Saturday, May 30, 2015

Bucky Fuller and the Cruciform Temple/Church

Here's a recent Facebook posting I made after reading this article on Buckminster Fuller: 
We Got Buckminster Fuller's FBI File.

Bucky Fuller and the Cruciform Temple/Church

Credit:  Tetrascroll,

"In all the villages, or in other parts of the Filipinas Islands, there are no temples consecrated to the performing of sacrifices, the adoration of their idols, or the general practice of idolatry.  It is true that they have the name simbahan, which means a temple or place of adoration; but this is because, formerly, when they wished to celebrate a festival, which they called pandot, or “worship,” they celebrated it in the large house of a chief. 

There they constructed, for the purpose of sheltering the assembled people, a temporary shed on each side of the house, with a roof, called sibi, to protect the people from the wet when it rained.  Theyso constructed the house that it might contain many people —­ dividing it, after the fashion of ships, into three compartments

On the posts of the house they set small lamps, called sorihile; in the center of the house they placed one large lamp, adorned with leaves of the white palm, wrought into many designs.  They also brought together manydrums, large and small, which they beat successively while the feast lasted, which was usually four days. During this time the whole barangay, or family, united and joined in the worship which they call nagaanitos. The house, for the above-mentioned period of time,was called a temple."

-- Fray Juan de Plasencia, 1589

"They would build a shelter with branches in their homes which they called sibi . It was divided in three naves and a longer fourth one, and it was adorned with leaves and flowers all around, and many small lighted lanterns. There was also a large lamp in the middle with many ornaments, and this was their simbahan or oratory"

-- Fray Juan Francisco de San Antonio, 1743-1744

"St Sernin’s [1080 – 1120 AD] is a typical Romanesque church in that it was built in the basilica format, but because it is so large it has a few adaptions to this format. The main features of St Sernins are;
1) Heavy appearance with small rounded windows
2) Made of local brick not stone
3) An extra aisle on either side of the nave
4) The extra aisle continues around the transept and the apse creating an ambulatory where pilgrims could walk and pray
5) Nine small chapels at the back of the chuch behind the transept and the apse.
6) The nave is barrel vaulted the aisles are groin vaulted
7) Lantern Tower at the crossing of the transepts and the nave which lets in much light
8) A Clerestory/ Clearstory – a row of windows up at the top of the walls to let in light"

-- Romanesque Architecture,

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Catalan surnames, Y-DNA and the Sayabiga?

An interesting  new study may have some bearing on the theories discussed on this blog on the Sayabiga connection of the Agotes and Cagots of Spain, France and other areas of Western Europe.

The study Y-chromosome diversity in Catalan surname samples: insights into surname origin and frequency examines 50 Catalan surnames chosen based mainly on their current frequency in the region.  While most of the Y-DNA haplogroups discovered from the sample of 1375 men were of expected European origin with a significant number of North African/Middle Eastern examples, two haplogroups are of interest regarding the Agote/Cagot theory.

Three individuals, all from the Girona region, shared the C* haplogroup while a single person from Castells has the K* haplogroup.   All the C* individuals had the surname Llach, which translates to "lake."  The sole K* has the surname Ferrer meaning "smith."

The markers used in the test can be found at  From this table, we can see that the study tested for the M8 (C1a1) and M219 (C2) markers, so the absense of these markers translates to a solid identification of C*. 

From the corresponding Universitat Pompeu Fabra website, we can find an analysis of each of the surnames studies. Here is the entry for "Llach":

 Llach. Cognom poc abundant, típic de la Garrotxa, el Pla de l’Estany, el Gironès i Perpinyà. Se’n troba un exemple entre els immigrants francesos al fogatge de 1637.
Hem pogut obtenir resultats de tots els 26 voluntaris d’aquest cognom, que pertanyen a 8 llinatges diferents (llinatge en el sentit de grup homes descendents d’un avantpassat comú). Es tracta d’una diversitat genètica moderadament  elevada per a un cognom relativament freqüent. Veiem que els Llach de les comarques gironines pertanyen a quatre llinatges diferents (precisament, els anomenats de l’1 al 4), i també són de llinatges particulars els Llach pirinencs (el llinatge 6), del Berguedà (7) i de Castelló (8). Cal remarcar que el fundador del llinatge 1 pertanyia a l’haplogrup C*, que es troba en freqüències elevades a l’Àsia Oriental, i que a Europa difícilment es dóna més enllà d’Europa Oriental. Entre els més de 400 fundadors de llinatges que hem analitzat fins ara, aquest és l’únic C* que hem trobat.

 Here is a translation from the Anthrogenica forum (emphasis added):

Llach. An uncommon surname, typical of la Garrotxa, Pla de l’Estany, Gerona and Perpignan. We find an example among French immigrants in 1637 hearth tax.

