Laguna Copperplate Inscription

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The Laguna Copperplate Inscription (900 A.D.) is inscribed with small writing hammered into its surface. It shows heavy Indian cultural influence (by way of Srivijaya) present in the Philippines prior to Spanish colonisation in the 16th century.

The Laguna Copperplate Inscription (Tagalog: Inskripsyon sa Binatbat na Tanso ng Laguna) is the earliest known written document found in the Philippines. The plate was found in 1989 by a sand labourer near the mouth of the Lumbang River in Barangay Wawa, Lumban, Laguna. The inscription on the plate was first deciphered by Dutch anthropologist Antoon Postma.[1][2]

The discovery of the plate is cited as evidence of cultural links between the Pre-colonial Tagalog people and the various contemporary Asian civilizations, most notably the Javanese Medang Kingdom, the Srivijaya Empire, and the Middle kingdoms of India.


The inscription is on a thin copper plate measuring less than 20 × 30 cm (8 × 12 inches) in size with words directly embossed onto the plate. It differs in manufacture from Javanese scrolls of the period, which had the words inscribed onto a heated, softened scroll of metal.[3]

Inscribed on it is the Saka era date of the year Siyaka 822, month of Waisaka, the fourth day of the waning moon, which corresponds to Monday, 21 April 900 CE in the Gregorian calendar.[4] The writing system used is the Kawi Script, while the language is a variety of Old Malay, and contains numerous loanwords from Sanskrit and a few non-Malay vocabulary elements whose origin may be Old Javanese. Some contend it is between Old Tagalog and Old Javanese.[5] The document states that it releases its bearers, the children of Namwaran, from a debt in gold amounting to 1 kati and 8 suwarnas (865 grams).[3][4]

Dutch anthropologist and Hanunó'o script expert Antoon Postma has concluded that the document also mentions the places of Tondo (Tundun); Paila (Pailah), now an enclave of Barangay San Lorenzo, Norzagaray; Binuangan (Binwangan), now part of Obando; and Pulilan (Puliran); and Mdaη (the Javanese Kingdom of Medang), Indonesia.[4] The exact locations of Pailah and Puliran are debatable as these could refer to the present-day town of Pila and the southeastern part of the lake previously known are Puliran, both close to where the plate was found.[6][7] The reference of Namwaran may also have the connotation for nawara, a Visayan term for revering the dead. In old Visayan customs, the name of dead persons were not spoken in conversation, out of respect. The word Binwangan in Waray means river mouth while 'Puliran' would mean to roll from hills to a flatland, a topographic condition present in the present town of Lumban.



The Laguna Copperplate Inscription was found in 1989 near the mouth of the Lumbang River near Laguna de Bay, by a man who was dredging sand to turn into concrete. Suspecting that the artifact might have some value, the man sold it to an antique dealer who, having found no buyers, eventually sold it to the National Museum of the Philippines, where it was assigned to Alfredo E. Evangelista, head of its Anthropology Department.[3][9]

A year later, Antoon Postma noted that the inscription was similar to the ancient Indonesian script of Kawi. Postma translated the script and found the document dated itself to the Saka year 822, an old Hindu calendar date which approximately corresponds to 900 A.D.[4] This meant that the document pre-dated the arrival of Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 and is from about the same time as the mention of Philippines in the official Chinese Sung History for the year 972.[10]


The Laguna Copperplate Inscription, among other recent finds such as the Golden Tara of Butuan and 14th century pottery and gold jewellery in Cebu, is highly important in revising the ancient Philippine history, which was until then considered by some Western historians to be culturally isolated from the rest of Asia, as no evident pre-Hispanic written records were found at the time. Noted Philippine historian William Henry Scott debunked these theories in 1968 with his Prehispanic Source materials for the Study of Philippine History which was subsequently published in 1984.[11]

The inscription is a document demonstrative of pre-Hispanic literacy and culture, and is considered to be a national treasure. It is currently deposited at the National Museum of the Philippines in Manila.

Cultural references[edit]

The transliteration of the inscription shows heavy Sanskrit, Old Javanese and Malay linguistic influences.[3] Among the observations made by Antonio Pigafetta in the 16th century Boxer Codex was that Old Malay had currency amongst pre-colonial Filipinos as a lingua franca.

The use of Hindu references in the Laguna Copperplate Inscription could also suggest that the author or authors of the inscription were adherents of Hinduism.[3] The Golden Tara statue, an ancient artefact discovered in Butuan, Agusan del Norte, dates from the same period and strongly suggests the presence of Hindu-Buddhist beliefs prior to the introduction (and subsequent dominance) of Roman Catholicism and Islam amongst Filipinos.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ (2010-05-07). "Laguna Copperplate Inscription". All Philippines. Retrieved on 2011-11-17.
  2. ^ Tiongson, Jaime F. (2010-08-08). "Laguna Copperplate Inscription: A New Interpretation Using Early Tagalog Dictionaries". Bayang Pinagpala. Retrieved on 2011-11-18.
  3. ^ a b c d e Morrow, Paul (2006-07-14). "Laguna Copperplate Inscription". Sarisari etc.
  4. ^ a b c d "The Laguna Copperplate Inscription. Accessed September 04, 2008.
  5. ^ Postma, Antoon. (1992). The Laguna Copper-Plate Inscription: Text and Commentary. Philippine Studies vol. 40, no. 2:183-203
  6. ^ Tiongson, Jaime F. (2006-11-11). "Puliran on Laguna Copperplate Inscription: Laguna de Bay or Pulilan, Bulacan?". Bayang Pinagpala. Retrieved on 2011-11-18.
  7. ^ Tiongson, Jaime F. (2006-11-29). "Pailah is Pila, Laguna". Bayang Pinagpala. Retrieved on 2011-11-18.
  8. ^ Ocampo, Ambeth (2012). Looking Back 6: Prehistoric Philippines. Mandaluyong City, Philippines: Anvil Publishing, Inc. pp. 51–56. ISBN 978-971-27-2767-2. 
  9. ^ "Expert on past dies; 82". Philippine Daily Inquirer. 2008-10-21. Retrieved 2008-11-17. 
  10. ^ William Henry Scott, Prehispanic Source Materials for the Study of Philippine History, pg.65. ISBN 971-10-0226-4.
  11. ^ William Henry Scott. Prehispanic Source materials for the Study of Philippine History. ISBN 971-10-0226-4. 

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