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Antoon Postma A Copper-plate-with-Inscription, similar to those found in Indonesia Java, etc., has been discovered in the Philippines, at Laguna de Bay, east of Manila, bearing the date of 900 A.D. The script-characters are the ones common to the 10th Century inscriptions of the Greater-Malayan area; the language, however, presents several unknown and puzzling aspects, never encountered before, although Old-Javanese, Old-Malay, and apparently Old-Tagalog words have been identified. Its authenticity is guaranteed by experts in Indeonesian Paleography. Certain words, of Old-Javanese origin, can be found in current use in Tagalog language. Placenames mention tally with identical ones in the Philippine georgary, namely: in the Province of Bulacan, where these names correspond to existing villages. Philippine official history has been enlarged, with the revelation of this copper ´documentµ with more than 600 years, beginning now with the year 900 A.D. Historic data of former Philippine prehistory have now to be re-examined in the light of the ´Laguna-Copper-plate Inscriptionµ. Antoon Postma·s Translation of a 900 AD Philippine Document Antoon Postma, a Dutch national who has lived among the Mangyans of Mindoro for most of his life, made the breakthrough translation of the Laguna Copperplate inscription in 1990. He has made three more since then, each one a little different from the previous translation. The one presented here is his latest, the one he presented at a conference in Amsterdam, The Netherlands in December 1992. He follows the traditional method used by Indonesian experts, i.e., translating text line by line. Line 1: Hail! In the Saka-year 822; the month of March-April; according to the astronomer: the 4th day of the dark half of the moon; on Line 2: Monday. At that time, Lady Angkatan together with her relative, Bukah by name, Line 3: The child of His Honor Namwran, was given, as a special favor, a document of full acquittal, by the Chief and the Commander of Tundun, Line 4: The former Leader of Pailah, Jayadewah. To the effect that His Honor Namwran, through the Honorable Scribe Line 5: Was totally cleared of a debt to the amount of 1 kati and 8 suwarna (weight of gold), in the presence of His Honor the Leader of Puliran, Line 6: Kasumaran; His Honor the Leader of Pailah, namely: Ganasakti; (and) His Honor the Leader Line 7: Of Binwangan, namely: Bisruta. And (His Honor Namwran) with his whole family, on orders by the Chief of Dewata, Line 8:
therefore all the descendants Line 9: Of His Honor Namwran have been cleared of the whole debt that His Honor owed the Chief of Dewata. rolled-up piece of metal was found by a man dredging for sand near the mouth of the Lumbang River where it emptied into Laguna de Ba·y.Representing the Chief of Mdang. but perhaps intimidated by the prospect of working on something they had no knowledge of. Those dealers have been frequenting the area because it was a rich source of artifacts that were in demand among the rich in Manila. Fortunately. the sand man decided to keep that peiece of metal and take another look. Old Tagalog. a Dutch national who has lived most of his life among the Mangyans in the Philippines and the director of the Mangyan Assistance & Research Center in Panaytayan. some time in the future. They were either too busy or not interested. he offered it to the National Museum of the Philippines. Upon unrolling. This (document) is (issued) in case Line 10: There is someone. Old Javanese. it turned out that there was some kind of writing on the crumpled and blackened metal plate. . It now threatens to upset our basic understanding of Philippine history. the ability and persistent effort of one man paid off in unlocking the secrets of the LCI. 2 No. The man could just have easily thrown it away as just another piece of junk that tended to clog his equipment as he tried to make a living. In desperation. It languished at the National Museum as supposedly qualified scholars padded up the chance to evaluate the artifact. Fortunately. 1 Discussion Copperplate A small. Mansalay. These artifacts provided another welcome source of income for people like this man who struggled to provide for his family. whosoever. innocent-looking object found in 1989 on the southeastern shore of Laguna de Ba·y was such a find. He finally sold it to one of the dealers for almost nothing for it was unlike anything every found before and nobody knew what it was. who will state that the debt is not yet acquitted of His Honor« Source: National Museum Papers (1991). Oriental Mindoro. Antoon Postma. The copper object is now called ´Laguna Copperplate Inscriptionµ (LCI). Vol. The object is a thin copperplate measuring less than 8x12 inches in size and is inscribed with small writing that had been hammered into its surface. His effort is all the more remarkable when you consider that the text was in a language similar to four languages (Sanskrit. The black. and Old Malay) mixed together. Because it was not a recognizable object the dealer could not find a private buyer for it. like those he found before and was able to sell for good money to the antique dealers from Manila. because of his loyalty as a subject (slave?) of the Chief. was able to translate the writing. It was not porcelain. normally the buyer of last resort for unsold objects.