We were able to get results from all 26 volunteers for this surname, which belong to eight different lineages (lineage group in the sense of people descended from a common ancestor). This is a moderately high genetic diversity for a relatively common name. We see that the Llachs of the Gironne [?] region belong to four different lineages ... and the individual lineages are Llach Pyrenees ( lineage 6 ) of Berguedá (7) and Castellón ( 8). Importantly, the founder of the lineage 1 belonged to haplogroup C * , which is found in high frequencies in East Asia, and in Europe there is hardly beyond Eastern Europe. Among the more than 400 founding lineages that we have analyzed so far, this is the only one we've found C * .
Children believed to be descendents of the Cagots at La fontaine Saint-Blaise à Bagnères

C* strongly linked with ISEA

In fact, we know from previous studies by Karafet et al. and Delfin et al. that C*, known as C-
RPS4Y* and CRPS4Y respectively, are strongly associated with the Insular Southeast Asian (ISEA) region. 

Karafet et al. shows only 17 out of 581 Mainland Southeast Asian samples with C*, while Western Indonesia has 40 out of 960 in Western Indonesia, 145 out of 957 in Eastern Indonesia and 2 out of 182 in Oceania.  Variance is significantly higher in Eastern Indonesia suggesting that as the place of origin in this study. 

In Delfin et al., 8.9% of Negrito peoples in the Philippines have C*, while the percentage among non-Negrito indigenous and Muslim peoples in the same country is 7.1%.

 K* also connects with ISEA

The single K* individual tested negative for L or the MNOPS groups showing a strong association with the K*, a type that also is found mostly in Insular Southeast Asia and particularly with the Philippines.  Delfin et al. also tests for the subgroups L and MNOPS and finds that 32.2% of Negrito Filipinos and  8.1% of Muslim and indigenous non-Negrito Filipinos are K*. 


The Catalan surname study may suggest that a small percentage of Y-DNA haplogroups are of ISEA origin in one of the main areas associated in this blog with the Sayabiga.  Additionally, it was closely linked with the Agotes and the adjoining region of France was connected with the Cagots.

Indeed, Girona (Gerona) was the location of a particular late study on the Cagots at the turn of the 20th century.

Of course, as the Sayabiga did not appear to be endogamous like the Gitano/Roma, we may expect that some paternal lineages may have already been "switched out" during stays in other areas associated with the Sayabiga including Basra in Iraq.  For comparison, no H1 or H1a lineages, common among the Gitano, were found in this study.

Interestingly, no examples of the O haplogroups that are so common nowadays were found in this research.  Possibly, these groups were not as predominant in certain regions as they are today, however, it is difficult to say with such a small data set. 

Unfortunately, the surnames Borja, Borgia, Borge, etc. were not included in the study as the results would have been interesting to see.  Indeed, this opens up quite a bit of territory for future research to confirm whether these findings do indeed confirm a Sayabiga link.

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Borneo Route

Gavin Menzies has a new book out co-written with Ian Hudson entitled Who Discovered America: The Untold History of the Peopling of America.  While I haven't read it yet, the summary and samples indicate that it follows the same theme as his Menzies' previous works.

Now may be a good time to review a specific point in his earlier books that I have discussed in this blog. Specifically, the evidence surrounding the traveler Nicolo de Conti.  Here's a posting I did on the subject on Facebook:

The Borneo Route

Above is a portion of Fra Mauro's mappa mundi of 1459 showing the islands of Java Major and Cipango along with the coastal city of Zaiton (Zayton) that is known today as Quanzhou.

One of the legends from the Fra Mauro map reads (emphasis added):

Giava minor, a very fertile island, in which there are eight kingdoms, is surrounded by eight islands in which grow the ‘sotil specie’.  And in the said Giava grow ginger and other fine spices in great quantities, and all the crop from this and the other [islands] is carried to Giava Major, where it is divided into three parts, one for Zaiton [Changchow [Quanzhou]] and Cathay, the other by the sea of India for Ormuz [Hormuz], Jidda [Jedda], and MECCA, and the third northwards by the Sea of Cathay.


From the excerpt above, we can surmise that Giava Major (Java Major) is the island of Borneo and this would agree with the mention of trade agrees closely with the concept of the "Borneo Route" as conceived by Roderik Ptak.  Another scholarly work mentions trade in this region during this period(emphasis added) :

Pires [ca. 1500] twice mentions that the junks of the Malays and Javanese were not allowed to proceed to the city of Guangzhou because of the fear in which they were held, but when describing details of the fear in which they were held, but when describing details of the city he adds, "so the Lucoes [Luzons] say who have been there". These Lucoes demand some attention..."They [Luzons] have two or three junks, at most. They take the merchandise to Burney [Brunei] and from there they come to Melaka, . . . The Bruneians go to the lands of the Luzons to buy gold."....The Luzons were in fact the principal Melaka traders to China, which is difficult to understand unless they had brought with them to Melaka some knowledge of Chinese commerce and customs.  It seems probable that the Luzon-Brunei connection arose when both centres were rising into commercial significance in consequence of their close connection with China in the early fifteenth century.

-- Alilunas-Rodgers, Kristine, and Anthony Reid. Sojourners and Settlers: Histories of Southeast Asia and the Chinese. Honolulu: Univ. of Hawai'i Press, 2001, 34-5.

