ethnographic study of certain districts of northern Luzon by Fr. Angel Perez)[28] Additionally, the characters and places mentioned in the Maragtas book, like Rajah Makatunaw and Madj-as can be found in Ming Dynasty Annals and Arabic Manuscripts. However, the written dates go earlier since Rajah Makatunaw was recorded to have been from 1082 AD as he was a descendant of Seri Maharaja in Chinese texts, while the Maragtas book placed him at the 1200s.[26][25] As an elaboration, the scholar, J. Carrol in his article: "The Word Bisaya in the Philippines and Borneo" (1960) thinks there might be indirect evidence in the possible affinity between the Visayans and Melanaos as he speculates that Makatunao is similar with the ancient leader of the Melanao called "Tugao".[29]

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 later extracted 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 music and theater, Rolando Tinio, Jose Lardizabal, and National Artist for Music Lucrecia Kasilag produced Dulawaran: Ang Gintong Salakot in 1969 for the inauguration of the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

In dance, Ballet Philippines produced Kapinangan choreography and Libretto by Eddie Elejar, and music by Lucrecia Kasilag 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.

See also


  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. Scott 1984, p. 101.
  7. Scott 1984, pp. 101, 296, referring to Beyer & de Veyra 1947.
  8. Scott 1984, p. 151, quoting Beyer 1949, p. 296.
  9. Scott 1984, pp. 101–103.
  10. Scott 1984, p. 103.
  11. 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.
  12. Cf. F. Landa Jocano, Filipino Prehistory: Rediscovering Precolonial Heritage, Manila: 2000, pp. 68-69.
  13. Cf. F. Landa Jocano, Filipino Prehistory: Rediscovering Precolonial Heritage, Manila: 2000, p. 69.
  14. Cf. F. Landa Jocano, Filipino Prehistory: Rediscovering Precolonial Heritage, Manila: 2000, p. 69.
  15. H.O Beyer, Outline Review of Philippine Archaeology by Islands and Provinces in Philippine Journal of Sciences, 77.3-4: p. 296.
  16. Cf. F. Landa Jocano, Filipino Prehistory: Rediscovering Precolonial Heritage, Manila: 2000, p. 69.
  17. BLAIR, Emma Helen & ROBERTSON, James Alexander, eds. (1903). The Philippine Islands, 1493–1803, Volume 05 of 55 (1582–1583), p. 121.
  18. Isabelo de los Reyes y Florentino, Las Islas Visayas en la Época de la Conquista (Segunda edición), Manila: 1889, Tipo-Litografía de Chofké y C.a, pp. 82-83.
  19. Archives, University of Santo Tomas, archived from the original on May 24, 2013, 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. William Henry Scott, Prehispanic Source Materials for the Study of Philippine History, Quezon City: 1984 (2nd Edition), p. 103.
  23. 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.
  24. Pedro Alcantara Monteclaro, Maragtas. Janiuay: 1854 (translated in English by Esther Abiera, et al., and currently in the Library of the University of Michigan).
  25. The Pre-Islamic Kings of Brunei By Rozan Yunos taken from the Magazine "Pusaka" published on year 2009.
  26. Brunei Rediscovered: A Survey of Early Times By Robert Nicholl Page 37 (Sub-citation taken from Ferrand, Relations p. 333)
  27. Mga Maragtas ng Panay: Comparative Analysis of Documents about the Bornean Settlement Tradition By Talaguit Christian Jeo N.
  28. Tomas Santaren, Bisayan Accounts of Early Bornean Settlements in the Philippines, trans by Enriqueta Fox, (Chicago: University of Chicago, Philippine Studies Program, 1954), ii.


  • Scott, William Henry (1984), Prehispanic Source Materials for the study of Philippine History, New Day Publishers, ISBN 971-10-0226-4.

Further reading

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