The Laguna Copperplate Inscription is Philippines’ earliest known written document.
Found on a construction site in 1989 near Lumbang River along Laguna de Bay, this important artifact found no home for a year with antique dealers shrugging off its significance. It was only when it was sold to the National Museum of the Philippines, thereafter translated by Dutch anthropologist, Antoon Postma, that the Laguna Copperplate found its place not only in Philippine, but also in world history.
As written on the plate, it is dated back to the year 822. It is largely written in the Kawi Script, an ancient writing system said to have originated from Java, Indonesia, and once widely used among maritime Southeast Asian communities. Languages used on the plate is said to be a mix of Old Malay, Old Javanese, Old Tagalog, and Sanskrit.
The plate contains the following writing, as a ‘legally binding document’ for the freedom of the children of Namwaran in exchange of the full payment of the family’s debts (as translated by Antoon Postma, 1992):
“Long Live! In the Year of Saka 822, month of Waisakha, according to the astronomer.
The fourth day of the waning moon, Monday. On this occasion, Lady Angkatan, and her relative 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.
This means that, through the Honourable Scribe, the Honourable Namwaran is totally cleared of his salary-related debts of 1 Katîand 8 Suwarna, before the Honorable Lord Minister of Puliran Kasumuran; by the authority of the Lord Minister of Pailah, represented by Ganashakti.
The Honourable and widely-renowned Lord Minister of Binwagan, represented by Bisruta. And, with his whole family, upon ordered of the Lord Minister of Dewata, represented by the Chief of Medang, because of his loyalty as a subject of the Commander-in-Chief.
Therefore, the living descendants of the Honorable Namwaran are cleared of all debts of the Honourable Namwaran to the Lord Minister of Dewata.
This, in any case, whosoever, sometime in the future, who shall state that the debt is not yet cleared of the Honourable.”
The Laguna Copperplate offers insights to the precolonial Filipinos’ way of life, and to the archipelago’s wide inter-linkages to precolonial Southeast Asia and other maritime societies.
Postma, A. (1992). The Laguna Copper-Plate Inscription: Text and Commentary. Philippine Studies, 40(2), p. 183–203.
Where to Find the Laguna Copperplate:
National Museum of the Philippines
Open Tuesdays to Sundays, 10:00 – 17:00
Admission is free of charge for Filipinos and foreigners
For more info, visit the museum’s official website: http://www.nationalmuseum.gov.ph/#page=page-1