This is not so much a reflection on the average Filipino·s interest in history as it is on the Philippine government·s failure to educate the public. a fitting way for History to get back at those who wanted to rewrite it. Indeed. The date is important because a country·s history is considered to begin with the first dated document recorded in it. 621 years earlier than the previously accepted date of 1521 when Antonio Pigafetta wrote his observations during his voyage with Magellan. mention the name of King Balintung (899-910 A. The text on Indonesian copperplates of the same era was mostly in Old Javanese andm as was customary at that time.D. the average Filipino still believes that the Code of Kalantiaw was real. it gives a very precise date from the Sanskrit calendar which corresponds to 900 A. Damage caused by frauds like this is immeasurable.. It contains placements that still exist around the Manila are today. and the correctness of the languages and words used would have been very hard for a forger to have contrived. This newly found document pushed the ´starting pointµ of the Philippine history all the way back to 900 A.The text was written in Kavi. Marco. It also lists the names of the chiefs of the places mentioned. They are the 14-15th century Butuan silver strip. the 10th century Butuan ivory seal. Like most other copperplate documents. artifacts of pre-Hispanic writing are so rare that only three had been previously found and made available to researchers. Unlike its Indonesian . and the 15th century Calatagan jar. He sought and got advice from Dutch and Indonesian experts on the LCI·s authenticity. The supposed text of the code was contained in the Pavón manuscript. one of the many fraudulent documents passed on to the Philippine National Museum over many decades by Jose E. Many of these fraudulent historical documents have unfortunately gotten into Philippine history textbooks which are still being used today. President Marcos was still inducting ´deservingµ justices into his Order of Kalantiaw in the 1970·s. As a matter of fact. It is the first artifact of pre-Hispanic origin found in the Philippines that had writing on copper material. More than a quarter century after the fraud was exposed in 1965. The experts concluded that the specific script style used I nthe LCI was consistent with its indicated date. Although there were some differences between the LCI and the copperplates found in Indonesia. and the Tagbanwas of Palawan.) Postma wasa cutely aware of what yet another phony document would do to the community of Philippine historuans. Important date Postma·s translation provides a lot of exciting surprises. Neither does it look similar to other Philippine scripts still used today by isolated ethnic minorities like the Hanuoos and the Buhids of Mindoro.).D. a mysterious script which does not look like the ancuent Tagalog script known as baybayin or alibata. a known philatelic forger. Authenticity The authenticity of the LCI was a prime concern to all from the very beginning. The writings on these three previous finds have eluded attempts to decipher them so far. in our system. The most famous of these frauds is the Code of Kalatiaw that every Filipino schoolboy knows. (This was. they were for legitimate reasons and their consensus was that the LCI was authentic.D. perhaps. Postma and the Philippine National Museum were aware of the many frauds that had been perpetrated on Philippine historians in the past.
