Thursday, July 27, 2006

Sambali (Glossary)

In the Kapampangan language, Sambali is the name both for the land now known as Zambales and of the people native to that land, the Sambals.

Bergano also gives the definition cadahalso (cadalso) probably referring to a platform or similar structure built for a solemn occasion. In this sense it is derived from the root word samba "to worship."

An eerie landscape in the otherwise lush Zambales province caused by the Mount Pinatubo eruption.

In Bergano's dictionary, he gives the definition "poner las manos debajo del pecho con inclinacion, haciendo reverencia, y de aqui, adorar," noting especially the placement of the hands beneath the chest in an inclined position during worship. He also offers as meanings of the word "place of worship" from which it also became the modern word for "church" along with the derived form simbahan in many Philippine languages.

The 18th century Tagalog dictionary of de Noceda and Sanlucar gives the definition "nacion llamada" for sambali as opposed to "nacion Tagala" for Tagalog. Sambali thus was once a word for a specific nation in the region, but unfortunately no further information is related by the authors.

Semantic connections of Sambali, then, suggest the region was considered sacred, something we would link specifically with Mount Pinatubo, and at one time was also possibly connected with national identity in this region.


It has been suggested in this blog that the name Sambali is linked with Sanskrit Shambhala, also written as Zambhala or Sambhala.

Some linguistic corruption may account for the sound differences. In this regard, we can note the related Sanskrit word sambhali or zamphali, the feminine form of sambala.

Sanskrit literature describes Shambhala as a grama, a town or village. The abridged form of the Kalacakratantra locates Shambhala in the Lesser Jambudvipa (Jambuling), which is south of Greater Jambudvipa, or the Indian subcontinent.

One of the kings of Shambhala, Sripala (Shripala) is praised as coming from the "Southern Ocean," which in this cases appears as a reference to Suvarnadvipa the "Islands of Gold."

Sripala, who in one Tibetan tradition is credited with bringing the Kalacakra doctrine to India, may be the same as the person named Pindo, whom the great sage Atisa claimed as a teacher. This Pindo is also connected with both Suvarnadvipa and Yavadvipa.

The pilgrimage to Shambhala appears to come under Suvarnadvipa as one of the 24 pilgrimage sites (pithas) and the seemingly the only extra-Greater Jambudvipa one. Specifically, Suvarnadvipa was one of the upamelapakas said generally to be two or four in number, with the other locations in the Greater Jambudvipa region.

The Kailasa mountain and Sita river of Shambhala are those of the Lesser Jambudvipa and not those north of the Greater Jambudvipa (Indian subcontinent).

According to al-Biruni, the islands known to the Indians as Suvarnadvipa, were called Zabag by the Muslims, a location in the "Sea of Champa" or the South China Sea off the coast of central Vietnam. Other works agree with this location of Zabag, many describing Zabag as adjacent to the coast of southern China.


Modern Sambali is a province in central Luzon, Philippines, bordered by the provinces of Bataan, Pampanga, Pangasinan and Tarlac. It's western coast meets the sea.

The province is dominated by the mineral-rich and forested Zambales Mountains, which include the volcano, Mount Pinatubo.

Original ethno-linguistic groups of Sambali are the various divisions of Ayta, Sambal and Bolinao. However, in recent centuries many other groups have migrated to the province.

A Spanish writer in 1880 described the province in these terms:

There are more populous and more civilized provinces whose commerial and agricultural progress has been more pronounced, but nowhere is the air more pure and transparent, the vegetation more luxuriant, the climate more agreeable, the coasts more sunny, and the inhabitants more simple and pacific.

The large populated agricultural neighbor of Sambali/Zambales is Pampanga where many of the Zambales inhabitants traded at places like Porac. The rivers of Pampanga were also historically the main approach to Sambali before the building of modern ports on the western coast.

When the Spanish came, the mostly semi-nomadic inhabitants caused a lot of trouble and were nearly impossible to "civilize." The province was one of the few areas in the Philippines where the Inquisition was implemented to some degree, but without much success.

The native high priest of the Sambal was known as Bayoc and he conferred priesthood to other Sambals. The Bayoc alone could make sacrifices to Malyari the highest god of the Sambali range, who lived in Mount Pinatubo.

Paul Kekai Manansala


Bergaño, Diego Vocabulario de la lengua Pampangan en romance: Diego Bergaño, Manila : Imp. de Ramirez y Giraudier, 1860, p. 203.

Monier-Williams, Monier. Sanskrit-English Dictionary, Oxford, 1899.

Noceda, Juan [José] de. Vocabulario de la lengua tagala: compuesto por varios religiosos doctos y graves, y coordinado por el P. Juan de Noceda y el P. Pedro de Sanlucar. Ultimamente aumentado y corregido por varios religiosos de la orden de Augustinos calzados, Reimpreso en Manila,: Impr. de Ramirez y Giraudier, 1860, p. 561.

Wallace, Vesna A. The Inner Kalacakratantra: A Buddhist Tantric View of the Individual, Oxford University Press, 2001, p. 81.