Brunei, of course, was the main trading city on the island of Borneo.  From the accounts of the time, we know that the Luzons and other traders brought spices and other merchandise to Brunei from which it proceeded either north up what the Chinese called the "Eastern Ship Route" or west to Melaka (Malacca) where it then proceeded toward other ports in Asia and Africa.  The Eastern Ship Route would account for two of the "parts" mentioned by Fra Mauro, the routes to Zaiton and Cathay.   The route west toward Malacca was the one that went toward "Ormuz, Jidda, and Mecca."  Pires account is only 50 years later than the information provided by Fra Mauro.

Above: The Borneo Route after Ptak (

Many scholars believe that one of Fra Mauro's main informants on the Asian region was the Italian traveler Nicolo de Conti.  In this regard, there is an interesting notice from Pero Tafur (1435-1439) who claimed to have met de Conti while traveling through the Middle East (emphasis added):

Prester John and his people are said to be as good Catholics and Christians as could be found anywhere, but they know nothing of our Romish Church, nor are governed by it....I learnt also that the people in those parts are very skilled in the Black Arts, and that when navigating in the Red Sea, de' Conti saw them consult with demons, and he told me that he could descry a vague black shape moving up and down the mainmast. The sailors then conjured it to keep still and demanded: "What of our voyage?" and the shape made answer: "You will have six days of dead calm when the sea will be like oil, but be prepared, for you will have as many days of very heavy storms." He described their ships as like great houses, and not fashioned at all like ours. They have ten or twelve sails, and great cisterns of water within, for there the winds are not very strong, and when at sea they have no dread of islands or rocks. These ships carry all the cargoes which the caravans receive from them at MECCA [Jedda], which is the port where they unload. De' Conti told me that Mecca is a great place, larger than Seville....

"I learnt from Nicolo de' Conti that Prester John kept him continuously at his court, enquiring of him as to the Christian world, and concerning the princes and their estates, and the wars they were waging, and while he was there he saw Prester John on two occasions dispatch ambassadors to Christian princes, but he did not hear whether any news of them had been received."

-- Pero Tafur, The Travels of Pero Tafur (1435-1439),

Note that De Conti, according to Pero Tafur, also mentions large ships taking Eastern cargo to Mecca and Jeddah as described as well by Fra Mauro.  The name "junk" is a Malay/Javanese term (jong or ajong) for ships related to the Chinese chuan.  However, the term properly belonged to hybrid ships that combined characteristics of the chuan with those of the indigenous ships of Southeast Asia. 

For example, the hybrid junk might have one or more of these Southeast Asian "traits" that differed from the classic chuan:  a V-shaped hull, keel, multiple hull sheathing, transverse bulkheads, wooden drowels rather than iron nails, tropical hardwood materials, stem and stern posts, and multiple rigging of masts and sails ( 

Eventually, even Chinese ocean-going ships took on these hybrid characteristics. 

Here are some examples of hybrid junks:

An anonymous Italian source from 1504 mentions junks bringing cloves, silk and silver from the East to Socotra, a small archipelago near Yemen. From there, the ships took the cargo to Hormuz and Aden (see Kauz, Ralph. Aspects of the Maritime Silk Road: From the Persian Gulf to the East China Sea. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2010, 16.). 

The Portuguese interrupted the previous order and after they set up bases in India and Malacca, trading ships from East and Southeast Asia generally went no further west than Malacca.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Pampangos and Luzons in Sumatra

Pampangos and Luzons in Sumatra

In the text below from Blair and Robertson's we see a translation from Father Francisco Colin's Labor Evangelica published in 1663, but probably written around 1640.  In it, he tells of a Pampango (Kapampangan) who met a group of people living near a large lake in Sumatra who could speak "excellent Pampango."

Either Colin or his Pampango informant may have remembered the account wrong as they say the people of the lake claimed their ancestors ventured to Pampanga.  Indeed, it was Colin's theory that the Kapampangans did originate from Sumatra.  However, neither Kapampangan or any language mutually intelligible with Kapampangan is found in Sumatra.  Any ancestral connection is unlikely given the different structures and genetic relationships of languages in both regions.

Another explanation is that the inhabitants of the lake came from Pampanga more recently and settled in the area.  In turns out that more than a century earlier, people from Lusung (Luzon) were involved in the geopolitics of northern and western Sumatra.  Here is a snippet from Mike Pangilinan's article Lusung [呂宋]: A preliminary investigation into its role in East Asian history.

The source for this information is mainly Portuguese texts which refer to people from the kingdom of Luzon as Luções "Luzons."   These Luzons, as can be seen by the quote above, were involved in fighting both for the leaders of Aceh in Northern Sumatra and of Menangkebau in Western Sumatra around 1529.

 Quite possibly, these Luzons settled in the area after their service.  This was not unusual as we also know from Portuguese sources that there were Luzons permanently settled in Malacca, Brunei and other areas at this time.  The largest lake on Sumatra is Lake Toba, which is between the Batak-Menanagkebau and the Aceh kingdoms.  There are also smaller lakes located quite near the Menangkebau region. 

