Rajah Matanda

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Rajah of the Kingdom of Maynila
Reign 1558–1571
Predecessor Rajah Sulaiman I
Successor Rajah Sulayman
Full name
House Kingdom of Maynila

Rajah Ache, better known by his title Rajah Matanda,[1] (1480–1572) was one of rulers of the Maynila, a pre-Hispanic Tagalog polity along the Pasig River in what is now Manila, Philippines.

Ache ruled Maynila, together with Rajah Sulayman, and they, along with their cousin Lakan Dula, who was ruler of Tondo, were three "paramount rulers"[2] with whom the Legaspi expedition dealt when they arrived in the area of Manila Bay in the early 1570s.[3][4][2]


"Rajah Matandâ" means "old ruler" in Tagalog,[1] and Joaquin points out that the Islamic origin of the term "Rajah" indicates that the noble houses of Maynila at the time was organized according to a Muslim social orientation,[1][5] even if Spanish records indicate that the common folk of Maynila practiced pag-aanito, a religious practice that historians would later call "Anitism".[6]

Spanish records refer to him as Rajah Ache el Viejo (King Ache the Old).[5] He is also sometimes referred to as Rajah Laya,[1] a name derived from Ladyang Matanda - an alternative pronunciation of his title.


Events in Raja Matanda's life are documented by two different sets of firsthand Spanish accounts.[3]

The better known set of accounts takes place in 1571-72, when the forces of Martin De Goiti, and later Miguel De Legaspi himself, arrived in Manila Bay. These are described in the numerous accounts of the Legazpi expedition, including those by the expedition's designated notary Hernando de Riquel, and by Legaspi himself.[2]

Less known are the accounts of the Magellan Expedition in 1521, by which time Magellan had already been killed and Sebastian Elcano had taken over command of the expedition. These accounts describe how Ache, then serving as commander of naval forces for the Sultan of Brunei, was captured by the men Sebastian Elcano. These events, and the details Ache's interrogation were recorded in accounts of Magellan and Elcano's men, including expedition members Rodrigo de Aganduru Moriz,[7] Gines de Mafra, and the expedition's scribe Antonio Pigafetta.[8]

Additional details about Raja Matanda are sometimes derived from genealogical accounts which mention him, but these focus on Ache’s genealogy, and so do not provide details about specific events.[2]

Early life, as recounted to the Elcano expedition[edit]

Among the Spanish accounts of Ache's capture, scholar W.H. Scott[2] notes that Aganduru Moriz records Ache's account most extensively, so details of Ache's early life are usually based on Aganduru Moriz' account.[2]

According to Ache's own account, Ache's father, whose name Aganduru Moriz' did not[7] mention, died when he was still very young, and his mother took his place as leader of the Maynila settlement.[7] In the meantime, Ache was raised alongside his cousin, who was ruler of Tondo[7] - presumed by some to be Bunao Lakandula.

During this time, the "young prince" Ache realized that his cousin, who was ruler of Tondo, was "slyly" taking advantage of Ache's mother, by taking over territory belonging to Maynila. When Ache asked his mother for permission to address the matter, his mother refused, encouraging him to keep his peace instead.[7]

Ache could not accept this and thus left Maynila with some of his father's trusted men, to go to his "grandfather", the Sultan of Brunei, to ask for assistance. The Sultan responded by giving Ache a position as commander of his naval force.[7] Pigaffetta noted that Ache was "much feared in these parts", but especially the non-muslin locals, who considered the Sultan of Brunei an enemy.[8]

Battle with the Expedition of Sebastian Elcano, 1521[edit]

Aganduru Moriz recounts that in 1521, Ache was in command of the Bruneian fleet when they chanced upon what remained of the Magellan expedition, under the command of Sebastian Elcano,[7] somewhere off the southeastern tip of Borneo.[3] Rizal notes that Ache had just won a naval victory at the time, and Rizal and Dery[3] both say Ache was on his way to marry a cousin - a ritual which Scott describes as the usual way that nobles at that time gained influence and power.[2] (Luciano PR Santiago notes that this practice helps explain the close interrelationships among the ruling houses in Manila, Brunei and Sulu.)[3]

Dery notes that Ache's decision to attack must have been influenced by a desire to bring Elcano's ship back to Manila bay,[3] for use as leverage against his cousin, the ruler of Tondo.[3]

Elcano, however, was able to defeat Ache.[7] As a result, Ache was captured and brought onboard Elcano's ship.[7] According to Scott,[2] Ache was eventually released after a ransom was paid.[2]

Arrival of De Goiti (1570) and Legazpi (1571) in Manila[edit]

When the Spanish explorer Martín de Goiti arrived in 1570, Rajah Matanda had already ceded his authority to his nephew and heir apparent, Rajah Sulaiman III.[3] He still retained considerable influence,[3] as did his cousin Lakan Dula who ruled the Kingdom of Tondo across the river.


In August 1572, Rajah Matanda fell ill and requested to be baptised into the Catholic Church.[9] In the same year, he succumbed to his illness.[2][9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Joaquin, Nick (1990). Manila, My Manila. Vera-Reyes, Inc. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Scott 1994, p. 284
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Dery 2001, p. 5
  4. ^ Joaquin, Nick (1990). Manila, My Manila: A History for the Young. City of Manila: Anvil Publishing, Inc. ISBN 978-971-569-313-4. 
  5. ^ a b Rodil 2008
  6. ^ Anonymous Relacion of 1572, translated in Vol. 3 of The Philippine Islands, 1493-1898 by Emma Helen Blair and James Alexander Robertson
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i de Aganduru Moriz, Rodrigo (1882). Historia general de las Islas Occidentales a la Asia adyacentes, llamadas Philipinas. Colección de Documentos inéditos para la historia de España, v.78-79. Madrid: Impr. de Miguel Ginesta. 
  8. ^ a b Pigafetta, Antonio (1524). Relazione del primo viaggio intorno al mondo. 
  9. ^ a b Molina 1960, p. 70


Regnal titles
Preceded by
Rajah Sulaiman I
Rajah of Maynila
Succeeded by
Rajah Sulaiman III