Code of Maragtas

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The Maragtas Legend was believed to be a document which dated between 1200 to 1250. The document claimed that there were ten Bornean datus (or chieftain) who arrived in the island of Panay to escape from the tyranny of a certain Datu Makatunaw of Borneo. The datus allegedly bought the Island of Panay from Marikudo, the chief of the Aeta group, for a golden salakot (in English: hat). These datus and their families were said to be the people responsible for populating the entire Visayan region, and for forming a confederation of barangays called Madya-as under the leadership of Datu Sumakwel. This legend is now commemorated in the yearly Ati-atihan festival since the late 1950s when it officially became a part of the feast of Santo Niño in Kalibo, Aklan.

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Fictitious Book

This legend was previously accepted by many historians; however, recent scrutiny of scholars shows that the Maragtas is actually a fictitious book of Visayan oral local legends written by Pedro Monteclaro, a Visayan public official and poet, in Iloilo in 1907. He wrote the book in the Hiligaynon and Kinaray-a languages of Panay. Monteclaro used the word maragtas to mean “history,” although until the present, the said term has only been known in referral to his compilation.

Monteclaro was said to unusually put high importance to pre-hispanic myths and legends as an important part of Visayan cultural heritage; thus, he collected the various stories of the elderly of Panay and published them in his Maragtas. There have been studies stating that Monteclaro actually translated Maragtas from an ancient prehispanic manuscript but in the preface of the book he clearly stated that he himself was its author. He did refer to two old written documents; however, he stated that he did not publish them due to their poor condition and he did not imply that they were transcribed in his book.

A Hoax

Renowned historian William Henry Scott, in his doctoral dissertation at the University of Santo Tomas, made a painstaking investigation into all the sources of information about the Philippines before the coming of the Spaniards. He proved in his dissertation that the original Maragtas book and the Confederation of Madya-as were not actual ancient documents from long ago but only legends that were collected and in some cases possibly concocted by Pedro Monteclaro. On top of that, Scott found that the Maragtas Code was but merely an invention of Guillermo Santiago-Cuino's mind who probably based it on Monteclaro's book and published in 1938.


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