16 October 2011

The Laguna Copperplate Inscription

The Laguna Copperplate inscription (also shortened to LCI) is the earliest known written document found in the Philippines. The plate was found in 1989 by Alfredo E. Evangelista. in Laguna de Bay, in the metroplex of Manila, Philippines, the LCI has inscribed on it a date of Saka era 822, corresponding to April 21, 900 AD. It was written in the Kawi Script in a variety of Old Malay containing numerous loanwords from Sanskrit and a few non-Malay vocabulary elements whose origin is ambiguous between Old Javanese and Old Tagalog. The document releases its bearer, Namwaran, from a debt in gold amounting to 1 kati and 8 suwarnas (865 grams). The document mentions the places of Tondo, Pila and Pulilan in the area around Manila Bay and Mdan (or rather, the Javanese Kingdom of Medang), Indonesia. The discovery of the Inscription has highlighted the evidence found of cultural links present between the Tagalog-speaking people of this time and the various contemporary civilizations in Asia, most notably the Javanese Medang Kingdom, the Srivijaya empire, and the Middle kingdoms of India, a topic in Philippine history of which not much is presently known.
Source: Wikipedia

The LCI, however, leaves us with more questions than answers. The Saka-year given in the LCI correspond to the reign of King Balitung who ruled East and Central Java as well as Bali around 899-511 A.D. Is the LCI Javanese? Was it a souvenir picked up by a Filipino tourist in Java and brought back to Laguna? Are the words Tundun, Puliran, Pailah, Dewata or Mdang misspelled place names? Could these be Tondo, Pulilan or Pila? While the names on the LCI sound Javanese, the title pamgat used repeatedly is Philippine and could be the 16th century pamagat or title of an exalted person shortened to magat and later gat , hence the surname Gatbonton or honorifics like Gat Jose Rizal or Gat Andres Bonifacio.
Our first recorded writing is not a poem or a novel or a piece of literature. The first writing in the Philippines is a receipt!
Source: Inquirer

That we haven't really devoted time to this Philippine ancient relic is beyond me. I asked my kids about it and they don't know. Something like this definitely will rewrite Philippine history. Ok. So let's see:

1. The Ancient Philippine artifact is from 900AD. That's 600 odd years before Magellan arrived in the Philippines.
2. The calendar is based on the Sanskrit calendar. So it's pretty precise
3. The areas mentioned in this Philippine historical document can be attributed to present day places.
4. The historical artifact is determined to be authentic to be of Philippine origin by a consensus of experts.

This means:
1. We were already reading and writing long before the Spanish came
2. Names of places in Manila can be dated back hundreds of years ago hence the lack of etymology for some of the places
3. The Philippines in ancient times was in contact with civilizations in the main Asian continent.
4. That the Philippine historical artifact is a receipt, that we have a trade and economic system in place.

What does the inscription says? English translation as well as the native transliteration:

English translation

Long Live! Year of Syaka 822, month of Vaisakha, according to Jyotisha (Hindu astronomy). The fourth day of the waning moon, Monday. On this occasion, Lady Angkatan, and her brother whose name is Bukah, the children of the Honourable Namwaran, were awarded a document of complete pardon from the Commander in Chief of Tundun, represented by the Lord Minister of Pailah, Jayadewa.
By this order, through the scribe, the Honourable Namwaran has been forgiven of all and is released from his debts and arrears of 1 Katî and 8 Suwarna before the Honourable Lord Minister of Puliran Kasumuran by the authority of the Lord Minister of Pailah.
Because of his faithful service as a subject of the Chief, the Honourable and widely renowned Lord Minister of Binwangan recognized all the living relatives of Namwaran who were claimed by the Chief of Dewata, represented by the Chief of Medang.
Yes, therefore the living descendants of the Honourable Namwaran are forgiven, indeed, of any and all debts of the Honourable Namwaran to the Chief of Dewata.
This, in any case, shall declare to whomever henceforth that on some future day should there be a man who claims that no release from the debt of the Honourable...
Source: Wikipedia

The tansliteration of the Laguna Copperplate Inscription:

Swasti. Ṣaka warṣatita 822 Waisakha masa di(ng) Jyotiṣa. Caturthi Kriṣnapaksa Somawāra sana tatkala Dayang Angkatan lawan dengan nya sānak barngaran si Bukah anak da dang Hwan Namwaran di bari waradāna wi shuddhapattra ulih sang pamegat senāpati di Tundun barja(di) dang Hwan Nāyaka tuhan Pailah Jayadewa.
Di krama dang Hwan Namwaran dengan dang kayastha shuddha nu di parlappas hutang da walenda Kati 1 Suwarna 8 di hadapan dang Huwan Nayaka tuhan Puliran Kasumuran.
dang Hwan Nayaka tuhan Pailah barjadi ganashakti. Dang Hwan Nayaka tuhan Binwangan barjadi bishruta tathapi sadana sanak kapawaris ulih sang pamegat dewata [ba]rjadi sang pamegat Medang dari bhaktinda diparhulun sang pamegat. Ya makanya sadanya anak cucu dang Hwan Namwaran shuddha ya kapawaris dihutang da dang Hwan Namwaran di sang pamegat Dewata.
Ini gerang syat syapanta ha pashkat ding ari kamudyan ada gerang urang barujara welung lappas hutang da dang Hwa
Source: Wikipedia