The Maharlika were the feudal warrior class in ancient Tagalog society in Luzon the Philippines translated in Spanish as Hidalgos, and meaning freeman, libres or freedman. They belonged to the lower nobility class similar to the Timawa of the Visayan people. In modern Filipino, however, the term has come to mean "royal nobility", which was actually restricted to the hereditary Maginoo class.
Maharlika comes from the Indian sanskrit word mahā. Indian honorifics influenced the Malay, Thai, Filipino and Indonesian honorifics. Examples of these include Raja, Rani, Maharlika, Datu, etc which were transmitted from Indian culture to Philippines via Malays and Srivijaya empire. Prior to the European colonialism, South East Asia were under the influence of Indosphere of greater India, where numerous Indianized principalities and empires flourhised for several centuries in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Cambodia and Vietnam. The influence of Indian culture into these areas was given the term indianization. This can be seen in the Indianization of Southeast Asia, spread of Hinduism and Buddhism. Pre-colonial native filipino script called Baybayin, known in Visayan as badlit, as kur-itan/kurditan Ilocano and as kudlitan in Kapampangan, was itself derived from the Brahmic scripts of India and first recorded in the 16th century. Laguna Copperplate Inscription, a legal document inscribed on a copper plate in 900 AD, is the earliest known written document found in the Philippines, is written n Indian Sanskrit and [[Brahmi script based Indonesian Kawi script.
In various Indo-Malayan languages (including the languages of the Muslim areas of the Philippines) the cognates mardika, merdeka, merdeheka, or maradika mean "freedom" (as opposed to servitude). The Merdicas (also spelled Mardicas or Mardikas), whose name comes from the same etymon, were also the Catholic natives of the islands of Ternate and Tidore of the Moluccas, converted during the Portuguese occupation of the islands by Jesuit missionaries. A number of Merdicas were resettled by the Spanish in the communities of Ternate and Tanza, Cavite, Manila in 1663.
The Maharlika were a martial class of Freemen. Like the Timawa, they were free vassals of their Datu who were exempt from taxes and tribute but were required to provide military service. In times of war, the Maharlika were obligated to provide and prepare weapons at their own expense and answer the summons of the Datu, wherever and whenever that might be, in exchange for a share in the war spoils (ganima). They accompanied their ruler in battles as comrades-at-arms and were always given a share. 1/5 of the spoils goes to the Ginoo and the 4/5 will be shared among the Maharlikans who participated, who in turn will subdivide their shares to their own warriors. The Maharlika may also occasionally be obligated to work on the lands of the Datu and assist in projects and other events in the community.
Unlike the Timawa, however, the Maharlika were more militarily-oriented than the Timawa nobility of the Visayas. While the Maharlika could change allegiances by marriage or by emigration like the Timawa, they were required to host a feast in honor of their current Datu and paid a sum ranging from six to eighteen pieces of gold before they could be freed from their obligations. In contrast, the Timawa were free to change allegiances at any time, as exemplified by the action of Rajah Humabon upon the arrival of Ferdinand Magellan.
Sources and critical historiography
The only contemporary account of the Maharlika class was by the Franciscan friar Juan de Plasencia in the 16th century. He distinguished them from the hereditary nobility class of the Tagalogs (the maginoo class, which included the datu). The historian William Henry Scott believes that the class originated from high-status warriors who married into the maginoo blood or were perhaps remnants of the nobility class of a conquered line. Similar high-status warriors in other Philippine societies like that of the Bagobo and the Bukidnon did not inherit their positions, but were acquired through martial prowess.
Usage as propaganda
Despite the misconception of its meaning, "Maharlika" as a proposed new name for the Philippines remains popular among Muslim Filipinos, the Lumad, and other Filipino ethnic groups who fought the Spanish colonization. They view the name "Philippines" as a colonialist reminder of the ruler of their previous colonial masters.
Usage in popular culture
- Conspiracy of the Maharlikas
- Filipino martial arts
- Eskrima in popular culture
- Bolo knife
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