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The Kingdom of Maharlika Hoax

Mamerto Adan is a feature writer back in college for a school paper. Science is one of his many interests, and his favorite topic.

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I once said in my last article that having access to modern technology never made things factual. In fact, it helped contribute to the spread of misinformation inside, or outside the web. And I said it once, and I will say it again so people in the net will learn. Always fact check. Absorb the truthful and reject the lies. Be cautious on what you find in the net, and make sure that it came from a reliable website. Because by believing in online hoax, modern technology just lost its purpose, which is to elevate the status of mankind.

With that said, hoaxes were already there before the rise of the internet. The web just made it easier to fool people. A good example even deserved a court hearing, and it fed on the Filipino’s desire to reclaim some lost identity.

Being under the rule of colonial powers for centuries, it’s understandable that Filipinos longed to learn more on what was like before the arrival of the Spanish. It will give a new meaning and dimension on being a Filipino with some of the lost culture being rediscovered. Are we better off before the period of the colonization? The answer to such question is still up for more research, but a bold claim once surface that we are once a prosperous kingdom ruled by a precolonial royal family.

The Maharlika Kingdom

Luzon, as seen from space.

Luzon, as seen from space.

Allegedly before the arrival of the Spain, the Philippines was a booming kingdom back then. In fact, it existed in a different name, as Philippines was the name adopted after the colonization. It was the Kingdom of Maharlika.

To begin with, the information about the so-called lost kingdom is quite scarce in the net. Yes, as I search for any mentions, or information about Maharlika, the web got little to offer. And my friends warned me that some websites that provided “glimpses” of the lost kingdom were probably run by propagandists. Nevertheless, after some work, I managed to put together a brief description of the so-called pre-colonial power.

Maharlika is an ancient kingdom comprising of the Philippines, Borneo, Guam, Spratley Islands and Hawaii. And from the number of islands under its rule, it could be a small level empire. With a considerable territory, Vietnam, Hong Kong, and the Kuril Islands were said to be paying tributes to the said kingdom. The ruler was known by the name King Luisong, who governed from the Island of Luzon (named after him).

But the lore of the so-called lost kingdom was forever linked to a man named Tallano.

The Tallano Claim

Julian Tallano, an alleged member of the Philippine royal family.

Julian Tallano, an alleged member of the Philippine royal family.

It all started when a man named Julian Morden Tagean Tallanio claimed to be the descendants of a line of royalty who once ruled the precolonial Maharlika Kingdom. Famous historical figures like Lapu-Lapu, Humabon, Soliman was said to be members of the dynasty. He also presented a number of outrageous claims like a Tallano was married to Queen Victoria, Rizal was a British royalty and that the Tallanos always owned the Philippines as they bought it back from Spain at the 1898 treaty of Paris. The Vatican was said to be indebted to the Tallanos.

President Ferdinand Marcos was also linked to the Maharlika legend, as the “totally legal” Marcos wealth was the gold of his royal family. And to cap it all, the Philippines, being once a Kingdom of the Maharlika was the wealthiest in the world.

To support the claims, Tallano presented documents, like surveys said to be supported by the British Monarchy. There were also court land titles (OCT 01-4) indicating that their clan owned the whole Philippine island.

What Does Maharlika Really Meant

The Kampilan Sword, used by the warrior classes like the Maharlikas.

The Kampilan Sword, used by the warrior classes like the Maharlikas.

Before we move on, let us first know what the word Maharlika originally meant. By simple net search from reputable sources, the Maharlika was a precolonial social class in ancient Tagalog society. In terms of standing, they belonged to the lower nobility, which is translatable to a similar class in Spain known as the Hidalgos. But do note that Maharlikas were restricted to Luzon, and elsewhere in Visaya, similar class was known as Timawa. The word itself is a cognate of a Malay word meaning “freedom” (Merdeka), and was derived from Sanskrit maharddhika (meaning, “a man of a great wealth, power and influence”).

So, what does Maharlika do for a living back in the precolonial Luzon?

Firstly, do note that they are in the lower aristocracy. They were below the Maginoo class, which enjoyed a higher privilege. What they did is render military service to their lords and accompany them to wars and raids. Their weapons came from their own expenses, and the spoils of war will be shared to them afterwards.