The anonymous document Relación de las Islas Filipinas, which is part of the collection from 1580 to 1605, is dated by Blair and Robertson at about 1586 on internal evidence.  In talking about the people of Pampanga, the author says "they are keen traders, and have traded with China for many years, and before the advent of the Spaniards, they sailed to Maluco, Malaca, Hazian, Parani, Brunei and other kingdoms."

"Hazian" has been interpreted my some experts as referring to Aceh in Sumatra.  We know from Ming Dynasty maps, that the kingdom of Lusung (Luzon) did not refer to the whole island known today but to the Manila Bay area and particularly to the area north of the Manila Bay, which would correspond to the Pampanga region.

Therefore, it is quite possible that the Pampango-speaking people living in Sumatra in the mid-17th century were descendents of the Luzons who fought for the Menangkebau or the Aceh kingdoms, or both more than a century earlier.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

The Philippines and the sandalwood trade in the late pre-colonial and colonial periods

Video presentation for the Inaugural National Conference of the Philippine Association for the Study of Culture, History and Religion (PASCHR) on Feb.1, 2014 at Holy Angel University in Angeles City, Pampanga, Philippines.


Few trade items were as valuable throughout human history as yellow sandalwood (Santalum album) also called white sandalwood.   In particular, the fragrant wood was an important ingredient in the production of sacred and medicinal incense and ointments[1].  Some scholars even believe that the "almug" wood mentioned in the Old Testament as a building material for King Solomon's Temple was either yellow sandalwood or red sandalwood (Pterocarpus santalinus)[2].

Kingdoms in Luzon, Mindanao, Sulu and Butuan in what is now known as the Philippines played an important role in the old sandalwood trade going back at least to Yuan Dynasty up to colonial times.  In those days, yellow sandalwood came mostly from the island of Timor until Santalum album nearly became extinct there due to excessive logging.   The Philippine archipelago sat along the important shipping lanes known to the Chinese as the "Eastern Ship Route," which was the main conduit for sandalwood, cloves, nutmeg, mace, cinnamon and other products from the southern Philippines and eastern Indonesia.

Although sandalwood today comes largely from India, numerous sources suggest that in early times, most sandalwood came from Timor.  Tome Pires, for example, stated:  "God made Timor for sandalwood and Banda for mace and the Moluccas for cloves, and that this merchandise is not known anywhere else in the world except in these places; and [Tome Pires] asked and enquired very diligently whether they had this merchandise anywhere else and every one said not."  Chinese sources generally agreed that sandalwood was primarily a product of Timor.[3]

In his diary, Antonio Pigafetta, one of the crewmembers during Magellan's fateful voyage, mentions a ship from Luzon trading in Timor.  Interestingly, even after colonization, a family with roots from Pampanga on the island of Luzon played an important role in Timor's sandalwood trade.

Sandalwood incense was an essential natural product in Buddhist, Hindu and other Asian religions. In the belief systems of South Asia, sandalwood paste would often represent the earth among the five elements.   Believers smear the paste on the face and use it make the tilak (dot) on the forehead associated with the area of the "third eye."   The sweet smell of burning sandalwood helps the dead depart from the body according to beliefs on the Indian subcontinent.  The sacred fragrance also makes the wood a favorite material for sacred statues and other types of carving[4]. 

In China, sandalwood is a key ingredient in joss sticks, and tradition states that the fragrant wood provides a calming influence together with aloeswood (agarwood).   The Japanese use sandalwood as incense during meditation practice[5].   Although many joss sticks use "sandalwood" in their product names, only the expensive varieties contain actual sandalwood or aloeswood.

Sufi Muslims borrowed the use of sandalwood paste in India from other religious practitioners. The paste may serve as a incense and also as a decoration during religious festivals.  Among some Sufis sandalwood is believed to have healing or miraculous powers.  The paste may mark the graves of Sufis in the state of Tamil Nadu.

In his journal, Pigafetta describes the island of Timor in his time:  "In this island, and nowhere else, is found white sandalwood, besides ginger, oxen, swine, goats, poultry, rice, figs, sugarcanes, oranges, lemons, wax, almonds, and other things, and parrots of divers sorts and colors.[6]" Furthermore, he mentions seeing a trading ship at Timor while he was there:

All the sandalwood and the wax which is traded by the people of Java and Malacca comes from this place, where we found a junk of Lozzon [Luzon] which had come to trade for sandalwood[7].

Pigafetta's account of Luzon merchants venturing to Timor to trade for sandalwood concurs with other accounts of the time, although this is the only one to connect Luzon merchants specifically with the sandalwood trade.

The evidence suggests that the "Luzons," known to the Portuguese as Luções, were among the primary traders, if not the main ones, on three of the most important regional trade routes of the time.  The Luzons of that period had very close relations with the kingdom of Brunei according to various European sources. Rui de Brito Patalim even states in 1514:  "The people of that island [Brunei] call themselves Luções.[8]"   For the next decade, Portuguese sources continued to use the term " Luções" to refer to the people of Brunei even though they clearly knew of the Luções on the island of Luzon (Lução).

