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The Luções were a people from the island of Luzon in the Philippines.

Luções (Portuguese pronunciation: [luˈsõjʃ], Spanish: Luzones) is the name that the Portuguese explorers in Southeast Asia used to refer to one of the ethnic groups that occupied the island of Luzon (Portuguese: Lução) around the time of the early 16th century.[1][2][3][3]

The Luções are written in the documents of Fernão Mendes Pinto (1614); Tomé Pires (whose written documents were published in 1944); and Antonio Pigafetta, the Italian scholar who chronicled the journey of Ferdinand Magellan and published it in 1524.

Portuguese contact[edit]

Pires noted that they (The Luções or people from Luzon) were "mostly heathen" and were not much esteemed in Malacca at the time he was there, although he also noted that they were strong, industrious, given to useful pursuits. Pires' exploration led him to discover that in their own country, the Luções had "foodstuffs, wax, honey, inferior grade gold," had no king, and were governed instead by a group of elders. They traded with tribes from Borneo and Indonesia and Philippine historians note that the language of the Luções was one of the 80 different languages spoken in Malacca[4] When Magellan's ship arrived in the Philippines, Pigafetta noted that there were Luções there collecting sandalwood. [5]

The Luções' activities weren't limited to trade however. They also had a reputation for being fierce warriors.

When the Portuguese arrived in Southeast Asia in 1500 AD, they witnessed the Lucoes or the Lusung's active involvement in the political and economic affairs of those who sought to take control of the economically strategic highway of the Strait of Malacca. For instance, the former sultan of Malacca decided to retake his city from the Portuguese with a fleet of ships from Lusung in 1525 AD.[6]

Pinto noted that there were a number of them in the Islamic fleets that went to battle with the Portuguese in the Philippines during the 16th century. The Sultan of Aceh gave one of them (Sapetu Diraja) the task of holding Aru (northeast Sumatra) in 1540. Pinto also says one was named leader of the Malays remaining in the Moluccas Islands after the Portuguese conquest in 1511.[7] Pigafetta notes that one of them was in command of the Brunei fleet in 1521.[5]

However, the Luções did not only fight on the side of the Muslims. Pinto says they were also apparently among the natives of the Philippines who fought the Muslims in 1538.[7]

On Mainland Southeast Asia, Lusung/Lucoes warriors aided the Burmese king in his invasion of Siam in 1547 AD. At the same time, Lusung warriors fought alongside the Siamese king and faced the same elephant army of the Burmese king in the defence of the Siamese capital at Ayuthaya.[8]

Scholars have thus suggested that they could be mercenaries valued by all sides.[3]

The Luções were not only warriors but they were also pioneer seafarers and it is recorded that the Portuguese were not only witnesses but also direct beneficiaries of Lusung's involvement. Many Luções, as the Portuguese called the people of Lusung, chose Malacca as their base of operations because of its strategic importance. When the Portuguese finally took the Malacca in 1512 AD, the resident Luções held important government posts in the former sultanate. They were also large-scale exporters and ship owners that regularly sent junks to China, Brunei, Sumatra, Siam and Sunda. One Lusung official by the name of Surya Diraja annually sent 175 tons of pepper to China and had to pay the Portuguese 9000 cruzados in gold to retain his plantation. His ships became part of the first Portuguese fleet that paid an official visit to the Chinese empire in 1517 AD.[9]

The Portuguese were soon relying on the Lusung bureaucrats for the administration of Malacca and on Lusung warriors, ships and pilots for their military and commercial ventures in East Asia.

It was through the Luções who regularly sent ships to China that the Portuguese discovered the ports of Canton in 1514 AD. And it was on Lusung ships that the Portuguese were able to send their first diplomatic mission to China 1517 AD. The Portuguese had the Luções to thank for when they finally established their base at Macao in the mid-1500s.[10]

The Luções were also instrumental in guiding Portuguese ships to discover Japan. The Western world first heard of Japan through the Portuguese. But it was through the Luções (as the Portuguese called the people of Lusung) that the Portuguese had their first encounter with the Japanese. The Portuguese king commissioned his subjects to get good pilots that could guide them beyond the seas of China and Malacca. In 1540 AD, the Portuguese king's factor in Brunei, Brás Baião, recommended to his king the employment of Lusung pilots because of their reputation as "discoverers."[11] Thus it was through Lusung navigators that Portuguese ships found their way to Japan in 1543 AD. In 1547 AD, Jesuit missionary and Catholic saint Francis Xavier encountered his first Japanese convert from Satsuma disembarking from a Lusung ship in Malacca.

According to Anthony Reid notes that "the Luções people disappeared from descriptions of the archipelago after the Spanish conquest of Manila in 1571." The island of Luzon still bears their name.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Pires, Tomé (1944). Armando Cortesao (translator), ed. A suma oriental de Tomé Pires e o livro de Francisco Rodriguez: Leitura e notas de Armando Cortesão [1512 - 1515] (in Portuguese). Cambridge: Hakluyt Society. 
  2. ^ Lach, Donald Frederick (1994). "Chapter 8: The Philippine Islands". Asia in the Making of Europe. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-46732-5. 
  3. ^ a b c d Reid, Anthony (1995). "Continuity and Change in the Austronesian Transition to Islam and Christianity". In Peter Bellwood; James J. Fox; Darrell Tryon. The Austronesians: Historical and comparative perspectives. Canberra: Department of Anthropology, The Australian National University. 
  4. ^ Chinese Muslims in Malaysia, History and Development by Rosey Wang Ma
  5. ^ a b Pigafetta, Antonio (1969) [1524]. "First voyage round the world". Translated by J.A. Robertson. Manila: Filipiniana Book Guild. 
  6. ^ Barros, Joao de, Decada terciera de Asia de Ioano de Barros dos feitos que os Portugueses fezarao no descubrimiento dos mares e terras de Oriente [1628], Lisbon, 1777, courtesy of William Henry Scott, Barangay: Sixteenth-Century Philippine Culture and Society, Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1994, page 194.
  7. ^ a b Pinto, Fernao Mendes (1989) [1578]. "The travels of Mendes Pinto.". Translated by Rebecca Catz. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 
  8. ^ Ibidem, page 195.
  9. ^ *21. Ibidem, page 194.
  10. ^ Pires, Tome, A suma oriental de Tome Pires e o livro de FranciscoRodriguez: Leitura e notas de Armando Cortesao [1512 - 1515], translated and edited by Armando Cortesao, Cambridge: Hakluyt Society, 1944.
  11. ^ Bayao, Bras, Letter to the king dated Goa 1 November 1540, Archivo Nacional de Torre de Tombo: Corpo Cronologico, parte 1, maco 68, doc. 63, courtesy of William Henry Scott, Barangay: Sixteenth-Century Philippine Culture and Society, Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1994, page 194.

Additional sources[edit]