D. an unpaid debt usually resulted in slavery not only for the person concerned but also for his family and his descendants. In the old Philippines. However. there are reportedly some other artifacts with undeciphered ancient inscriptions that have been found in the Butuan area. A look at the map would show that his choices are correct since they are more conveniently connected to each other by the usual river and coastal travel routes than if he had picked the Laguna area. Binwangan (Binwangan). Pila was then apart of the area known as Pulilan. The amount of debt was 1 kate and 8 suwarnas of gold (865 g. indicating that there was at least one more page to the document. the language of the LCI was not Old Javanese.cousins. They could have been personal names but more likely ´Dewataµ was Diwata. The Philippine copperplate. The last sentence on the copperplate in incomplete. none has been found so far. Indonesian copperplates were prepared by heating them until they became soft. Both these places must have been connected politically to Tundun and the other settlements in 900 A. and all their descendants of a debt he had incurred. and ´Medang. Shamefully. . or about $12. Puliran (Pulilan). The text of the LCI convinced him of its Philippine provenance. The letters show closely joined and overlapping dots from the hammering. he thought it may originally have come from Indonesia but made to appear like it was found to the Philippines so that it could be sold as a valuable antique. Then a stylus was used to impress the letters on the soft metal. the biggest difference was in the way the copperplate was inscribed. Placenames mentioned in the LCI The placenames mentioned prove the Philippine connecion of the LCI. he opted to take Pulilan and Paila both along the Angat River in Bulacan as better candidates because the document clearly referred to two separate places. However.000 at today·s prices). The placenames are Pailah (Paila). a town near Butuan. The names are still recognizable today although almost eleven centuries have passed since the document was issued. on the other hand. and Medang (Medang). Dewata (Diwata). an unusually large amount. Since the LCI was found in Laguna de Ba·y. was inscribed by hammering the letters onto the metal using a sharp instrument. Laguna and Pulilan was the southeastern area of the lake because that was what the place was called in the old days. The first four places are near Manila but Dewata and Medang pose a problem. Unfortunately.µ Medang in Old Java or Sumatra. That the LCI did not mention the king·s name was another clue that the LCI did not come from Indonesia. like many other artifacts they are in private hands and unavailable to scholars. not one inside a larger jurisdiction. Tundun (Tundo). Diwata is important because in addition to the silver strip mentioned earlier. Philippine connection It was left for Postma to establish the LCI·s Philippine connection. Postma first thought that Pailah was Pila. When he first saw the LCI. who was of higher rank than the other chiefs who witnessed the document and whose names and respective areas of jurisdiction are listed. The LCI was an official document issued document issued to clear a person by the name of Namwaran. creating smooth and continuous strokes. this family. The pardon was issued by the chief of Tundun.
Another possible connection to this Bulacan riverine area is the village of Gatbuca that exists today. a search for other means of dating Manila·s first settlements is needed.g. But how did the placenames remain? If a few people remained to maintain a continuity of their settlements and placenames. son of Namwran. Hostorians believe that the Muslims who ruled Manila were the first to establish more sophisticated forms of government in the area. is mentioned in the document. made them disappear.. etc. which was thought to have been Polilio (but didn·t make sense). as we have discussed earlier. Madjapahit (Java). It now appears that an earlier date was more likely. Significance Just how significant is this incomplete document that ends in midsentence and contains only ten lines? It means. epidemics. . Bukah. other questions will be asked again. Ancient Chinese records with placenames like P·u-li-lu. but things like natural catastrophes. even for centuries. will have to be reevaluated. Angkor (Kampuchea). answered. we will know more about the Philippines as it was before the Spaniards came. Many more questions will be asked. the Manila area used a scipt so rich and sophisticated that great empires were ruled through its use. A search for artifacts in the places mentioned in the LCI might also prove fruitful. Little by little. The disappearance of the earlier people who settled around Manila may explain why the Kavi script was lost and a lesser one introduced later. From porcelain finds. They also believe that the Muslims started the trade with Borneo and other points south. Gatdula. The Tagalog script was so rudimentary that it cannot even completely record the sounds of its own language. etc. that the edge of history has been pushed back 621 years. giving the Philippines a documented existence among the ancient kingdoms of Southeast Asia like Shri-Vijaya (Sumatra). It is now time to reexamine the possible connection. Gat was a title used for important persons and has found its way into many contemporary family names (e. Three centuries before the Tagalog script·s emergence. and others that existed before the 10th Century. everything is conjecture. How did this happen? Hw could a less sophisticated script have supplanted a better one? Many interesting scenarios can be created to explain some of the above puzzles. thankst o a little piece of metal dredged from the sand. It is possible that the town was named for Bukah when he rose in position later. Placenames mentioned in the LCI will have to be given more importance when evaluating ancient records that contain similar sounding names. how did they lose their knowledge of the Malay language and the Kavi script? At this time. war. Earlier historians thought that the Philippines was part of Shri-Vijaya or even Madjapahit. Certainly. emigration. It is also known that Muslim culture pushed Hindu influence in Indonesia out of most areas. Champa (Vietnam).). Their theories have been largely discredited in recent times. Gatbonton. and refuted. Manila was thought to have been settled as late as 1200. Gatmaitan. During the era of the LCI it was not uncommon for settlements to disappear. They flourished for some time. Any of these things could have caused the early settlements around Manila to disappear. pirate raids. It is possible that the Hindus were in Manila before the Muslims. leaving Bali as the only place where Hindu culture has survived.
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