Tome Pires, writing in the early 1500s, described Lução as ten days sailing from Brunei[9], and Pedro Fidalgo, who landed on the island after a storm drove his ship off course while sailing toward Brunei in 1545, described Luzon as lying between the latitudes nine and 22 degrees North[10].

Pires also mentions a community of people from Luzon in Malacca including influential maritime traders, and he mentions that the Luzons and the people of Brunei were almost "one people."  The evidence seems to suggest that the merchants of Luzon were conducting a great deal of the trade across Southeast Asia and northward to China including possibly much of the sandalwood trade.  In order to understand how this came to be, we can examine how the trade routes developed in earlier historical periods. 

By at least the Sung Dynasty, the Chinese wrote of two maritime trade routes that handled traffic moving to and from Southeast Asia.   The Western Ship Route xi hanglu 西航 involved sailing along the mainland Southeast Asian coastline from Quanzhou in Fujian through Vietnam (Zhangcheng) and Cambodia (Zhenla) from which ships continued sailing southwest to Malaya, Sumatra and Java.  Not as well known is the Eastern Ship Route dong hanglu 東航 that followed the trade winds due south from Quanzhou and staying east of the Jiaozhi Sea (Vietnam Sea).  The necessity of staying east of the Jiaozhi Sea along the Eastern Ship Route was due to the existence of many shoals and coral reefs in this area.  We know these low-lying or submerged islands as the Paracel and the Spratly islands.  Historian Roderich Ptak explains these two routes in more detail:

Elsewhere I have demonstrated that this East / West segmentation can be related to the existence of two major trade arteries between China to Southeast Asia: the so-called xi hanglu 西航路 (western route) and the dong hanglu 東航路 (eastern route). Ships sailing along the first route went from Fujian and Guangdong to Hainan and Vietnam, passing the Paracel Islands on their western side; from Vietnam they proceeded to the Malayan east coast and finally around the peninsula’s southern tip to Melaka and the Indian Ocean; a further link connected the southern tip of Vietnam to Cape Datu; from there vessels could follow the Kalimantan coast down towards Java. The second route ran from Fujian – via the southern tip of Taiwan – to Luzon; from Luzon one would then go through the Sulu Sea to Brunei or, via the Sulu Islands and Celebes Sea, to Sulawesi, Maluku, Ceram, Timor, and so forth. The existence of this double route system is related to a very special geographical feature: the central part of the South China Sea was considered dangerous due to its many shoals and reefs.[11]

The Zhufan Zhi (諸蕃志) describes the shallow blue water of the area, a result of the coral habitat, where the "the sky and water meet with the same color."  He goes on further:  "Ships and boats sailing through the area are solely dependent on the compass to guide their navigation.  Days and nights the compass has to be carefully observed, because even an [sic] slightest error may make a difference between life and death.[12]"    The dangerous situation is common knowledge among mariners in this region up to today.  The many semi-submerged islands and shoals, and the low tide elevations make the Paracel and Spratly islands a hazardous area for shipping, especially for boats with deep keels.   Modern navigational charts, for example, mark the entire Spratly region as "dangerous ground.[13]"

Ptak notes that the Eastern Ship Route extends through the area of the modern Philippines southward to Maluku and Timor.  Maluku and the surrounding area was the main center for the production of clove flower buds, nutmeg and mace.  Timor, again, was the primary source of sandalwood during the medieval and early colonial periods.   Ptak believes that Butuan along with Champa were the main "re-exporters" of cloves during the Sung Dynasty[14].

During the Yuan Dynasty, Min-to-lang, a polity mentioned along with Sulu and Butuan, may refer to Mindanao or Mindoro in the Philippines.   Accounts from the time claim that sandalwood was one of the "natural" products of the island; however, it may be that Mindanao during this period actually acted as an entrepot for this trade item.  Archaeological evidence supports the idea of extensive Philippine trade with China and other Southeast Asian nation going back at least to the eleventh century.  Kenneth R. Hall mentions the layers of ceramic deposits that provide evidence of these trade networks at ports around the Philippines:  "Each of these communities' trade links with China are demonstrated by the communities' association with significant deposits of Song and Ming porcelain dating to the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.  The archeological remains of early Laguna, Mindoro and Cebu societies especially document the rapid growth of trade centers as people from the interior and other islands congregated around ports fortified with brass artillery – to protect against the piracy rampant in the region's sea channels – in response to the opportunities and demands afforded by foreign trade.[15]"

Additional evidence of maritime trade comes from the Pandanan and Lena Shoal shipwrecks off Palawan and the Santa Cruz wreck off Zambales that date from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.   Unfortunately, the main items found in archaeological expeditions consist of ceramic and metallic objects as organic materials like sandalwood and spices quickly decompose in most conditions. 

When Martin de Goiti arrived in Manila in 1570, he found 40 Chinese and 20 Japanese families living in the city along with four trading junks in the harbor[16].   These connections were profound and probably had a significant impact on the future direction of trade between Asian and European nations that started in the 16th century.  Pires, for example, mentions that neither Javans nor Malays were allowed at the port of Guangzhou according to an account he heard from Luzons "who have been there."  The report suggests that the Luzons were trading in South China or at least in Guangzhou to the exclusion of two of the most important trading groups of Insular Southeast Asia at the time. 

