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Laguna Copperplate Inscription (900 AD), a thin copperplate measuring less than 8x12 inches in size and is inscribed with small writing that had been hammered into its surface, shows heavy Indian cultural influence (by way of Srivijaya) present in the Philippines during the era previous to Spanish colonization in the 16th century

The Laguna Copperplate inscription (also shortened to LCI) is the first written document found in a Philippine language. The plate was found in 1989 by Alfredo E. Evangelista.[1] in Laguna de Bay, in the metroplex of Manila, Philippines, the LCI has inscribed on it a date of Saka era 822, corresponding to April 21,[2] 900 CE.[2] It was written in the Kawi Script and contains many words from Sanskrit, old Javanese, old Malay and old Tagalog. The purpose of the document is that it released its bearer, Namwaran, from a debt in gold amounting to 1 kati and 8 suwarnas (865 grams).[2][3] The document mentions the places of Tondo, Pila and Pulilan in the area around Manila Bay and Medan (or rather, the Javanese Kingdom of Medang), Indonesia.[3] The discovery of the Inscription has highlighted the evidence found of cultural links present between the Tagalog speaking people of this time and the various contemporary civilizations in Asia, most notably the Middle kingdoms of India and the Srivijaya empire, a topic in Philippine history of which not much is presently known.



The Laguna Copperplate Inscription was first found in 1989 near the mouth of the Lumbang River near Laguna de Bay, by a man who was dredging sand to turn into concrete. Suspecting that the artifact might have some value, the man sold it to an antique dealer who, having found no buyers, eventually sold it to the National Museum of the Philippines.[2]

It was in the National Museum that, a year later, the Dutch anthropologist and Mangyan language expert Antoon Postma noticed that the writing on the inscription was similar to an ancient Indonesian script called Kavi. Postma translated the script and found the document dated itself to the Saka year 822, which in the old Hindu calendar corresponded to approximately April 21, 900 C.E.[2] This meant that the document pre-dated the arrival of Ferdinand Magellan in 1521, adding to the preHispanic written history of the Philippines to about the same time as the reference to the Philippines in the official Chinese Sung History for the year 972 [4].


The Laguna Copperplate Inscription, among other discoveries made in recent years in the country such as the Golden Tara of Butuan and 14th century pottery and gold jewellery artifacts found in Cebu, is highly important in revising the ancient history of the Philippine archipelago, which prior to the LCI discovery was considered by some western historians to be culturally isolated from the rest of Asia, as no evident pre-Hispanic written records were found at the time. Noted Philippines historian William Henry Scott debunked these theories in 1968 with his Prehispanic Source materials for the Study of Philippine History which was subsequently published in 1984 [5]. The LCI sheds light on the ancient Philippine history, which until the time of Scott was largely ignored due to the dominantly Hispanic-derived culture present during the Spanish occupation. This document is considered a National treasure and rests in the National Museum of the Philippines in Manila.

Cultural references

The transliteration of the LCI shows heavy Sanskrit, Old Javanese and Malay linguistic influence. Among the observances made by Pigafetta in the 16th century Boxer Codex, Old Malay was spoken among pre-colonized Filipinos as a lingua franca.

The use of Hindu references in the Laguna Copperplate Inscription would also suggest the people who authored this inscription, were followers of Hinduism and Buddhism at this time in history. The Golden Tara icon, an ancient artifact discovered in Butuan, Mindanao dating from the same period, also highly suggests the influence of Hindu and Buddhist religions being followed in the area (alongside Islam in many places in the archipelago from the 14th century onwards) up until the 16th century, when Roman Catholicism was introduced to later become the dominant religion of the Filipino people.


The transliteration is as follows:

Swasti. Ṣaka warṣatita 822 Waisakha masa di(ng) Jyotiṣa. Caturthi Kriṣnapaksa Somawāra sana tatkala Dayang Angkatan lawan dengan nya sānak barngaran si Bukah anak da dang Hwan Namwaran di bari waradāna wi shuddhapattra ulih sang pamegat senāpati di Tundun barja(di) dang Hwan Nāyaka tuhan Pailah Jayadewa. Di krama dang Hwan Namwaran dengan dang kayastha shuddha nu di parlappas hutang da walenda Kati 1 Suwarna 8 di hadapan dang Huwan Nayaka tuhan Puliran Kasumuran. dang Hwan Nayaka tuhan Pailah barjadi ganashakti. Dang Hwan Nayaka tuhan Binwangan barjadi bishruta tathapi sadana sanak kapawaris ulih sang pamegat dewata [ba]rjadi sang pamegat Medang dari bhaktinda diparhulun sang pamegat. Ya makanya sadanya anak cucu dang Hwan Namwaran shuddha ya kapawaris dihutang da dang Hwan Namwaran di sang pamegat Dewata. Ini gerang syat syapanta ha pashkat ding ari kamudyan ada gerang urang barujara welung lappas hutang da dang Hwa

English translation

Long Live! Year of Syaka 822, month of Vaisakha, according to Jyotisha (Hindu astronomy). The fourth day of the waning moon, Monday. On this occasion, Lady Angkatan, and her brother whose name is Bukah, the children of the Honourable Namwaran, were awarded a document of complete pardon from the Commander in Chief of Tundun, represented by the Lord Minister of Pailah, Jayadewa. By this order, through the scribe, the Honourable Namwaran has been forgiven of all and is released from his debts and arrears of 1 Katî and 8 Suwarna before the Honourable Lord Minister of Puliran Kasumuran by the authority of the Lord Minister of Pailah. Because of his faithful service as a subject of the Chief, the Honourable and widely renowned Lord Minister of Binwangan recognized all the living relatives of Namwaran who were claimed by the Chief of Dewata, represented by the Chief of Medang. Yes, therefore the living descendants of the Honourable Namwaran are forgiven, indeed, of any and all debts of the Honourable Namwaran to the Chief of Dewata. This, in any case, shall declare to whomever henceforth that on some future day should there be a man who claims that no release from the debt of the Honourable...

The copper scroll differs in manufacture from the Javanese scrolls of the time in that the words are embossed into the plate, rather than being inscribed onto a heated, softened scroll of metal.


  1. ^ "Expert on past dies; 82". Philippine Daily Inquirer. 2008-10-21. Retrieved 2008-11-17.  
  2. ^ a b c d e Laguna Copperplate Inscription - Article in English
  3. ^ a b The Laguna Copperplate Inscription. Accessed September 04, 2008.
  4. ^ William Henry Scott, Prehispanic Source Materials for the Study of Philippine History, ISBN 9711002264, p65
  5. ^ William Henry Scott, Prehispanic Source materials for the Study of Philippine History, ISBN 9711002264

See also

External links



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