One might be reminded of the Samurai class, or the European Knights when the role of the Maharlikas come in mind, but status-wise, they don’t have much of a privilege. They might be the result of mixed marriages, probably out of bargain to retain the status. Compared to the Visayan Timawa, they are less free and required to do community labors like anyone else in the Barangay.

The Maharlikas were a class meant for raids and warfare and understandably it disappeared during the colonization. And by knowing the meaning of the class itself, we could already tell that the Maharlika Kingdom claim is problematic.

The Problem with the Maharlika Definition

Visayan Pintados, shown in the Boxer's Codex. Photo from The Visual Traveler.

Visayan Pintados, shown in the Boxer's Codex. Photo from The Visual Traveler.

Again, the Maharlika classes were lower aristocracy with limited freedom. If we were to refer to higher nobility, we will use the term Maginoo. What’s more, Maharlika is a Tagalog word. Hence knowing the word alone rendered the Tallano claim as false, as precolonial Philippines don’t just speak Tagalog. And why would you name a kingdom after a lower class? As a friend joked, we could also use the Visayan term “Timawa.” But then, the name won’t sound so catchy, as imagine telling your foreign friends that you live in “Kingdom of Timawa.” And why did Tallano ignored the higher nobility class “Maginoo?”

Some people also wondered why the so called “King Luisong” never showed himself when Magellan arrived. And should the Tallano clan fund the Filipino revolution against the Spanish?

The problems of the wordings, being a pure Tagalog might also explain why some ethnic groups opposed the name change of the Philippines to Maharlika. As it made it sounds like the Philippines is becoming a Tagalog empire, with the rest of the ethnic group being ignored.

The Maharlika Kingdom is a Hoax

What the real rulers of Luzon looked like, as was shown in the Boxer Codex.

What the real rulers of Luzon looked like, as was shown in the Boxer Codex.

And a proper study on the matter further debunks the Tallano claim.

In a legal proceeding the land title presented by Tallano was nullified by the Supreme Court of the Philippines in the year 2002. In an investigation conducted by NBI and verified by the Register of Deeds, the land titles were found out to be fakes. Tallano himself was no royalty and was a member of a squatting syndicate. The problem here is that the Tallano failed to provide an image of the actual document, only a so called certified true copy.

And historically, there were zero evidence to indicate the existence of the Kingdom. The records made by monks, friars and other historians never made a single mention of the Maharlika as a whole nation. What was clear here according to their accounts was the country back then was never a country, but a collection of kingdoms ruled by different rulers. Other historians like Bob Couttie pointed out the problematic, inconsistent, and anachronistic naming of places in Tallano’s claim.

Ill Impact to Society

And there you have it, the Maharlika lore wasn’t real, but a story concocted by a man who happens to be a professional squatter. The problem here is that the misinformation was already out, and until today it still fools a lot of people. And the rise of the social media wasn’t helping either, with the hoax now used to fuel extreme nationalism, fanaticism, pseudohistory and political propaganda. There is also a conspiracy theory going around that those legit history made by real historians were made to depower the Philippines. And as a friend once said, it could have the same effect as the Nazis believing in a fantasy known as Aryan supremacy and could give rise to xenophobic movements. From the way I see it, the Philippine society is taking more damages from a simple greed of a con artist. If we want to learn more about the pre-colonial Philippines, let’s look at the real history and not the romanticized lie. I could see our precolonial Datus and Rajahs laughing at us for being fooled by a professional squatter.

References:

1. “FALSE: Filipino 'royal family' ruled over pre-colonial 'Maharlika Kingdom'.” Rappler.com, 25 February 2019, https://www.rappler.com/newsbreak/fact-check/false-filipino-royal-family-ruled-over-pre-colonial-maharlika-kingdom.

2. "QUESTION: Was there a Kingdom of Maharlika, with pre-colonial one true God?" Aswangproject.com, 18 March 2019,. https://www.aswangproject.com/question-was-there-a-kingdom-of-maharlika-with-a-pre-colonial-one-true-god/

3. Couttie, B (June 02, 2018). "Interrogating Tallano - Is the Philippines the richest country in the world? Part 10." Bob's Histories and Mysteries.