The evidence provided by Portuguese writers suggests that the Luzons may have monopolized the trade between Malacca and China.  Miguel Lopez de Legaspi reported in the late sixteenth century that merchants from Luzon and Brunei were frequently mistaken for Chinese and that people in Maluku considered their ships to be "Chinese junks" because they carried Chinese goods.  Such reports indicate that the Luzons together with their allies from Brunei acted as "middlemen" for the trade between China and Southeast Asia.  The Ming bans on Chinese external trade combined with the close relationships forged in earlier periods may have helped the Luzons secure this position.   Both Legaspi and Villalobos report Chinese junks in Butuan, and it is noteworthy that the expeditions of Magellan and Villalobos sailed to the Moluccas, Ambon and Timor via the southern Philippines[17].

International relations including royal intermarriages may also have helped cement ties between Luzons and others in the Philippines with people throughout the Southeast Asia region.  Pigafetta, for example, mentions that a prince of Luzon acted as admiral for the king of Brunei.  Rajah Soliman of Manila's son married the daughter of the Sultan of Brunei, and many relatives of the Rajahs Lakandula, Soliman and Matanda fled to Brunei along with their entourages after the Spanish invasion of Luzon.  Humabon, the King of Cebu during Magellan's visit, was fluent in either Malay, Cham or Thai, which he used to speak with a merchant from "Ciama[18]."   The Luzon spice trader Regimo de Raja,  based in Malacca, was highly influential and the Portuguese appointed him as Temenggong (Sea Lord) of the Muslims of Malacca.  His father and wife carried on his maritime trading business after his death. Another important Malacca trader was Curia de Raja who also hailed from Luzon.  The "surname" of "de Raja" or "diraja" could indicate that Regimo and Curia, and their families, were of noble or royal descent as the term is an abbreviation of Sanskrit adiraja[19].

We can surmise from the available information that these relationships, some of which may have been cultivated for centuries, helped Manila later on during the colonial period in becoming the epicenter of the global galleon trade.  By 1589, nearly half of the South Seas (Nanyang) trading licenses had Manila as their destination.  By 1603, there were about 20,000 Chinese residing in Manila alone while in comparison there were only 400 Chinese in Batavia in 1619, and 400 in Malacca in 1649[20].

In addition to royal marital ties with regional polities, there is also evidence of the possibility of other types of political relationships.  Portuguese and other writers frequently mention Luzons serving in the navies or armies of foreign kingdoms.  While many modern commentators label these Luzons as"mercenaries" suggesting that they were basically "soldiers for hire," this may not be the correct judgment --  at least not in all cases.  For example, the Prince of Luzon's command of the Brunei fleet surely was not connected to any type of "freelancing."  The political family relationships between nations in the region may have fostered the deployment of Luzon soldiers and sailors to other countries in fulfillment of alliances and treaties.  A Luzon named Sapetu Diraja, for example, was commander of the King of Aceh's garrison on the Aru archipelago in Maluku[21].

Even during the colonial period, the people of Luzon and other parts of the Philippines were essential in allowing the Spanish to maintain the Manila Galleon trade for 250 years.  A number of researchers have suggested that the "Indios" played the major role in making the galleon enterprise successful.  In a sense, it may be the role played by the Luzons in earlier centuries prepared them for the demands of the world's first global trade system.  Historians like Dennis O. Flynn, Arturo Giraldez and Andrew Peterson contend that the indigenous Filipinos provided the raw materials, the galleon-building labor, the mariners and soldiers, and even the financing required to maintain the seagoing enterprise[22].

According to one report, for a galleon that cost P60,000 to the royal treasury, the people of Pampanga would pay P150,000[23].  Pampanga supplied the molave wood and most of the rice and other food supplies needed to feed the workers, soldiers and seafarers involved in the galleon trade.   The compulsory vandala system required that the people of Pampanga and other parts of the Philippines sell goods to the government that the latter was often late in repaying.  Because of the fertility of the region, Pampangans had to pay tribute in rice while other provinces could substitute cash for rice[24]. The situation became so onerous that a revolt broke out in Pampanga lead by Francisco Maniago forcing the Spanish governor to compensate his Kapampangan financiers. The Manila trade demonstrated that the people of Luzon were fully capable of undertaking daring maritime ventures that most seafarers from other nations were unwilling to accept.  One can easily see how the intense trading activity of the Luzons during the Ming and earlier periods helped prepare the people for the Manila Galleon trade.

Archaeological data attests to a surge in trade during the late Ming period as a direct result of the open door policy of that dynasty.  Particularly in the late Ming phase in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, we see a dramatic increase in the quantity of ceramics from Philippine trade port sites in some cases reaching magnitudes of ten-fold over earlier periods.   The evidence clearly shows that this upswing in trading activity predates the Spanish colonization, and the quality of the imports ranged from the highest grades for special elite customers to poorly crafted items probably meant for the average Philippine consumer[25].

