Little Bits of History

April 21

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 21, 2017

900:  Lady Angkatan is forgiven all debts by Commander in Chief of Tundun. In 1989 a man was at the mouth of the Lumbang River in Barnagay Wawa, Lumban, Laguna, the Philippines. Laguna province is located on Luzon, the largest and most populous island of the archipelago. While dredging for sand to turn into concrete, the worker found a small copper plate. It measure about 8 x 12 inches and had words directly embossed onto it which was different from Javanese scrolls of the period where markings were inscribed onto a heated and softened scroll of metal. The laborer sold it to an antique dealer who held if for some time without finding a private buyer. Eventually the National Museum of the Philippines purchased it and Alfredo E Evangelista, head of the Anthropology Department was in charge of it.

It was a year later when Antoon Postma was examining it and noted the inscription was similar to Kawi, an ancient Indonesian script. He was able to translate the writing on what is known as the Laguna Copperplate Inscription. It was self dated to the Saka year 822 during the month of Waisakha on the fourth day of the waning moon, or as we know it, April 21, 900. This predates, by centuries, the first visit of Europeans when Ferdinand Magellan arrived in 1521. It does correspond with the official Chinese Song dynasty History of Song where the Philippines are mentioned in the year 972.

The debt is cleared for Lady Angkatan and her relative named Bukah and they and all their descendants were cleared from repaying the debt of 1 Kati and 8 Suwarna. The debt was gold weighing 865 grams or 30.5 ounces or about $36,600 today. The writing on the copperplate is Kawi Script but the language is a variety of Old Malay. There are many words from Sanskrit and some words are possibly from Old Javanese. Some historians feel the language is between Old Tagalog and Old Javanese. The places mentioned in the message are in some instances known to us today and some are only surmised. It is also possible the term “Namwaran” is an elder who had died, as names of the dead were not uttered because it was considered disrespectful.

This find, along with some other recently found artifacts including the Golden Tara of Butuan, 14th century pottery, and gold jewelry in Cebu have led historians to create a different pre-European history for the islands. It was once thought the Philippines were isolated from the rest of Asia, but recent discoveries are changing our knowledge of what happened prior to Magellan’s “discovery” of rich cultured peoples living within a community of interwoven Asiatic diversity. Today, the Laguna Copperplate Inscription is considered a national treasure and remains housed in the National Museum of the Philippines in Manila.

First our pleasures die – and then our hopes, and then our fears – and when these are dead, the debt is due dust claims dust – and we die too. – Percy Bysshe Shelley

Debt is one person’s liability, but another person’s asset. – Paul Krugman

You can’t be in debt and win. It doesn’t work. – Dave Ramsey

Rather go to bed without dinner than to rise in debt. – Benjamin Franklin

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One Response

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  1. Sarah Angleton said, on April 21, 2017 at 9:21 am

    I love reading about these kinds of surprises that change our previous assumptions about history. It reminds me that historians are telling a story. Presumably it’s the most logical story they can piece together, but there’s always more to discover.


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