Princess Urduja

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The mythical Princess Urduja.

Princess Urduja is a figure from Philippine legend, a warrior princess who is said to have ruled the kingdom of Tawalisi in the province of Pangasinan. Though whether or not she actually existed is in contention among scholars, she is still considered a popular heroine and Philippine icon, especially in Pangasinan.

Historical basis and debate

The only firsthand account of Princess Urduja is found in the travelogues of the Islamic writer Ibn Battuta. In his diaries, Battuta narrated his journey as he passed by the province of Pangasinan on his way to Canton, China, in the year 1347. He was appointed as an honorary citizen of a kingdom named Tawalisi which was ruled by a king with a daughter named Urduja. Urduja had proven herself in battle where her brother had fallen short, and so was granted charge over much of the kingdom. Battuta described Urduja as a warrior princess who personally fought in battles and duels and led a retinue of skilled female warriors riding on horseback.

In 1916, Austin Craig's paper entitled "The Particulars of the Philippines Pre-Spanish Past" quoted Jose Rizal's belief in Ibn Battuta's journey to Tawalisi, although he had doubts about its accuracy. Rizal based his own speculations on his calculation of the time and distance of travel Battuta took to sail from China to Tawalisi.

The Ibaloi tribe of the Cordillera region are said to trace their ancestry from Urduja. The name "Urduja" is rendered as "Deboxah" or "Debuca" in the Ibaloi language, and refers to a strong woman of noble descent.

Restituto Basa (author of Footnotes on Pangasinan History and The Story of Dagupan) believes that Urduja was not a Pangasinense but a Cambodian. He asserts that one who should be honored as a heroine of Pangasinan is Princess Kabontatala, daughter of the ruler of Barangay Domalandan, who married the Chinese pirate Lim-Ahong and helped him dig a canal to escape from the Spanish forces who blockaded the mouth of the Agno River[1].

Cultural influence

The office and official residence of the governor of Pangasinan is known as the Princess Urduja building or Urduja Palace.

In his efforts to promote pre-Hispanic Filipino icons, National Artist Fernando Amorsolo made several paintings in the 1950s depicting Princess Urduja. Because of the lack of historical data about 14th-century Philippines, most of the details of his depiction - such as clothing and weaponry - came from Amorsolo's imagination.

The 2008 animated film Urduja is based on Princess Urduja's legend. It was the first Philippine-made feature-length animated film, and featured the voice talents of Regine Velasquez and Cesar Montano.

See also