What we know from European and Chinese accounts of the time indicate that there were three important routes used by the Luzon traders:  one that extended to Brunei through the "Palawan Strait" and onward to Malacca; one that went southward toward Maluku and as far south as Timor; and one that went northward to Guangzhou[26].  In this setup, it appears that Chinese traders, particularly during certain periods, mainly traded at Luzon or other Philippine ports like Butuan while relying on Luzon "middlemen" to handle trade with other countries[27].  Since much of the sandalwood from Timor headed for Chinese markets, we can surmise that Luzon traders would have managed much of this trade, if they did not indeed monopolize the trade.  Sandalwood may have come to Chinese ports either directly through the Eastern Ship Route, or the products could have come re-exported through Malacca, but again traveling in the ships of the Luções.

Regimo De Raja dispatched trade ships to China, Brunei, Siam, Java and Sumatra. His father sent trading ships to China and his widow sent at least one junk to Sunda[28].  Surya de Raja sent one trading ship annually to Luzon.  He also sent a yearly junk to China with 1,000 bahar or about 200 metric tons of pepper.  Surya personally owned a plantation and one of his junks accompanied the first Portuguese maritime mission to China in 1513.  Indeed, the Portuguese appeared to employ Luzons to help them navigate in the area with Bras Bayao describing the Luções as "discoverers" and as "good pilots.[29]"

Logically, given the statement by Pigafetta on Luzon traders dealing in sandalwood at Timor, the fragrant wood would have been one of the products brought to Malacca and directly to China.  When the Spanish established the Manila Galleon trade, we know that sandalwood was often one of the items found on ships coming from China.  The Portuguese generally carried the items to the Macau from Timor for trade with Chinese.  The Chinese then re-exported the product to Japan, Korea and even the Philippines[30].

During the union of Spain and Portugal under Philip II, the trade between Manila and Macau was brisk.  After the dissolution of the union, the trade fell into disrepair until the Viceroy in Goa decide to resurrect it in 1672 to take advantage of the treaty with the Hapsburgs[31].  Interestingly enough, the Captain-general at that time in Timor, the source of sandalwood, was a person of Kapampangan descent known as Mattheus da Costa[32].  

Da Costa traced his descent from the Papangers (Kapampangans) who served with the Spanish in Ternate in the seventeenth century[33].  His forebears eventually moved to Larantuka, which may have harbored a sizable Papanger population who made up part of the population of Mardikers known as Topasses.  Da Costa established himself as Topass lord, and his descendents intermarried with another important clan, the De Hornays, to form the hereditary lineage that ruled Timor during much of the colonial sandalwood trade[34].

Da Costa was a "Black Portuguese" of Kapampangan descent who likely spoke Portuguese.  No information is available about any connections he may have had with his ancestral homeland of Pampanga in Luzon.  The mixed race Topasses managed to hold off both the Dutch and the Portuguese despite claiming allegiance to the Portuguese crown.  They effectively controlled the sandalwood trade from the middle of the seventeenth century until late in the nineteenth century.  Although they only controlled the whole island of Timor for about a century, they had a powerful influence among the Timorese royal, noble and aristocratic families that allowed them to foil Portuguese and Dutch designs on the island.  The Topasses continued to resist colonial powers in the interior of Timor until the early twentieth century.

Excessive exploitation of sandalwood trees on Timor, however, led to their near extinction by the early nineteenth century.  As sandalwood stocks on Timor dwindled, explorers sailing mostly out of Manila discovered a new source of the fragrant wood in Melanesia and Polynesia in the late eighteenth century.  Before long, mostly British and American companies were shipping sandalwood from the Pacific islands to trade in Manila and Canton for tea and other products[35].

Eventually, sandalwood in the Pacific region also declined markedly due to overexploitation.   White and yellow sandalwood dropped out of view from the trade scene in the Philippines although the widely used word for "sandalwood," i.e., sandana still occurs in languages of Pampanga and the Bisayas where it refers to fragrant wood and not specifically to Santalum album[36].   The Philippines does have a form of the red sandalwood in the narra tree, known as apalit in Pampanga that may have taken the place of Santalum album.  Like the latter, the wood of the narra tree is highly valued for religious carving.

Sandalwood has an important history as one of the major trade items of ancient and medieval times.   The odiferous wood was particularly important for religious purposes in the regions of East Asia, South Asia and West Asia. 

Sourced primarily from Timor, one natural route for this product, particularly for Chinese ports, involved the shipping lanes known as the Eastern Ship Route in medieval Chinese literature.   The route went northward from Timor to Maluku and then to southern Philippines and Borneo northward to Luzon.  From there, it reached the ports of South China like Guangzhou and Quanzhou. 

Evidence from at least the Sung Dynasty suggest that this Eastern Ship Route was vital for transporting goods from Eastern Indonesia north to China and other destinations.  China and other nations would often re-export goods like sandalwood to other countries that did not have easy access to Southeast Asian traders.

The evidence points to polities of the Philippines playing an important role in the sandalwood trade from medieval times until well into the colonial period in which it eventually also became an entrepot for sandalwood sourced from the Pacific islands.


