In early Philippine history, the rank of Lakan denoted a "paramount ruler" (or more specifically, "paramount datu") of one of the large coastal barangays (known as a "bayan") on the central and southern regions of the island of Luzon.
Writers such as William Henry Scott have suggested that this rank is equivalent to that of Rajah, and that different ethnic groups either used one term or the other, or used the two words interchangeably. But other writers such as Nick Joaquin have suggested that the usage of the term "Rajah" specifically indicates leadership of a bayan or barangay which has extensive trade relations with Muslim traders.
Equivalent terms for this rank include the term "Sultan" among the most developed and complex Islamized principalities of Mindanao, and the term "Datu" as used by various polities in the Visayas and in some areas of Mindanao.
Orthography and similar terms
The title Lakan can be spelled separately from a person's name (e.g. "Lakan Dula"), or can be incorporated into a singly spelled word (e.g. "Lakandula").
Rajah and Lakan. It is sometimes argued that since the words Rajah and Lakan mean more or less the same thing, the two should not be used together. Thus, popular reference to Rajah Lakan Dula are said to be the result of mistaking Lakan Dula to be the full proper name of the historic king.
Users of the title Lakan that figure in 16th and 17th century Spanish colonial accounts of Philippine history include:
- Lakandula, later renamed and baptized as Don Carlos Lacandola, the king of Tondo, when the Spanish colonization of the Philippines in Luzon had begun.
- Lakan Tagkan, ruler of the Kingdom of Namayan.
- Lambusan (Lakan Busan), a king in Mandaue in the pre-colonial era.
- Lakan Usman, the king of bangsa Usman.
Etymological connections to Malacañan Palace
The name of Malacañan Palace, the official residence of the President of the Republic of the Philippines, is traditionally attributed to the phrase may lakan diyan, or "where the king [or head] resided".
In present-day culture, the term is still occasionally used to mean "nobleman", but has mostly been adapted to other uses.
In Filipino Martial Arts, Lakan denotes an equivalent to the black belt rank. Also, beauty contests in the Philippines have taken to referring to the winner as "Lakambini", the female equivalent of Lakan. In such cases, the contestant's assigned escort can be referred to as a Lakan. More often, a male pageant winner is named a Lakan.
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- Jocano, F. Landa (2001). Filipino Prehistory: Rediscovering Precolonial Heritage. Quezon City: Punlad Research House, Inc. ISBN 971-622-006-5.
- Scott, William Henry, Barangay: Sixteenth-Century Philippine Culture and Society, Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1994.
- Laput, Ernesto J. (2004-08-16). "PINAS: Buhay Sa Nayon". Mga Kasaysayan Ng PINAS: A Web of Philippine Histories. Archived from the original on 2004-06-29. Retrieved 2017-06-29.(in Tagalog)
- Joaquin, Nick (1990). Manila, My Manila: A History for the Young. City of Manila: Anvil Publishing, Inc. ISBN 978-971-569-313-4.
- Junker, Laura Lee (1998). "Integrating History and Archaeology in the Study of Contact Period Philippine Chiefdoms". International Journal of Historical Archaeology. 2 (4).
- Ocampo, Ambeth (1995). "Inside Malacañang". Bonifacio's Bolo. Pasig City: Anvil Publishing Inc. p. 122. ISBN 971-27-0418-1.