[1] Kew.  "Sandalwood," Plant Cultures:  Exploring plants & People, <>.
[2] "almug." Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary. 21 Dec. 2013.
[5] Howard, Michael C. Transnationalism in Ancient and Medieval Societies: The Role of Cross-Border Trade and Travel. Jefferson, N.C: McFarland, 2012, 119.
[6] Pigafetta, Antonio, and R A. Skelton. Magellan's Voyage: A Narrative Account of the First Circumnavigation. New York: Dover, 1994. Print, 141.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Brunei Museum Journal, Vol. 5, Issue3. Brunei: The Brunei Museum, 1969. Print, 52.
[9] Pires, Tomé, and Francisco Rodrigues. The Suma Oriental of Tome Pires: An Account of the East, from the Red Sea to Japan, Written in Malacca and India in 1512-1515, and the Book of Francisco Rodrigues, Rutter of a Voyage in the Red Sea, Nautical Rules, Almanack and Maps, Written and Drawn in the East Before 1515. New Delhi: Asian Educational Services, 1990. Print, 133.
[10] Galvano, Antonio, Summary of the discoveries of the World. <>.
[11] Ptak, Roderich. The Sino-European Map (“Shanhai yudi quantu”) in the Encyclopedia Sancai tuhui. <>.
[12] Moore, John N, and Myron H. Nordquist. Security Flashpoints: Oil, Islands, Sea Access, and Military Confrontation. The Hague [u.a.: Nijhoff Publishers, 1998. Print, 157.
[13] Beckman, Robert, Gault I. Townsend, Clive H. Schofield, Tara Davenport, and Leonardo Bernard. Beyond Territorial Disputes in the South China Sea: Legal Frameworks for the Joint Development of Hydrocarbon Resources. , 2013. Print, 48.
[14] Ptak, Roderich. China's Seaborne Trade with South and Southeast Asia (1200-1750). Aldershot [u.a.: Ashgate, 1999. Print, 47.
[15] Hall, Kenneth R. A History of Early Southeast Asia: Maritime Trade and Societal Development, 100-1500. Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield, 2011. Print, 332-3.
[16] Cortes, Rosario M, Celestina P. Boncan, and Ricardo T. Jose. The Filipino Saga: History As Social Change. Quezon City, Philippines: New Day Publishers, 2000. Print, 24.
[17] Junker, Laura L. Raiding, Trading, and Feasting: The Political Economy of Philippine Chiefdoms. Honolulu: University of Hawaiì Press, 1999. Internet resource, 109; Antony, Robert J. Elusive Pirates, Pervasive Smugglers: Violence and Clandestine Trade in the Greater China Seas. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2010. Print, 76.
[18] Junker, 400.
[19] Wilkinson, R J. An Abridged Malay-English Dictionary (romanised). London: Macmillan and Co, 1948. Print, 291.
[20] Ooi, Keat G. Southeast Asia: A Historical Encyclopedia from Angkor Wat to Timor. Santa Barbara, Calif: ABC-CLIO, 2004. Internet resource, 473.
[21] Scott, William H, and William H. Scott. Prehispanic Source Materials for the Study of Philippine History. Quezon City: New Day Publishers, 1984. Print, 80.
[22] Peterson, A. (2011). What really made the world go around?: Indio contributions to the Acapulco-Manila galleon trade. Explorations: A graduate student journal of Southeast Asian Studies, 11(16), 3-18, <>.
[23] The American Chamber of Commerce Journal. Vol. 21, Manila: The Chamber, 1921. Print, 318.
[24] Peterson, 7.
[25] Junker, 198.
[26] Goddio, Franck, Lost at Sea: The Strange Route of the Lena Shoal Junk, 2002.
[27] Junker, 197.
[28] Scott, 80.
[29] Brunei Museum Journal, 52-3.
[30] Ptak, Roderich. " The transportation of sandalwood from Timor to Macau and China during the Ming dynasty," Review of Culture (Macao) no. 1 (Apr-Jun 1987). Print, 31-9; Majewski, Teresita, and David R. M. Gaimster. International Handbook of Historical Archaeology. New York: Springer, 2009. Print, 477.
[31] Ames, G.J. Renascent Empire?: Pedro Ii and the Quest for Stability in Portuguese Monsoon Asia Ca.1640-1682. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 1999. Print, 134.
[32] Ames, 135.
[33] Hägerdal, Hans. Lords of the Land, Lords of the Sea: Conflict and Adaptation in Early Colonial Timor, 1600-1800. Leiden: BRILL, 2012. Print, 108.
[34] Hägerdal, 143-158.
[35] Jolly, Margaret, Serge Tcherkézoff, and D T. Tryon. Oceanic Encounters: Exchange, Desire, Violence. Canberra ACT: ANU E Press, 2009. Print, 40.
[36] Bergaño, Diego. Vocabulario De La Lengua Pampanga En Romance. Reimpreso: Manila: Impr. de Ramirez y Giraudier, 1860. Print, 205; Mentrida, Alfonso . Diccionario De La Lengua Bisaya Hiligueina Y Haraya De La Isla De Panay. Manila: Imp. de D. Manuel y de D. Felis S. Dayot, 1841. Print, 325.